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Friday, December 20, 2013

Lessons from Star Trek and the Future of Planetary Exploration

Thanks to Hulu Plus, I and many other viewers have the opportunity to catch up on episodes with Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation. I'm only in a few episodes but I watched it plenty as a child. One of the themes of the show is to show viewers who were living in the 20th century, some of the flaws with the culture of the time and how different it should be.

Set centuries later in the Star Trek universe, Captain Picard often speaks of the way things had been centuries before with wars and disagreements. In this universe and many centuries later, it appears that Earth finally became united together and was able to achieve some of the greats like interstellar flight made possible on ships like the Enterprise.

A blog recently interviewed a man running for a seat in charge of NASA and he was talking about some of the changes that he'd like seen in NASA and the way it operates. One of these is that he wants us to visit one of Jupiter's moons, Europa. According to human research of the moon, Europa is an ice satellite with approximately 67 feet of ice and water is believed to be beneath this surface. The man, Houston Republican John Culberson, wants us to visit this planet and become the first country on Earth to discover life outside of our planet. His reasoning is that there is likely to be "tube worms and lobster"-like creatures in this moon's covered oceans. Out of all of the other cellestial bodies in our vicinity, Europa does sound like it has the highest chance of containing life besides that of our own planet, Earth.

According to research, Europa has more water than that of Earth as can be seen in the illustration below.

However, Culberson wants yet another change in NASA, rather, to prevent NASA from doing something. That is, to cut off ties with any ties with have with China and do research on our own. He cites their recent lunar landing as seeming a bit more for capital gain than exploratory science as the moon has many elements that are rare on Earth especially in the area that China chose to land on.

I agree with Culberson, that we ought to be different in that we don't exploit planets (at least, this seems to be his stance) and I see his pride in his country and have similar feelings about the United States; however, thinking of Picard from Star Trek, I can't help but wonder what awesome things we can accomplish if we join our resources together with other countries like China. Currently, Russia, China, India, and the United States of America appear to be the countries that are really delving into space technology and exploring our universe. If we were to combine our knowledge, scientists, and technology, where would we be in 10 years? I bet we could accomplish 100 years worth of space travel in 10 years if we did such a thing.

Instead, we bicker and argue over these issues, never compromise, and never get pun intended.

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