By Herman M. Lagon
INDIA ETCHED its name in history by becoming the first nation to successfully land a spacecraft near the Moon’s south pole last August 23, joining the ranks of lunar explorers alongside China and the United States. This remarkable achievement speaks volumes about the world’s growing interest in space exploration. However, the question lingers–why must countries, even those facing socioeconomic and political challenges like the Philippines, invest in venturing beyond our planet’s bounds? The answer is not solely anchored in economic or scientific gains; it’s a matter of existential significance.
The recently passed Philippine Space Act reflects the nation’s stride toward space exploration, an initiative that may appear incongruous in the face of domestic struggles. Yet, the urge to explore the cosmos resonates beyond earthly concerns. As astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson eloquently elucidates in his book “Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier,” the allure of the cosmic unknown is a compelling force, transcending national borders. The act of gazing at the moon and realizing that human-made spacecraft wander its surface invokes wonder and a shared sense of exploration among people worldwide.
The Moon, with its historical and cultural importance, serves as a symbol of human curiosity and ingenuity. This global fascination has the power to forge both cooperative and competitive interactions, uniting nations through partnerships in the name of scientific advancement. Space exploration is a harbinger of international unity, fostering connections between researchers and organizations across borders.
Critics may argue that the Philippines should prioritize its domestic challenges over space exploration. However, this perspective overlooks the fact that investing in science and technology inherently stimulates innovation. The quest for space has the capacity to trigger a wave of creativity, with each cosmic leap catalyzing advancements in various disciplines. This phenomenon is not unique to advanced nations; emerging economies like India are exemplifying how a space-focused vision can spur technological growth.
While economic benefits are often touted as a rationale for space exploration, the true essence of this cosmic odyssey transcends monetary gains. The Moon’s potential as a source of water, helium-3, and rare Earth elements may indeed shape the future economy, but it’s the intangible treasure of human achievement that truly matters. The Philippines’ journey into space, if supported by the government purposively, mirrors its pursuit driven by curiosity, an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and a commitment to the greater good.
The importance of space exploration extends far beyond individual nations. Over the past few decades, the global landscape of space activity has expanded significantly, with nations like India, China, EU, Japan, UAE, Israel, South Korea, and others—including private companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and Bigelow Aerospace–venturing into the final frontier i.e. the low earth orbit, the Moon, planet Mars, and beyond. This trend signifies a shift from the earlier space race, dominated by superpowers, to a more inclusive era where cooperation and sustainable exploration take center stage. The rise of new players and the advancement of technology create opportunities for nations to explore the cosmos collaboratively, enhancing our collective understanding of the universe.
As we stand at the threshold of an age where the Moon’s south pole beckons us with its promise of scientific discovery and resource exploration, let us recognize that space exploration is not an indulgence but an existential pursuit. It’s a beacon of human potential that bridges cultures, fosters innovation, and enkindles the spirit of exploration. For the Philippines and the world, venturing into space is an ode to our innate curiosity and an affirmation of our shared destiny among the stars.
Doc H fondly describes himself as a ‘student of and for life’ who, like many others, aspires to a life-giving and why-driven world that is grounded in social justice and the pursuit of happiness. His views herewith do not necessarily reflect those of the institutions he is employed or connected with.