As a teacher and scientist, I am often asked, “Why space?” or “Why is space education/exploration/research so important to you?” There are many scientific reasons space education/exploration/research is important. In fact, there are too many to list. But it isn’t those scientific reasons that attract scientists to this subject initially.
It is the human reasons.
There is something about the wonder of space, the idea of “what’s possible”, the passion to know more, the draw of exploration that ignites our interest. The engineering pursuit to push the envelope of what’s possible. The ability to see the world from afar and see the fragility yet majesticness of it all. The humanity in wanting to understand our place in the grander scheme of things. The ability to work on a team to understand a problem, examine it, and solve it with scientific principles and ambition. The wonders of science keeps us engaged, but it is these things, all greater than ourselves, which bring us here.
There is nothing frivolous about this subject or this pursuit. The inspiration matters. The humanity matters. The teamwork and the problem solving matters.
Although this is perhaps a bit unorthodox source, Sam Seaborne on the West Wing said it more eloquently than I can when answered a question on why Mars exploration was an important thing to fund,
“‘Cause it’s next. ‘Cause we came out of the cave, and we looked over the hill and we saw fire; and we crossed the ocean and we pioneered the west, and we took to the sky. The history of man is hung on a timeline of exploration and this is what’s next.”
Exploration. The pursuit of knowledge. The humanity of working together on something to serve something bigger than ourselves. The innovation that comes out of such pursuits. The integration of all the sciences, engineering, and creativity needed to pull something like this off. These are the reasons I find space exploration so intriguing.