In the vast mass of untouched ‘space’ lies undiscovered mysteries that may be resourceful to our planet, and very beneficial to humanity and its continued existence. The colonization of space is humanity’s only backup plan to survive extinction if the earth dies of pollution. Nonetheless, space research may be a waste of monetary resources because this funding can be used to stop pollution! The adverse effects of climate-change are becoming reality and “carbon capture” has great potential to stop further carbon dioxide pollution. Sadly, “carbon capture” suffers funding constraints. Should space research funding be diverted to fund carbon capture?
WE KANT STOP SPACE RESEARCH!!!
A government owes its people a duty to fund causes that will lead to the technological advancements of their country. According to Kant, ‘the rightness or wrongness of actions does not depend on their consequence but on whether we fulfil our duty’ (Poel and Royakkers 2011). Applying this logic could justify the morality of space exploration since all governments are causing technological advancement through various space agencies. For example, NASA’s intricate research, advances in solar activity and the declining state of the ozone layer, have raised awareness of climate change and provided the planet with strategies to decelerate it. Through funding NASA the government has fulfilled its duty.
However, fulfilling a duty is not always the right thing to do. Although governments has shown the duty of care by funding space research, which has improved quality of life, this decision might not be appropriate. Certain demographics may not benefit from or want technological advancements, for example, the elderly. Hence, we need another ethical standpoint to justify funding space research. Therefore, we will take a utilitarian stand.
It may not be a utilitarian decision to stop funding space research. All humans today will benefit from emerging space related technologies as it has already introduced us to a plethora of indispensable technologies; e.g. GPS, the INTERNET, and even non-stick pans! In addition, the medical industry has also revolutionized itself with space technology. This development was immensely instrumental in enhancing health care delivery systems. For example, the development of CT scans has played a vital role in diagnosis of medical conditions such as stokes and brain injuries (Cramer, et al. 2018). The past may be an indicator of the future, thus a reduction in funding would only marginalise the future benefits of space research. Stopping space research funding will cause pain to the majority of the planet.
In addition, the earth has limited resources so our distant future rests on the colonization of the moon and mars. Hence, it will benefit everyone to fund space research; a means of getting these resources. The moon is a lucrative source of helium-3, europium and tantalum, which could be used in power plants (Landis 2007). These sources of power will benefit the remainder of the human race for as long as we survive. Space research is truly utilitarian.
Lastly, carbon capture should get its funding from other ventures as space research pays for itself. According to the UK space agency, satellite service helps the UK make £250bn of its GDP (UK-Space-Agency 2016). Funding of space projects consist of not only the space exploration but also the maintenance of the satellites. If we cut the entire budget for space research, we’d be in danger.
CURIOSITY AS A VIRTUE WILL KILL THE CAT…
Exploration is crucial to the continuance of the human race. Our desire to transverse has translated from polar expeditions to space exploration (Setlow 2003). This heightened curiosity now poses a threat. According to Aristotle, “each moral virtue holds a position of equilibrium” (Poel and Royakkers 2011). For the virtue of curiosity, there should exist a balance between Apathy and Intrusiveness. We have to apply practical wisdom to decide how curious we should be.
The Falcon 9, consists of three ‘Falcon Heavy’ rockets that burn 444 metric tonnes of kerosene. Shockingly, it disperses 149 metric tons of carbon dioxide into our environment per launch ( Robert A. Braeunig 2008) (Howell 2018). Regardless of this pollution, SpaceX and a growing number of space start-ups will exponentially increase the number of launches to support their commercial space tourism (Start-Up 2018) (Wallask 2019). Just as automobiles started in small numbers that caused no serious environmental impact, the number of rocket launches will skyrocket. Thereby contributing significantly to environmental damage (Vehicles, Air Pollution, and Human Health n.d.).
Since 2000, the private sector has invested $18.4bn in commercial space ventures (Wallask 2019), with an additional projected government spending of $20 Billion by 2027. Are moving to the intrusive end of our curiosity?
While virtue ethics focuses on the person rather than the action, it does not distinctively define how we should act. This is depicted in this perplexing situation of diverting space research funds to combat the immediate problem of climate change.
“Winter is coming!” but when!?
February 25th 2019, marked the warmest February in the U.K at 25⁰C (BBC 2019). While temperatures like this aren’t uncommon, experiencing it in the middle of ‘winter’ screams, ‘GLOBAL WARMING!’
The Utilitarian theory supports the argument against space research. Every person on the planet will benefit from cleaner air and the mitigation of environmental damage. Contrary to space exploration, which benefits only developed countries. Citizens of underdeveloped regions of the world have obtained no benefit from space research, but we have all suffered the effect of climate change. Carbon capture has been constantly overlooked due to its high financial cost, slow returns on investment and relatively young stature. At the same time, space research continues to receive generous funding. Interestingly, space research shares a similar business model to carbon capture (Alphen, et al. 2007). This calls to question our moral decadence. We should be more accountable for choices we make because when the earth is destroyed, and the elite move to mars, what will be the guarantee that mars wouldn’t be destroyed and the cycle of planet destruction and migration be sustained.
Robert A. Braeunig. 2008. Basics of Space Flight: Rocket Propellants. Accessed March 20, 2019. view-source:http://www.braeunig.us/space/propel.htm.
Alphen, Klaasvan van, Quirine Voorst, Marko P. Hekkert, and Ruud Smits. 2007. “Societal acceptance of carbon capture and storage technologies.” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421507000985.
BBC. 2019. UK basks in warmest February day on record. February 25. Accessed March 20, 2019. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-47360952.
Cramer, Avilash, Jake Hecla, Dufan Wu, Xiaochun Lai, Tim Boers, Kai Yang, Tim Moulton, et al. 2018. “Stationary Computed Tomography for Space and other Resource-constrained Environments.” doi:10.1038/s41598-018-32505-z.
Howell, Elizabeth. 2018. What Impact Might SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Program Have on the Atmosphere? February 2. Accessed March 20, 2019. https://www.seeker.com/exploration/what-impact-might-spacexs-falcon-heavy-program-have-on-the-atmosphere.
Landis, Geoffrey A. 2007. “Materials refining on the Moon.” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0094576506004085.
NASA. 2013. “Benefits Stemming from Space Exploration.” NASA.com. September . Accessed March 20, 2019. https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/Benefits-Stemming-from-Space-Exploration-2013-TAGGED.pdf.
Poel, Ibo Van D, and Lamber Royakkers. 2011. “Ethics, Technology and Engineering – An Introduction.” https://www.wiley.com/en-gb/Ethics%2C+Technology%2C+and+Engineering%3A+An+Introduction-p-9781444330953.
Setlow, Richard B. 2003. “The hazards of space travel.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1326386/.
2018. “Start-Up.” Brycetech. Formerly Tauri Group Space and Technology. Accessed March 20, 2019. https://www.brycetech.com/downloads/Bryce_Start_Up_Space_2018.pdf.
UK-Space-Agency. 2016. “Annual Report and Accounts.” https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/625529/6.3324_UKSA_Annual_Report_and_Accounts_web.pdf
n.d. Vehicles, Air Pollution, and Human Health. Accessed March 20, 2019. https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/vehicles-air-pollution-and-human-health.
Wallask, Scott. 2019. What Will It Take To Turn A Profit In Space? February 27. Accessed March 20, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2019/02/27/what-will-it-take-to-turn-a-profit-in-space/#356586232e7f.
We are for space research funding.