Exploration of space is one of the remarkable achievements of modern science. Ever since man learnt to fly, he has dreamed of conquering space, of visiting the distant planets and knowing what kind of life, if any, exists on them. Today that dream is about to come true. Space ships, launched into Space, circle round the earth like satellites. American cosmonauts have landed on the moon several times and returned to earth, safely.
It is indeed very exciting – this latest adventure of science. It gratifies man’s scientific curiosity – his hunger for knowledge.
The information about conditions in space and on heavenly bodies obtained as a result of these experiments may prove extremely useful to man in the near future. For example, certain parts of the moon may be habitable or made habitable, and men may colonise them. This possibility of migrating to other worlds is very welcome when our earth is fast becoming over – Populated and its resources are being rapidly exhausted. The conquest of space, from this point of view, is important.
But there is the rub. In the first place, there is uncertainty about all these adventurous experiments yielding practical results in the foreseeable future. Several centuries may elapse before visiting or living on the moon becomes a safe proposition, and even then only the very rich will afford it. Secondly, think of the colossal amount of money spent on space research and space flights. Is this huge expenditure justified when large parts of the world are under-developed and under-nourished?
The primary duty of man is to create a good life on the earth where he lives. The common man would echo the views on space travel expressed by Aldous Huxley: ‘The typical man of this age is ingenious, inventive, and courageous. But he is not brave enough to take a good long look at himself. He is not ingenious and inventive enough to raise the level of his own being. So he wants to leave one half wrecked earths behind him to go and ruin another. I believe it is far more important to have a good life here than to take a bad life somewhere else, to travel farther and farther outward, taking with us our confusion and anxiety, fear and cruelty.”
What Huxley says is too true. Russia and America regard the conquest of space as part of the game of power-politics. Instead of sharing scientific know-how, they have given a political twist to the adventure into space and pursue it as a race in a spirit of unhealthy rivalry. It means that, having made a mess of this world, they want to go and make a mess of other worlds carrying with them their ‘confusion and anxiety, fear and cruelty., After all, the conquest of space is not so important – at least at the present stage of human history – as it may seem at first sight.