Tell Me About Space…

Whenever people learn about me and my passion for space, I always get a question along the lines of “tell me about space?” and I always struggle to answer. I end up giving an answer of some cool facts that I used to tell grade 6 kids when I taught them astronomy. You know, like the fact that Saturn has a pole in the shape of a giant hexagon, or that Jupiter has a persistent storm that could fit in our entire planet, or that Pluto has a heart, and that no matter what anyone says – Pluto will always be a planet in my heart.

There’s nothing wrong with those facts I suppose, it’s really fucking cool. But, it’s only a part of the story. It would be like talking about a person you love by talking about their eye colour or the scar on their left cheek, it’s interesting but it doesn’t say anything about why you’re in love.

Just like in romantic love, it’s about the feelings. The feeling of looking up at the night sky, the bone-chilling awe that I experience when I look at the Milky Way or the way my jaw drops when I look at Saturn’s rings through my telescope, or the pride I feel when I look at the Moon and realise that we fucking went there.

It’s about the amount of time I’ve spent on my back looking up. For years when I lived in India, It became a habit of mine to go up to the top of my 5 story apartment building and sit there alone on the edge of the roof to watch the sun go down, just so I could be there to see the stars and planets come out. Knowing that one day I’m going to put something there. Promising myself that if humans ever had a future in space, I’d want to be able to lie happily on my deathbed, knowing that I helped make that happen.

I think there’s something truly beautiful and extraordinary about humans in the way we manage to do things we were never built to do. Yet there’s something uniquely human about it, I know that sentence is really contradictory but I really don’t care. We were never built to be able to breathe underwater, or breathe up in space, let alone live in orbit. We were never built to strap ourselves onto rockets, or even build rockets in the first place. But what we were meant to do is explore.

We were meant to leave the grass plains of sub-Saharan Africa, we were meant to go out and see what is out there, to go out and sail across the seas, to fly across the world, to find what’s over the horizon, to go out and travel across the solar system and then beyond. We don’t know how to do the last one yet, but we will.

I used to get quite sad thinking about the fact that I wasn’t alive to see Apollo 11 launch. Today I feel enormously lucky because I think we’re at the real start of human space exploration. Apollo 11 was way ahead of its time, and the mission, whether we like it or not, was motivated by the need to showcase superiority over the Soviets during the cold war.

Today, we’re starting to explore space out of excitement. Out of a love for exploration, to pursue a similar quest that our ancestors took on different scales to expand their reach beyond, and we’ll be doing it in the grandest scales possible.

It’s the sheer audacity to say fuck you to our perceived limits. There’s a hint of excitement whenever you do something you’re not supposed to do, but you do it anyway because it’s fun – It’s especially fun when someone tells you that you shouldn’t do it because no one’s ever done it before, or that it’s too ambitious. Because it just makes you want to do it more.

I dream of a future where we have humans living on the Moon and on Mars. A future where we not only live there, but thrive there because we figured out how to terraform planets. A future where we can do all of this because we figured out how to make unlimited clean energy, where we harness the power of the sun and master nuclear fusion, where we have unlimited resources because we can mine asteroids, and because of that create megastructures and entire cities that float in space by themselves, where we invent new forms of propulsion to take these structures to entirely new star systems, where you could travel to see the clouds of Jupiter or the rings of Saturn just as easily as you can travel to Egypt to see the pyramids.

Parts of this future are already here. NASA and SpaceX are working on sending humans to the Moon and to Mars. We’re getting better at using solar power and companies such as Commonwealth Fusion are making giant leaps towards nuclear fusion. Space missions such as OSIRIS-REx have captured asteroid samples and are heading back to Earth right now, and startups such as AstroForge are working on making asteroid mining a reality. Startups such as Varda are out there working on manufacturing things in space, and MIT’s Space Exploration Initiative is working on self assembling space structures. Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and SpaceX are now taking tourists and civilians up to space, and many companies such as the one I will be interning at soon (Reaction Dynamics) are working on making access to space even cheaper.

Our future is out there in space, and I say this knowing that Earth is our home, knowing that there isn’t a better place suited for us and that we must do what we can to take care of our home.

The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever.

-Tsiolkovsky (one of the founding fathers of rocketry and astronautics)

But we cannot stay at home forever.

This is what I want to do with my life. This is what makes me wake up and be excited about the future. I know that the future is extremely hard to predict, but I also know that the best way of predicting the future is to create it. And I’d encourage you to join me, I guarantee that there’s something for everyone to do.

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