Astronaut on the Moon

Another Space Mission: Should We Plan It?

Group 15

Fly Me to the Moon

Space exploration is the investigation of celestial structures across the universe through the advancement of technology. We strive to answer fundamental questions such as “what is life?” and “how did we get here?”, but are the answers worth the money and the danger?

The advantages of space travel are vast, from ubiquitous ‘spin-off’ technologies to vital protection of our planet. Since the launch of the first satellite, Sputnik, in 1957, the human race has reaped numerous benefits.

As well as contributing to life-saving medical techniques and redirecting asteroids the size of countries, space exploration provides jobs, encourages STEM careers and promotes collaboration between nations. And those directions Google Maps gives you don’t come from nowhere. If these reasons aren’t enough to convince you that space exploration is needed, it’s beginning to look as if we’ll need a second planet. And aren’t we intent on discovering alien friends that are almost certain to be out there?

The principle of utilitarianism measures consequences of actions against human pleasure; the optimal solution to a problem is that which brings the greatest amount of happiness to the greatest number of people. So the question is, what would this mean for the future of mankind’s burning desire for cosmological adventure?

Using this approach, space exploration should arguably continue, perhaps increasing the proportion of missions carried out by private companies. Not only do the advantages of space exploration largely outweigh the costs and safety risks, they bring “happiness” to everyone on Earth. With more private missions, less taxpayers’ funds would be dedicated to the cause, further increasing the happiness of millions of people.

While utilitarianism has downfalls, such as the inability to objectively measure happiness and the unpredictable nature of consequences, it is a straightforward, widely-accepted system.

On the other hand, the Kantian approach, a natural opposite to utilitarianism, treats morality as a logical construct; consequences of actions are irrelevant to their morality. A moral action is one with good motivation and can be universalised. So, can space exploration be deemed a moral action?

Kantian ethics suggests space exploration should continue as it is; it may be viewed as a dutiful task that not only satisfies the natural curiosity of mankind but is ultimately for the sake of our survival. For the good of our species, it becomes an empirical preparation for global disasters and overpopulation.

Thus, encouraging space travel is an action that can be universalised. If everyone were to contribute, a universal duty would be fulfilled and the human race would prosper through scientific and medical advancements and international cooperation resulting from space travel.

A Kantian approach requires that humans aren’t treated as a means. Professionals involved in space exploration programs are acting on their own desires; they aren’t manipulated or deceived. We know research failures are costly and spaceflight is dangerous.

Although Kantian ethics can’t resolve conflicts between multiple different rules, it is a rational framework that produces universal guidelines and treats all humans as equals.

Totally Over the Moon…

Space Battles Artists Impression
Click to Enlarge

While it is true that space travel could encourage a rosy, perfect world in which everyone is friends, we need only look back to the Space Race to see this isn’t guaranteed. Before space became the playground for intellectuals and screenwriters, it was first a platform for Cold War competition. When the Soviets launched Sputnik, the US responded by creating NASA, along with programs to exploit the military potential of space and gather intelligence on the Soviet Union with satellites. The story of NASA’s origins tells less a tale of altruism and more a tale rooted in egoism.

The virtue ethics framework emphasizes the motives of central figures. Since the original motivation for space travel was one of egoism and espionage, it may be argued that it shouldn’t continue until we know space won’t act as a “cloak and dagger” extension of the military tension on Earth. This guarantee could take the form of space becoming a “neutral zone”, not to be used as military ammunition.

Just like space, there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to this framework; it has been criticised for lacking focus. Virtue ethics has a lack of Telos; there’s no right or wrong and no purpose to act virtuous. However, virtue ethics allows for a morality, which isn’t strictly governed by laws, to analyse the situation and promotes a sense of community.

We should also not brush over the extortionate costs of exploring space. The total expenditure for the UK Space Agency in 2016/2017 was around £372 million; surely more benefit could be reaped by directing this money elsewhere. One could take the approach of the common good principle, which aims to achieve “conditions that are equally to everyone’s advantage”. Although the Common Good principle assumes everyone prospers only as part of a community and not individually, it allows for exclusion of individuals, unlike utilitarianism.

