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We are born explorers

Jim Bell

December 3, 2012

We are born explorers.  As infants we first learn to use our senses -- vision, hearing, touch, taste -- to learn about the nature of the world around us.  And then -- gloriously! -- as toddlers we add mobility and can finally rove around and explore not just what is within our vision, but also the unknown across the room, or around the corner.  It turns out that that urge to explore never leaves us as we continue to grow, as individuals, and as a civilization. Nowadays our fascination with the unknown compels us to explore not just the world around us, but the limitless frontiers of distant planets, stars, and galaxies.

Imagine, though, if our frontiers of exploration had limits--imagine a world in which we didn't make the effort to explore our cosmic neighborhood, and beyond.  Would we be content as a species to look up into the night sky and NOT wonder -- where do we come from?  where are we going?  what is the future of our planet?  are we alone?

In a world without space exploration, I certainly would not have been able to follow my dreams to become an interplanetary explorer. Maybe I would have redirected my interests to the exploration of inner space -- physics or microbial biology, for example.  But my passion was always about looking up and out, to study the wonders of the Universe.  Without the opportunity to fulfill that passion, I may not have pursued science as a career at all.  And I *certainly* wouldn't have found a home among a like-minded band of fellow space explorers, as a world without space exploration may never have spawned an organization like The Planetary Society.

Or would it have?  In a world without space exploration -- perhaps a prospect in the not too distant future given recent government cuts to fundamental science and exploration programs -- an organized effort by passionate, motivated, educated space exploration advocates could actually fulfill a critical need to unite our naturally exploration-prone species behind a rallying cry to CREATE a space exploration program.  We MUST explore! the members of such an organization could advocate.  We MUST learn about the worlds around us in order to understand the past, present, and future of our own planet and of our species!  

The idea of "a future without space exploration" has precedent:  The Planetary Society was formed in the 1980s in response to just such a threat -- the massive cutback of our nation's space exploration program.  Today we face a similar threat, and TPS members must once again help demonstrate to our fellow citizens that a world without space exploration is a world with limited frontiers, without grand adventures that push our species and our technology to its limits, and without the means to answer the Big Questions that humans have always asked about our origin and ultimate destiny.

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