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Humans have dreamed of leaving the earth and traveling space for many years, and up to this day they have taken many steps in the right direction. Yet, with every new frontier they approach, new problems loom over the horizon. All problems involved with space exploration may not directly involve space itself. Many of those problems surface right here on Earth. Some of the easier issues have been resolved, such as escaping the forces of gravity to reach outer space. More of these problems are far more arduous and the solutions need more time to be worked out properly. In “The Coming Schism” by James E. and Alcestis R. Oberg, humans have already begun colonizing space, yet there are still new problems arising. Major problems such as financing, communication and culture conflicts are important in the journey to space, because they all have the potential to disrupt progress.
When people think of troubles that are related to space, they tend to overlook one of the most obvious and most important problems, financing. Money may prevent humans from leaving the very earth we stand on in the first place. Money can easily be the solution to a problem or the cause of one. In the supporting film, Stationed in the Stars, it was mentioned that in 1992, NASA spent 8 billion dollars without building a single piece of material. The money was spent on other things such as payroll and international conferences. The film also brought up the fact that every pound of water needed would cost up to 10 thousand dollars; therefore, 100 lbs. of water would cost 1 million dollars. This problem was later solved with the help of Russia in the creation of the closed loop system. But Russia has not always been so helpful. While Russia was working with NASA to help build a service module, they purposely delayed their efforts in order to receive more money from NASA, until NASA had enough and gave them a deadline to comply with. There are times when financing may prevent a project from being ventured into completely without even spending the money. For example, further servicing of the International Space Station would have cost upwards of 100 billion dollars. That is why that project is still uncompleted.
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Also, in “The Coming Schism,” the subject of money is brought up differently. “It might reach out and, at some point, try to strangle off-world economics and the pursuit of happiness in space with taxation, quotas, and embargos” (Oberg and Oberg 24). The “it” the authors are referring to is the Earth. The taxation of the people living in space by the people on Earth may cause some tension between the two groups which could possibly result in a war, which would become a huge problem. In the end, money is always needed, but it is not always available, and that is why it is a problem now and why it will be a major problem, facing space exploration in the future.
Communication is another problem that may disrupt the journey ahead to space. There are a lot of problems that can come from communication or even a lack of it. The most recent example is the Columbia tragedy. Lower level engineers tried to relay the possibility of a problem to the higher officials who would relay it to the astronauts on the Columbia spacecraft, and warn them of a possible danger. But the letters never made it that far and because of this communication block, the astronauts were unaware of the possible danger awaiting them. Communication problems can also arise from language barriers, such as in Stationed in the Stars between the Russians and the Americans. Also
there was one point at which France, Russia, China and other countries would have sent astronauts up to the space station in other shuttles that would have attached to the space station. If this had succeeded, there would have been some confusion amongst them, because they do not speak the same languages and they probably would not have had a good way to communicate among them. In “The Coming Schism,” it is mentioned briefly that when trying to communicate among citizens of different planets, there could be a considerable lag and during an emergency this might cause problems; not being able to communicate vital information quickly enough (21). In The Voyager Mission Cosmic Journey, it is mentioned that it takes years to travel between the planets so human language would be a far less inferior method to be used. Definitely in the end, not being able to communicate properly will cause problems in a journey to space.
Different types of culture conflicts cause problems right here on Earth, so they may cause problems in space. Racism and prejudice would not simply be extinguished because people have left this planet. “The Coming Schism” states that many races may live in space. There may be problems among all of the different types of races living out in the same space colony. But as they eventually overcome the differences between them a new type of prejudice may evolve between the people that are living in space and the people that are remaining on Earth (24). This can be compared in way to the cultural differences between the United States and the Taliban. These differences started to surface in the manner of devastating attacks. The same could happen between the spacers and the earthlings. Because of their opposing views in culture, a war could break out between the two groups. “Some spacers may hate Earth” (Oberg and Oberg 23).
The authors then go into detail why the spacers may begin to dislike the Earth:
Imagine a world free of mosquitoes, gnats, and cockroaches, and then imagine coming back to Earth where these little intrepid little vectors of disease and filth thrive. If this Moon native travels into any large city, he or she will see congestion, pollution, and traffic, and will hear noise and confusion. Hotel rooms are cluttered with furniture, and no Earth mattress can ever be as comfortable as a sleeping bag in weightlessness. (Oberg and Oberg 23)
Problems like these can cause one’s opinions to change over time. The longer the people live away from the Earth the more they will change from the people on Earth. The differences between them, their beliefs and their culture, and why they choose to hate, are not problems that can be solved with technology. Each problem is better left for the people themselves to solve, and by the current looks of things, such psychological and social problems will continue to affect the Earth now and the space in the future.
In the end, there are a myriad of problems that face space exploration. Some of them are small and easy to overcome, but others are huge and need more planning. The recent Columbia tragedy shows us that we have not conquered space yet and that there are still many things that can go wrong. Some of the problems that occur here on Earth will also occur in space. To help smooth the problematic path ahead for space exploration, major problems such as financing, communication, and cultural
differences should, at the very least, receive the most attention if they cannot be solved at the present time. These problems cannot just be left on the back burner and ignored; they are very important and should be at the top priority when considering how to further our journey into space.
NOVA: Stationed in the Stars. Written by Stephen Lyons. Nar. Will Lyman. PBS Special Presentation. Videocassette. January 2003.
Oberg, James E. and Alcestis R. “The Coming Schism.” The Example of Science: An Anthology for College Composition. Ed. Robert E. Lynch, Thomas B. Swanzey and John M. Coakley. Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2003. (20-26)
The Voyager Mission Cosmic Journey. Nar. Carl Sagan, Frank Drake and Ann Druyan. Videocassette. A&E Special Presentation. Cosmo Studios, 2003.