It could be argued that halting space exploration would provide “everyone’s advantage” better than any further space knowledge. There are still a lot of problems to be tackled at home, so why not focus on these before considering extra-terrestrial predicaments? In the UK, there has been a 73% increase in people sleeping on the streets in the last 3 years and in 2015, there were 166,000 charities attempting to raise money for a range of causes. We could improve these figures by directing money towards these Earthly problems as opposed to romanticised quests for arbitrary desires in space.

Everybody recalls Neil Armstrong stepping on the moon in 1969, but what benefits did society really receive, and were they worth the lives of the three astronauts who died two years prior whose names no one recalls?

Further Remarks

Our solution is based on analysis of the ethical frameworks. We believe the most ethical approach would be the utilitarian one; space exploration should continue but with more private investment.

For eons we have looked up into the stars, dreaming of what lies beyond. Now this dream is a reality, should we not pursue it to its greatest extent?

72 thoughts on “Another Space Mission: Should We Plan It?

  1. A nicely written article that is fully informed in terms of ethical argument. Well done!

    I wonder if we could expand on the virtue ethics aspect. Is scientific curiosity a virtue? A desire to discover, learn and share? If so then from a virtue ethics point of view space travel is worth pursuing, not just for what we learn about space but what we learn about building the machines to get us there. Anything that makes us realise we are all temporary visitors on a tiny blue marble of life in a vast indifferent universe is worth pursuing. Space exploration may have derived from military purposes but it has served a good function in uniting us a people whose differences contribute to us identifying solutions. (*Climbs down from soapbox*)

  2. Well written and nicely argued. I agree that space exploration should continue but with more private investment. We should explore space but ethically and slowly

  3. I believe that space exploration should go ahead – but a steady approach should be taken. I think that it could benefit mankind in many ways. For example, it would give countries something to work together for and show that working cooperatively can benefit all involved. Given that there is a high level of geopolitical unrest at the moment a common goal would perhaps ease this.
    Also, if we were to achieve some of our goals by working multinationally, countries may then be easier persuaded to consider working in a similar way in other areas such as economics. The article mentions the alarming increase of homelessness in the UK but studies have shown this is a global problem too.

    1. A common goal may help to ease this as you say, but surely we can not rely on this. If anything, would added competition from the space industry not contribute to existing tensions?

  4. Nicely explained.
    It’s my opinion that we should explore space travel as rapidly as possible regardless of the humanitarian consequences so we can move forward as a species without wasting time. After all, the good of the species should come before that of a few individuals. Learning and innovating should be the new focus of humanity.

    1. Good argument – and to some extent I agree that the rate of space exploration should increase as there is a definite sense of urgency. However wouldn’t working to solve other issues on Earth at the same time be for the good of the species as a whole? I think we need to be careful and controlled with space travel.

  5. To me, there are 2 key considerations here – whether you believe it’s justifiable in general terms and what might be achievable in the current climate.
    I’d agree there are compelling arguments for an ongoing investment in space missions. You can take your pick from enabling terrestrial telecommunications, dealing with potential asteroid impacts etc to looking for alternative place to live and extra terrestrial life. I don’t think there’s a compelling argument against continuing to send space missions.
    But given the political ecomony that is prevalent in the West ie focus on recovery from the latest financial crash, with a particular preference for reduction of the state, lowering public expenditure and personal taxation etc (“Austerity”), there isn’t likely to be any significant public funding for space missions. Realistically any backing is going to have to be raised through other means ie it will most likely come from commercial and philanthropic sources. Hopefully these will be able to support these activities in a meaningful way for the forseeable future.

    1. You have identified the two key points of the article nicely. However your wish to find a common ground is not so great as funding cut for space travel is likely to half progress even further and therefore the activities that benefit mankind becomes even apparent.

  6. This is an engaging and well structured report with clear for and against arguments. I agree with your conclusion that we should continue with space exploration, however, I would challenge your assertion that encouraging private companies’ activities in space reduces the burden on the taxpayer.

