Thursday, May 24, 2012

What is the Motivation for Space Exploration?

If humans have everything they physically and psychologically need to survive here on Earth, then why on Earth would they search the universe for something more? (Sorry for the pun =p)
There is only one reason why a person would want to search past their own environment and that is because they are not satisfied. We already have access to everything we need to be successful on this planet. Apparently, some people can’t take advantage of the opportunities this planet has to offer. I believe that when a person cannot take advantage of what is already available, they fantasize about another world where they can find everything they need much easier. A group of people who we will refer to as ‘space explorers’ are the exact people who fantasize about finding their needs on another planet, in another galaxy, or basically anywhere but their own planet.
In 2007, Galaxy Zoo was launched. It was a website “with a data set made up of a million galaxies imaged with the robotic telescope”. The website was set up in hopes that people would volunteer their time to help classify some of these data sets. Jill Tarter, an astronomer and the director of the research center that launched the website drew interest into the endeavor by announcing the website mission as "[to] empower Earthlings everywhere to become active participants in the ultimate search for cosmic company." In the first year, more than 50 million classifications were received from almost 150,000 people. [1]
What made 150,000 people be so interested in space? What are they expecting to find? Are they expecting to find the ‘cosmic company’ that Tarter is talking about?
The question I am trying to ask is what motivates people to be drawn to extraterrestrial sources to fulfill their needs when everything they need is right here on our own planet?
According to anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, the list of basic human needs contains: nutrition, reproduction, bodily comforts, safety, relaxation, movement and growth [2]. (page 53, Universal Motives) All of these things can be found on our planet. If a person cannot meet one of these basic needs then they will move until they meet that need. Usually, this means moving towns, states, or countries. It would be much more difficult to search for basic needs in some place that is difficult to search and to move to, so why do people search space? If all their basic needs are met then there is no motivation to search space. We live on a planet that is made for satisfying our needs. Why are people not satisfied with what our world has to offer? I hope to learn some parts to the answers of my questions by the time this course is over.
[1] Moskowitz, Clara. "Astronomers need your brain power for the search for E.T. ." MSNBC, 2012. Web. 24 May 2012. <>

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