Pro: Should Humans Colonize Space?
by Ethan, Student at La Canada High School, California
I’d like to think that everyone has, at some point in their life, stared up at the sky and wondered what life would be like on another planet. From Mars to the Moon, the idea of making an interplanetary journey to start a new life seems riveting, so much so that humanity has kept colonization in its aspirations since the discovery that planets were bodies with mass.
After centuries of waiting, with the proliferation of reusable space transport vehicles like SpaceX and an overall rising public interest in the future of space, many feel as though colonization is right around the corner.
Regardless of our speculations, the truth is that colonization will eventually become an existential necessity for humanity, and it just might provide some added quality of life along the way.
Let’s begin with this: Every good thing, including the Earth itself, inevitably comes to an end. Hence, as technology continues to improve, extending our range of habitability seems like a no-brainer to ensure that the human race won’t go down with it. Furthermore, even though the chance of spontaneous planetary destruction within the next few generations is unlikely, it would certainly be for the best not to risk humanity on chances that are less than 100% and be forced to quickly develop the technology needed to transport billions only once the countdown has begun. This also doesn’t factor in the variety of impending doomsday possibilities that stare us in the face every day, including, but certainly not limited to, nuclear fallout, global warming, and mass social collapse.
Aside from the fact that it will (at least eventually) be existentially necessary, colonization’s greatest perk is the social benefit that it provides. For instance, ever since colonization began to seem somewhat realistic in the 1970s, NASA has reported that settling in outer space can create thousands, if not millions, of jobs. This makes plenty of sense, given that outer space will essentially be a wild-west of exploration that will come with new industries and demands to be filled by both space and Earth inhabitants.
One of the most promising of these industries is asteroid mining, which was brought into the mainstream spotlight when the Japanese satellite Hayabusa2 returned to Earth in 2020 with asteroid samples. According to author and engineering expert Kashyap Vyas, it’s estimated that some asteroids could contain the equivalent of all the platinum obtained from mines in history. In addition, some could contain enough iron, nickel, or cobalt to cover Earth’s current needs for 3,000 years; the asteroid belt could contain enough nickel ore to cover the current human demand for millions.
And although the idea of an entirely new industry blossoming through the settlement of space to cover some of humanity’s greatest needs seems unlikely, this couldn’t be further from the truth. For instance, as scientific journalism publication BBVA reports, the technology to harvest asteroid materials exists and is profitable; the only thing left to do is to find a way (i.e., colonization) to scale it. On top of providing essentially a limitless supply of resources, creating a space-oriented mining industry would solve persisting problems on Earth, including child labor, exploitative conditions in mines, and bloody resource wars that occur on regional and international levels.
One major point of contention regarding both asteroid mining and space colonization in general, though, is that space will be an unsafe, unregulated place due to a lack of precedence and establishment. Though this is a valid point, I don’t see it as a reason to not expand into outer space. This is because whenever humanity expands into a new space from the Gold Rush to cryptocurrency, there is always a short interval that lacks regulation before we can standardize it and fully leverage its benefits. In sum, even though it’s something to worry about and consider, it shouldn’t hold us back from taking advantage of outer space’s existential and social benefits.
Still not convinced? Let me ask you this: if a new, mystical land was discovered on Earth, would you expect humanity to never venture into it? Of course not! Despite the dangers and risks of a period lacking regulation, humanity’s endeavors have always taken us upwards (pun intended). Our explorations into the unknown help us to discover more about the world around us and to follow our natural sense of wonder and curiosity. The colonization of space, in my opinion, will just be another piece of this puzzle as humanity continues to grow.