    As an illustration of this, SpaceX received $2,809,245,429 from contracts with NASA and the USAF between 2000 and 2015 (see the link below). As NASA and the USAF are institutions funded by the government, this means SpaceX has in fact received huge amounts of money from the tax payer. Admittedly, SpaceX is secretive about its finances so this amount is difficult to put into context and, also, it may well be that the services provided by SpaceX to NASA and the USAF represented better value for money to the tax payer than if the services had been provided ‘in-house’.

    With this in mind, I would say it must be accepted that for the time being at least, the majority of funding for space exploration must come from state budgets as the investments required are too high, and the short term returns too low, to be shouldered by private companies alone. That doesn’t mean using private companies to further our ambitions in space is a bad thing though, as private companies are often more ambitious than state actors and so will help push developments.

    I’d conclude that we should continue to peruse space exploration, potentially using private companies, but above all we should ensure that space is well regulated and legislated. This would, hopefully, ensure that exploration is only used for peaceful activities and is not monopolised by a single state, or company, and that its exploration is to the benefit of all.

    1. I think you underestimate just how much more value private enterprises can provide states (and thus the taxpayer) when it comes to space travel.


      Secondly, we are seeing more horizontal integration of commercialized space endeavors with existing incumbents (Amazon’s Jeff Bezos getting into the game with Blue Origins is one example of this). Thus, investment is diverted from two fronts, the existing cash flow of major multinationals, and private investors. You’re regurgitating the same arguments that Neil DG Tyson did when it comes to short-term vs long-term thinking.

      This is the wrong way of approaching the situation, and the reason why space travel has stagnated for so long. Increasingly more companies are coming up with unique ways of lowering costs for particular application-specific space endeavors (see, for example, nanosatellite companies for recon, or asteroid mining tech companies which license their IP instead of undertaking investment for launches), and there is also a growing amount of public and private capital being diverted into the area (for example, which dilutes the amount of taxpayer expenses required.

      Private innovation needs to be spurred in the area for there to be developments at a faster rate, since existing national space organizations are at the behest of the will of the public financier.

      The only concern is governance, which needs to be tackled at state level. However, private enterprises which contract with governments can have clauses incorporated by the governments which mandate certain levels of safety, quality, adherence to international treaties or whatever. Regulation does not need to be too overburdening because that would disincentivize a large number of smaller players getting into the sector.

      TL;DR – Private space endeavors should lead, rather than take the back seat.

    2. Very good figures you have shown. Its true that the spending and funding for space travel in proportion to other spending is actually very little. Also your fear for monopolisation by a single state or company is very valid point

  7. A very well written article. In response to the arguments about war, isn’t war the greatest innovator for technology? As you’ve argued that the advancement of technology is a reason for venturing into space, shouldn’t the possibility of war, whilst tragic, be an insignificant reason against the venture?

    1. You raise a good point I had not thought of. I do feel that it would not be ethical, however, to disregard potential tensions/war as a reason against space exploration despite the fact that positives may arise from it in the end. I think we should value the safety of our species above advancement of technology.

  8. A well-considered and balanced article drawing on different ethical perspectives. I think that space exploration and research should and will continue due to the human drive to continually seek to develop knowledge, and the benefits we derive from this. I think that the type and pace of space exploration will continue to be balanced with economic constraints, ethical concerns and regulatory issues and that this provides considerable opportunities for individuals, professions and countries to work together.

  9. I think it is important to continue funding space research because in the future this knowledge will be very important. It is inevitable that we will run out of natural resources on Earth and that overpopulation will be a serious problem and so knowledge of other planets similar to Earth will be crucial.

    1. I agree that our planet will eventually run out of resources (especially while the population is increasing as fast as it is), but I don’t think it will be possible to find another planet to move to within a human lifetime. I believe the key is a “portable home/planet” closer to Earth – maybe we could actually do most of the work on this from here?

      1. But surely we can’t rule that out? For starters we do explore places close to Earth and so far we haven’t found much apart from the potential of Mars but as long as there’s a chance an Earth-like planet exists somewhere, I would argue that we should keep pursing that

  10. As you point out, although space exploration is expensive and the money could be used else where on Earth the benefits are many and space exploration may be a requirement for the continuation of the human race. Therefore ethically I agree, we should continue to explore space. The point raised about the space acting as a “cloak and dagger” for the military is valid, however I do not believe this should stop space exploration until this is no longer a risk since this will always be a risk. If we were to stop exploring for fear of possible unethical uses of the developments then human progress would stop, potentially leading to much greater harm.

