Advanced Automation for Space Missions/Chapter 3A

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APPENIX 3A WHY INTERSTELLAR SPACE EXPLORATION?


  The first question a skeptic today might ask is: "Why an interstellar mission?" (fig. 3-11). Twenty years ago many people similarly inquired "Why go to the Moon?" Besides political reasons, there were other goals when the Apollo Program began. For instance, scientists had high hopes for a better understanding of the Earth, the Moon, and the Universe. Yet, although the Solar System is many worlds with countless strange phenomena, still its scientific treasures are miniscule in comparison to those of the Galaxy. Interplanetary space travel is no longer a dream, but a reality ? the new dream is interstellar space travel.
File:Aasm-fig3-11.gif
Figure 3.11.- A spacecraft sent out to the stars to discover and explore new worlds.
  Mankind cannot survive forever tied to the cradle of the Earth. In perhaps six billion years our Sun will burn itself out, exhausted of its thermonuclear fuel. But Earth should become uninhabitable long before that. Nuclear war, asteroid collisions, or innumerable other planet-scale disasters could wipe out much of terrestrial life including mankind. The human species remains at risk until humanity extends itself beyond its homeworld. As a young person eventually must leave his parents' home to seek his own path, so must mankind extend its grasp far beyond its ancestral birthplace. Interstellar travel offers the hope of ultimate long-term perpetuation of human life.
  We, as a species, possess a deep instinct to survive. Adventure and risk attract many people. It is possible to imagine a manned interstellar mission with all of the above in mind and more, and to dream of life afresh on an alien world with room to grow and a chance for countless new beginnings. Is this really so different from the early settlers who crossed the Atlantic in search of a "New World?"