Every time I am watching a video or documentary about the discovery of other planets or more in general the outer space I am wondering what is driving us, as humans, to do so. I am wondering why scientists are frantically investing millions of hours and dollars to look for life.
Although the focus seems to shift from life that is very much the same as here on earth to searching for anything we could define as life I still feel the approach is a huge limitation on one side and absolutely understandable on the other. What else than our own image do we have as a reference for life.
Besides curiosity, what is really driving us humans to be so fanatic that we frantically keep looking for signs of life as we define it in the outer space around us? I am certain that the real motivation may vary from individual to individual and I could come up with a couple.
I’ll start with something I could defend as a plausible motivation to study the outer space around us; analyzing and understanding the elements or building blocks that compose everything we are made of and we are surrounded with. This can help us understand better the planet we live on by understanding its context.
I can also understand that some people seriously consider studying possibilities to colonize other planets. It is in our genes to colonize, so it would be strange if we would limit ourselves to the planet we live on, right? People that will mention adventure, discovering new planets and life forms as the main reason to explore space will still fall under this category as most probably the colonizers will leverage from these discoveries to push their colonization drive, genetic drives are difficult to control.
But what about the very planet we live on? We barely scratched the surface as we lack technologies (or focus and motivation) to go deeper. There are still processes on earth we do not fully understand, and yes, things we learn from outer space might help to understand out own planet better.
Today I heard the phrase that explains everything about the reasons we focus so much on exploring space: “We can’t stay here for ever…”. “Yes!”, I thought, this is what drives space agencies and their scientists. Lets focus on finding ways to travel to Mars while at the same time we are wasting our OWN planet. Yes, the planet we physically belong to and where we humans can live without too many adaptations.
I am even tending to think that wanting to live elsewhere is extremely challenging, even if we manage to find other class M planets as in Star trek and a way to travel to these planets in a way that does not harm our bodies. For some this might sound like a horrible thing, but what if we humans just belong to earth and are supposed to stay there? If ever possible we should consider discovering the universe without being bound or if you want, restricted by a human body. I am not talking about virtual reality nor fantasy. It might be something we might only achieve beyond earth life.
So, my statement is that discovering the space around us makes sense but should not be driven by the quest of finding similar life as that is blinding us from doing real interesting discoveries. And as we are discovering, why not focus on the planet we live on, using our skills to find ways to stop abuse the resources of our only real home and make sure it can support us mankind for another while. If we keep going on this way we will cause our own extinction, maybe even before a few of us can make it to Mars?