    Where I disagree with the article is the idea that “most ethical approach would be the utilitarian one; space exploration should continue but with more private investment.” A utilitarian should give “greatest amount of happiness to the greatest number of people”; rarely where private investment and private companies are concerned is the “greatest amount of happiness to the greatest number of people”. Private interests and private companies serve private individuals. To be utilitarian surely this must be publicly and internationally funded?

    1. Then using utilitarianism as an argument, every form of private enterprise should be gotten rid off, and everything should be nationalized. Have the government give everyone food stamps, and why do we need choice anymore? Back to the gulag for wearing jeans!

      This is an absurdity (not to mention a complete misreading of utilitarian calculus).

      The market is the most utilitarian form of organic, bottom-up social coordination which divests resources in areas in which they offer the most – wait for it – UTILITY towards its relevant stakeholders. There are a number of people with wide-ranging interests (be it in the public or private sector) which could benefit from the varied services provided by private companies (both existing and upcoming). Thus, ignoring how dynamic competition (and investment into said competitive processes) could create opportunities for the average person just as they have in other areas (re: Automobiles, consumer electronics etc.)

      The ability for any private individual to get involved in space enterprise is one of the virtues of the market-based system, and benefits can be reaped by everyone who contracts with them, rather than simply leaving it to the remit of public financiers and their own clique of national space agencies in an age of austerity.

    2. I think you do have a point there – whether it’s that extreme is perhaps another matter. I agree that private companies would have their own interests as a top priority, but not every company would neglect other priorities for this. And if these companies let their own interests stand in the way of the good of everyone, they would quickly get a bad reputation!

      1. But wouldn’t there be a chance that it’s covered up or just cleverly hidden to make it look like those company interests are for the good of everyone. I mean there’s the current Facebook scandal that has only just come into light despite going on for a long time. Do we really want to put the future of our lives and planet in the hands of people like this?

    3. Very interesting point. You’ve applied the utilitarian approach in a communist way and your scepticism for private company motives will be fully noted. Why should companies put the nation ahead of themselves first?

  11. Very nice written and arguments. I guess it is useful to keep exploring space as the population grows on the earth. We will immigrate to another planet someday in the future, however, how do we explore is the most important thing to avoid the ethical problem. Also, aerospace industries provide countless jobs which help the social stability to some extent.

    1. Exactly right – this is something that wasn’t largely mentioned in the article. The jobs created by the space industry are very plentiful and this would be something to consider if exploration was to stop (it wouldn’t be very ethical to take away thousands of jobs from people across the globe from a utilitarian point of view).

  12. The use of morality and ethics within this discussion makes for a compelling and thought provoking read. I believe space travel is beneficial to humanity and should continue.

  13. Space X has the right ideas this rock we call earth isn’t going to be here forever, we lets colonise Mars!!
    this was a very well composed article and very thought-provoking.

  14. Well written article that considers both sides of the arguement. One issue that I can foresee with allowing private companies access to space travel is the IP rights with respect to the discoveries and inventions made both during making the space travel happen as well while in space. Additionally, what about the dangers that affect the planet? Would that still lie with the private companies who discovered it or is government intervention necessary? There needs to clarity with respect to rights before a decision can be made. Too many restrictions on rights might deter companies to explore this sector, too many and you risk the well being of the plant.

    1. Very true, too many restrictions on rights would deter companies from reaching their full potential in this sector and too little would risk the well being. I believe private companies can be trusted because ultimately those employed would be doing this research for themselves and not for national pride but purely for science.

      1. Purely for science for now but how long till they discover things that they can privatise and all of a sudden they no longer have the good of the public at heart anymore compared the amounts of profit to be made.

  15. While I agree that a lot more of government funding should go to solving terrestrial issues before hopping on rockets to find extraterrestrial ones to spend money on, I’m somewhat sceptical about privatisation of space. It is already in partial swing with Tesla and Virgin companies striving to break space records, yet is this really a preferred alternative?

