Earthly hubris


Gwyneth Shoecraft

Whenever I need a reprieve from the daily stresses of university life, I simply look up at the night sky, and prepare to have my mind blown.

Of all the stars I see, I know there is an uncountable number in the known universe. It is hard to feel so incredibly self-important when I remember that I am no more than stardust.

But self-importance is what propelled my fascination with space in the first place. No one can say that the universe is boring; it is fascinating because we live in it. And because we live in it, we are constantly searching to understand it.

However, when humans want to understand something, we often end up attempting to conquer it, make our mark and stake our claim. An American flag still stands tall on the lunar surface, marking humankind’s place in space.
Still, we reach further into the universe. In 2012, I waited with bated breath to hear that the Curiosity rover had successfully landed on the surface of Mars.

However, landing on Mars was not enough. Now we are compelled to commercialize space flight by sending people to the edge of our atmosphere for the small fee of a quarter of a million dollars. This mission is already proving to be dangerous.

Last Friday, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane exploded during a test flight in the Mojave Desert, killing one pilot and severely injuring the other. Virgin Galactic’s response: The mission must move forward despite any setbacks.

Earlier that same week, the unmanned Antares rocket exploded after lift off from a Virginia launch pad, carrying scientific instruments, supplies and food to be delivered to the International Space Station. Though it was later revealed that the rocket had been deliberately destroyed due to obvious problems, questions still remain as to whether private companies should be sending anything potentially dangerous up into our shared air.

After last week’s failures of space flight, I am left wondering when our Earthly hubris will end. Will the universe still hold the same fascination if we can enter space for a fee? Will I still be able to find comfort in the absurdity of space if we continue to commercialize it?

I hope that I may always look up at the stars and wonder. I hope to never to look up at the sky and wonder when I will see the next rocket explode.