Space Exploration For Peaceful Purposes
To explore and learn about matters out of reach is human nature. But when we venture out to learn more about our existence and the existence of the universe, we tend to become greedy and end up messing Mother Nature. After all, once a stone is turned over to inspect the grass underneath, a handful of earth will be disturbed by the human touch. Taking lessons from this example, our quest for going where no man has gone before, and have knowledge of the final frontier must not change the natural wonder and beauty of the cosmos. Or be used as another battleground for supremacy for warring nations.Hence, space exploration for peaceful purposes, should be the focus of discovering space and its many mysteries. Nevertheless, one shudders to think that the skies may one day turn into a reality show of Star Wars.According to a treaty on International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation (INESAP), governments statements and multilateral treaties do contain the term, ‘peaceful uses of outer space', and it is interpreted as ‘non military'. But in actuality, the two space powers have already placed military payloads into the orbit and are getting increasingly dependant on space technology for military purposes.In 1957, the US Ambassador Lodge proposed space exploration for peaceful purpose only. The widely used term ‘peaceful' was emphasised before the launch of the first satellite into space. In August of the same year, Canada, France, the UK and the US, agreed on an inspection system that would ensure the launching or the testing of missiles into space only for peaceful purposes and also for scientific benefits. US President Eisenhower proposed to USSR, that both the nations must agree on the use of space for peaceful purposes and not for testing missiles for military uses.Between 1957 and 1967, when the Outer Space Treaty was accepted, many military payloads had already been put into orbit. And even though, article IV of the treaty, says that states are not allowed to place any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any kind of WMDs, or install them on celestial bodies in the orbit around the Earth, in reality, the use of space for military purposes has grown rapidly. And today, space is the most ‘heavily militarised environment' in which satellites for civilian purpose as well as for military survillance are used.
Peaceful Use Of Space
There are numerous facets concerning the use of space exploration for peaceful purposes.Analysts voice grave concern about the possibility of an arms race in outer space and the responsibility of States capable of outer space exploration to prevent such actions.
The peaceful uses of space cannot be denied. Astronauts, with the help of space shuttles, discovered ancient impact craters and other geographical effects like deforestation, the disastrous state of coral reefs, air and water pollution and further helped in observing the effects of floods and droughts. In addition, the weightlessness of plants and animals has also been recorded for human knowledge. However, these achievements are paled when one thinks of the negative uses of outer space
In reply to a statement made by a delegation of Korea which questioned the activities in outer space as being completely peaceful, Kenneth Hodgkins, the US advisor to the 56th session of the UN General Assembly, asserted that the US space programme has been and will continue to be guided by the fundamental principles of the UN charter, international law and other outer space treaties. To argue other wise, as North Korea has decided to do is baseless and a distortion of the truth.
Keeping all these statements and declarations in mind, it becomes obvious that peaceful use of space in no longer respected by all. In fact, even weather satellites have now been commissioned to survey targets for military purposes. The keyhole satellites can peer into people's homes, read number plates on cars, and zero down on military targets with extreme precision. Aside from the peaceful uses of outer space, human privacy is also at stake. But all is done in the dreaded name of terrorism and safety of mankind, so what can one say?
And does one put a ban on space research? Not possible. After all, experiments in different fields of research in space can also lead to several other benefits for mankind.
For example, according to a report from the European Space Agency (ESA), common plastics can be used in space and can then lead to materials that are used here on Earth.
Another interesting use of technology for space purposes is chemicals that were initially used for damping delicate satellite structures during rocket launch. These Magnet rheological fluids are already in use to decrease the stress on the human body by putting them as a ‘damping mechanism' in their shoes.
Skiers, too, are benefiting from these technologies. The Formula 1 McLauren racing team uses the cooling system that is used in astronaut space suits for their own clothes. Also, no one can refute the use of satellite technology and its peaceful uses for earthly matters. Life today seems impossible without satellite phones. Stolen cars can be tracked by the use of satellites, while warnings through satellites about approaching dangers of storms, hurricanes and possible erupting volcanoes can give the meteorological departments a head start.
On another note, setting up of satellites on moon and other celestial bodies can help humans to explore the skies further and find out what or ‘who' else is out there. Improved and advanced telescopes and state-of-the-art imaging techniques have enabled man to study many aspects of other planets and their satellites. Some of the more important discoveries and achievements include, the magical rings of Saturn which are bands of rocks and gases that encircle the planet, the large and deep ice covering on Europa, which may harbour a liquid ocean with interesting life forms, the discovery of a Martian ocean in its ancient past, the prospect of past and present life, and of course, the enormous benefits of mining for precious minerals on asteroids and the Moon, which would enrich earth's dwindling supply.
In addition, the final frontier has been opened up like never before, and the possibility of actually setting foot on an alien world is an incomparable adventure and source of knowledge for the mankind. Meanwhile, there is also the remote, but reasonably possible theory of using Mars as another home for human beings once earth's resources are depleted or destroyed
On an adventurous note, travellers into outer space will no longer need to worry about ‘resting their backs'. The first space hotel is expected to open its doors or pods by 2012. Called Galactic Suites, this hotel will allow guests to enjoy the scenic view of a sunrise 15 times a day, and at the same time, it will serve as a base to conduct scientific experiments. Though the room tariff reads at approximately four million dollars for a three-day stay, according to Reuters, there will be quite a few who will want to take this journey. Small problems do remain though.
While the hotel was Xavier's dream, the three billion dollars were given by a space enthusiast to make the hotel a reality. The investment was by an American company, which is experimenting at colonising Mars. The hotel will be built by pods connected in molecule-like structures According to Reuters, other private investors from countries such as, Japan, UAE and America are also interested in investing in the project.
However, the experience of looking at earth from outer space does seem tempting. The thought of floating around in pods, experiencing weightlessness and the trip itself is nothing more than a scientific miracle that can let mankind see what the final frontier actually looks like. And with more advancement in technology, the sky will no longer be the limit.