    Any discoveries will become the rightful property of the discoverer. Knowledge, materials, etc. This potentially creates problems for governments and for regular earth folk too. I’m of the opinion that perhaps we need to give it a rest. Your article gives good scope to the issue and points to issues I had not considered especially with regards to the two astronauts killed prior to Armstrong’s so-called giant leap for mankind. Great read!

  16. I think the utilitarian approach would be the best one to take because I think allowing the best option for everyone should always be the one taken. The obvious question is the what is the best approach for everyone. I would say that most people in general probably don’t feel the effects of space exploration on an individual level. That is to say that if you asked random people what they thought on the matter, most people probably wouldn’t have an opinion one way or another so stopping space exploration would not change anything in that regard. But then there are benefits that are reaped that we just don’t think about on a daily basis such as google maps as mentioned and thus I believe we should fully continue space exploration because if anything, there would be negative effects noticed if it was stopped

  17. Great layout and explanation of the ethical frameworks, especially the debate between Kantian and utilitarianism. It is an interesting and reasonable conclusion that you have leaned towards the utilitarianism approach, although parts of Kantian has some rigid points. Just an idea, would a combination of both approaches give an ideal solution?

  18. I agree in the continuation of the exploration of space. However, it is important to be aware of the possible negative impacts that unstandardised space travel can bring. Good read

  19. You’ve certainly made many well-reasoned arguments for both sides of this debate. My personal opinion is that it seems immoral to divert precious resources away from needs on this planet for the sake of what are largely vanity projects. Certainly, national governments should not be making this sort of investment when it comes at such a cost to the taxpayer. However, incredibly wealthy private individuals are, of course, at liberty to do what they like with their own money. If space exploration is to develop, it will have to come from private individuals with effectively bottomless pits of money and not national governments whose spending is heavily scrutinised.

    1. Wow, very extreme point. You fully believe the funding should not be from the public. However, when spin off technologies occur it will be the public that benefits but what contribution did they actually have? Why should private companies improve the wellbeing for the commonfolk when they’ve done nothing?

      1. That’s a good point and I’d like to add that the same could be applied currently where the private companies are under no obligation to help the public with whatever benefits they find from their own exploration

  20. It’s guaranteed that the human race will somehow wipe itself out and make the Earth uninhabitable in the next few centuries. Space travel is the only way for us to escape this fate and continue as a species, be it by living on Mars or in a spaceship. It’s therefore vital to ensure that humanity has a way to survive in the future, no matter what the cost is today.

  21. Interesting article. I think that the main factor in deciding whether we should continue space travel is what the aim of the mission is. If it is for an important scientific discovery for example you mentioned for life saving medical techniques, then it should be worth the trip. If however it is for less ethical aims such as warfare, this should definitely not happen.

    I don’t think the fact that space travel began as a Cold War competition should have any impact on whether it is continued today because the past cannot be changed and these reasons for space travel do not change what good things space travel could provide in the future.

  22. Continue to explore the space is an absolute necessity for the mankind, it supports the development of the technologies people use and it definitely affects people’s daily lives.
    However, at the moment we are still relying on the fossil fuel based, chemically powered rockets as the propellant to send payload into the space. The resources will eventually run dry not to mention the amount of pollution they produce. So in order to continue doing space exploration, we need to find a new way to get the payloads sent into the space and this will benefit the space exploration in a big way.

  23. This is a well balanced article with good points for both sides!

    I can understand the arguments against space exploration. It’s hugely expensive and arguments can be made against it’s necessity. A good point to make would be about exploring new planets and the necessity for it, coming from our inability to look after the planet (i.e. if we focus all our efforts inhabiting a new planet, would we start to completely abandon our own). In my personal opinion space exploration is one of those things necassary no matter the cost! Our ability to explore outside our world is one of those things that defines us as humans from anything else we know of. I am coming from a personal bias though as well, in that i enjoy learning about cosmology and astronomy and for that reason space exploration is important.

  24. Great article! I love space exploration but mostly because I’m a nerd and because I like learning. I understand and agree that, in a way, space exploration can be viewed as a waste of money when there are other more urgent issues closer to home. It has, however, provided a lot of useful advances in technology. I think the future is more private space exploration. This way, it is not a burden on the public yet they will still receive the long term benefits of technological advancement

  25. I feel that space exploration must be continued for the betterment of mankind. There have been many advances in fields such as materials, computing and medical technology which have been made due to research done for space exploration missions.

    The most well known space research organisation, NASA, has a budget that is only 0.5% of the GDP of the USA, its origin country. The UK Space Agency’s budget of £372 million is only 0.02% of the GDP of the UK, from my calculation. While £372 million seems like a large amount of money, in the grand scheme of things, it is close to 0% of the GDP of the UK.

    While I agree that there are many problems on earth that need more funding, I feel that this additional funding is possible to obtain simply by making more efficient distribution and use of the existing funds. Space exploration should be done by governmental organisations and the private sector, as it will only lead to further knowledge gained by mankind.

    1. Well done for your figures. Very good insight. You have pointed out that the specifics for the information. I like your viewpoint for the grander scheme of things. Your suggestion for the combination for the collaboration between public and private sectors is welcome argument and perhaps creates more incentive for research and discoveries for spin off technologies.

  26. If we don’t want to go the way of the dinosaurs someday, we need to protect ourselves against the threat of being hit by a big asteroid. A wisely funded space program enables us to spot a dangerous object long before it strikes Earth, and send a spacecraft to plant and detonate a nuclear explosion that could nudge it off its collision course. Space travel also helps in other regards, for example, the International Space Station alone has generated scores of medical innovations with uses on Earth, such as a method for delivering cancer-fighting medication directly to tumors; gadgetry that a nurse can hold to perform ultrasounds and transmit the results to a doctor thousands of miles away; and a robotic arm that can perform delicate surgery inside an MRI machine.

  27. Very insightful argument here, something I have not thought about or came across my mind. The importance of exploring space is the nature of human’s curiosity, and yet I don’t know if using taxpayer’s money is the best fund for it. Personally feel rather than searching for plan B, there are plenty of issues here on earth requires attention, and if there were to be another space project it will not be the military funding that will be cut short but elsewhere where we really can’t afford to loose money. We are living with the advantages of GPS and many satellites around us and I don’t believe we should stop exploring rather consider a wider benefit to the public to understand the missions.

  28. Well written article but as much I look forward to get some alien friends, I believe it is our duty ethics to protect earth and that is why I think space exploration should stop. Despite using private sector funding, I personally think that every dollar spent on renewable and sustainable development will have a better influence towards mankind compared to space. Why should we be looking for a second planet when ideally we could save our original planet? I know global warming has been at alarming rate, but the point I am trying to make is if the millionaires around the world actually invest in green technology instead of space it would benefit more people. For example, tiles with piezoelectrics that generate electricity when people walk on them already exist but is too expensive to be practically implemented everywhere so with more research and funding cost could be brought down.

  29. I can understand the importance of why space exploration is importance to the preservation of the human race in the future, but given the low probability of us being to contact let alone reach other intelligent lifeforms or planets with an atmosphere similar to Earth, why was there such an outrage when the US decided to reduce funding to NASA? If even a portion of that money was placed into something that benefited the US as a whole (Universal Healthcare, Education, the Flint water situation etc.) would that not be a good use of that money?

    Thanks for the article is was a good read!

  30. A well written article that explores the moral choice of whether sacrificing funds for space exploration in favor of giving money to people in our society is justified. I like that advantages and disadvantages of each choice are discussed as debate is the best way of making sure the favored decision is made. It is true that without space exploration our modern world would not have ever been created as goals such as reaching the Moon or reaching Mars drive society’s innovation. However, it is also true that there are many people in need throughout the world, not just in the UK, who need help and support to make their existence a more bearable one. Overall, I like the ideas discussed in this article as they are well thought out and expanded on, so good job.

  31. Very well thought out argument, and I had not thought about Space travel from a Kantian point of view before. Space travel should be conducted due to the finite resources of Earth, allowing for the survival of the Human race. I also agree with the idea of more private investment in Space travel. When taken into account future generations, I agree that Space travel maximizes utility in the long-run for the short-run loss is causes now, and therefore on the principles of utilitarianism should be invested in.

  32. A well written article discussing rationality of space exploration by considering various ethical frameworks. I believe that space exploration should be continued due to following important reasons mentioned in the article:

    Protection from dangers of space. As the whole human race lives on the planet Earth, protection of the planet from natural disasters including those coming from space is essential to ensure survivability of out species. Colonizing new planets will additionally improve our survivability and help fight overpopulation. It can help further unite all the humans by focusing the efforts on the common goal in space, especially if the space will be considered neutral.

    Necessity of improved technology to protect humans in often hostile space environment and on new planet will stimulate development of technology and medical devices, which can potentially be also utilized on Earth for improved life quality. Developed of new and improvement of existing satellites can further enhance communication and navigation services available on Earth on the example of Google Maps.

    Additionally, some of resources that can be used for developed technology are scarce on Earth. They and even new elements and compounds can be found and mined in space, for example on asteroids and nearby planets and space objects. Availability of new resources can drive further technological progress.

    All things considered, I believe that space exploration has a potential to significantly improve quality of human life by ensuring protection from space dangers, availability of new resources and by stimulating development of new technology and medicine.

  33. This is an informative article on the ethics regarding a space mission. It raises interesting points and in general addresses a reoccurring conflict when it comes to research: should money really be invested into a project with no immediate results, when there are more immediate social political and economic problems? Although another space mission would certainly allow humanity to learn more about space and has the potential to improve life, should it really be prioritized? This article highlights the importance of striking a balance between between investing into such projects or putting it to use in a way that benefits humanity directly. Overall ultimately relying purely on private resources can also be problematic, therefore international organizations such as the EU should consider investing money into a fund dedicated to such a mission.

  34. It is nice to see an article with arguments for both sides rather than someone being clearly biased towards their personal choice. I agree that space exploration should continue, as it is a necessary step in development. Whilst there may be arguments against it, I think the argues for greatly outweigh these and the idea of continuation with private investment may be somewhat of a dream scenario. The only way private investors would fund such expensive programs would be because of two reasons: personal interest or profits.

  35. The article has been very fascinating to read and very informative.
    I think that space exploration must continue for the development of science, particularly cosmology and astrophysics which have seen fantastic theoretical advances in recent times but are now really on observational data to explain whether or not these theories are realities.
    However, I do believe that private investement should be the main source of funding due to the high number of economic problems that currently exist. Hopefully, some sort of agreement would be put in place to keep space exploration fair.

  36. Space exploration is a fascinating topic and is certainly something we should be curious about.
    In my opinion, the money that would be used is too valuable to use on space exploration, for now. I believe that investment should go in to charities and solving current problems on Earth.
    Space exploration should not be completely disregarded and ignored – just delayed until the human race is in a more stable scenario.

    1. Realistically, how long would we delay this for? Could we not continuously use this argument forever because there will be always be problems on Earth that need investment. Would there ever be a “perfect” world in which everyone is happy and nobody objects to space exploration?
      I do understand your point and think in theory it is a very nice idea. It would be interesting to see if some sort of agreement could be made on how long to postpone this?

  37. I think it is absurd to consider spending millions of pounds on something which would not affect the vast majority of people. There are so many more useful ways to spend this money; fighting critical diseases, preventing homelessness, ending worldwide poverty, etc. It is far too selfish to satisfy a few people and allow such problems to affect the larger portion of the population.

    1. a) Public funding of OECD space agencies has never been more than 1% of GDP.
      b) Two problems cannot be solved at the same time? What is it with this linear thinking?
      c) Funding of space enterprise has remarkable benefits that permeate to ordinary people. For example, many consumer goods have their roots in space usage (e.g. Velcro). Lastly, it signals out towards younger people about the awesomeness of STEM (as was the case after the moon landings, which saw the largest upshot of people studying physics in university than any event prior).

      So it isn’t just about a few.

      1. Very profound understanding of the matter and very interesting input. As son comments pointing out earlier it only 1% of the gdp. And your comment about inspiring the future is a very valid point.

  38. Interesting read. Another point to consider is that maybe there should be a greater sense of urgency with regard to space exploration.
    It is possible to build up a space industry and delvelop new technologies now however, this can’t be guaranteed in the future.

  39. I do think space exploration should continue. It is clearly needed for us to thrive on this planet for a long time. Having said that, I don’t think there seems to be a feasible option for colonising space at this time so it is definitely something that needs MUCH more money and research dedicated towards. And probably quite soon if it is to become an option!
    As much as I would like to see us throw much more into space missions now, we need to think about all our other issues as you say and it would not be as simple as this. I don’t think this means space travel should stop in order to do so though – why could we not just have a balance?
    Also you mention the common good principle – in a way could this principle not suggest space exploration should carry on? With all the benefits we get from it that help everyone on the planet, this might provide an equal ‘advantage’ better than not using it.

  40. A very interesting article that covers both ethical sides well. I am a bit wary of your utilitarian conclusion that we would be better off if space exploration continued but with private companies. Surely this would mean that any discoveries made by these private companies, or any technological advancement, would be under direct control of the companies, and they could therefore charge extortionate amounts of money for their use. For example, if a company finds a new habitable planet for humans in the future, and develops the basis for a colony on it, they have pure control over how much they can charge for a ticket to this new planet.
    Further to this you say that as space exploration serves everyone that it is justified by utilitarian ethics. However have you considered that the majority of space exploration are American and therefore, the benefits of space exploration are mainly only felt by Americans themselves. Moreover, most governments do not have the funds to support their own space programs, so surely not everyone on the planet will reap the reward of space exploration? Just some food for thought.

  41. An interesting and well balanced article. I found the ethical argument for further space exploration clear and stimulating. The benefits to be gained by mankind through cooperation in pursuit of knowledge could be enormous in terms of medicine, research opportunities, economics and peaceful international relationships.

  42. Interesting post, really well balanced amongst the different ethical perspectives. Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (or was it Practical Reason.. I forget) talks about “the good will” being the only factor in his deontological framework which acts as a moral axis for evaluating human action. In this case, it is possible to conceptualize space travel, research and exploration as something that treats the advancement of the human cause as an end in itself, irrespective of the results derived from a more utilitarian calculus (which, as you rightfully suggest, would not change the conclusion).

    1. Your understanding of Kantian ethics is a very interesting viewpoint. To explore space travel conceptionally as a means to an end is a very useful input.

  43. I agree with the author on the stance that space missions should continue with more contribution from private companies and individuals. After all, from a general public point of view, I would rather see my taxpayer money go into goods and services that directly concern my well being than space missions that are quite literally, far from relevant to my life on Earth. That being said, space exploration has its inherent values in terms of human advancement, education, security and more importantly, dealing with the bigger questions of ‘what is the future of humankind if Earth becomes inhabitable one day?’ These issues that ultimately impact our planet and its inhabitants will be relevant in a matter of time, just as how globalisation and sustainability are now. So I do firmly believe that public education on the matter is needed – people need to understand that while the benefits of space exploration will not be relevant to them or several generations after them, it will eventually be crucial for the sustainability of our species. Space exploration matters and an open mind is the way forward.

    1. You’ve commented on the key points of the article very well. Your ideas on the long term benefits of space travel as the most important action of the human race is something to agree to. Your suggestion of teaching and informing further generations for this endeavour is a welcome idea which eventually will gather more acceptance for space travel and hopefully inspire further progress

  44. This article provided very balanced views from from perspectives,
    I personally believe that we should continue to carry on with space exploration to better ourselves with the understanding of the universe.
    Pumping money from the space programs into other causes won’t necessarily improve it by noticeable amounts as it would cost billions to “fix” the fund gap within the uk.
    I also believe that we shouldn’t limit our knowledge and exploration as we should always push to further ourselves as a race , which would require outer and interspace explorations.
    We may find answer to current geographical problems such as global warming by studying other planets in hope of one day to move across sustainable planets.

Leave a Reply