Samuel Thorpe

By Samuel Thorpe, NSS Legal Fellow

Why space? The National Space Society says, “because we must.” And it’s true.

Long before the Babylonians started to document astronomical observations, and longer still before Hipparchus created the first recorded star chart, the mystery of the universe has figured prominently in the human experience. Humans base their lives around the stars. We measure our days based on the Earth’s rotation; our seasons by which side of the Earth is facing the sun; and our growth by the number of journeys we’ve taken around our sun. Yet, with this rich history intertwined with the cosmos, humans still have countless questions about the space our little blue marble inhabits. Humans have long held questions about what is around us and just how we have gotten here. Our history has been dictated by our yearning to understand and discover. In the words of Buzz Aldrin, “The urge to explore has propelled evolution since the first water creatures reconnoitered the land. Like all living systems, cultures cannot remain static; they evolve or decline. They explore or expire.”

It’s only natural that we seek to explore space. In order to learn more about our universe we simply must explore lest we become, as Professor Stephen Hawking put it, “cosmic couch potatoes.” Humans never would have learned what was across an endless body of water by simply staring out into it with their feet firmly planted on the ground. Instead, they conquered fear and naysayers and built ships, mapping the sea through myriad expeditions, discovering new lands and other humans. While there is much to descry in historic conquests, space offers a new frontier, a vast slate upon which humans can make their mark with a renewed—evolved—awareness of kinship. We must satisfy our urge to explore because only then can we hope to complete the understanding of our existence.

Why space? Simply put, it’s where our future will naturally take us. Barring parts of the deep sea that are virtually inaccessible, almost every nook and cranny of our mother Earth has been explored. This isn’t to say that we should stop exploring the world or that we should stop looking to improve the Earth—that is far from the truth. As our technological capabilities grow, our greatest adventure is always yet to come, with that adventure inevitably taking place among the stars. And in the process of unlocking the mysteries of the universe, who can say what we might discover along the way? Already we are using space in countless ways that benefit our experience on Earth, from GPS to weather prediction to innumerous applications for remotely sensed data. And those benefits are harnessed from low Earth orbit. Imagine the potential deep space holds. Imagine what we will learn, about our existence and about ourselves.

For more reasons for humanity to go into space, read the NSS position paper on Why Space?

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About NSS Legal Fellow Samuel Thorpe

Samuel Thorpe is a second year law student at the University of Mississippi School of Law where he focuses his studies in Air and Space Law. Sam takes part in many extracurricular activities that focus on Air and Space Law. Recently Sam has become President of the Ole Miss Air and Space Law Society and a Senior Editor on the Journal of Space Law. Sam’s infatuation with space started as child when his parents would wake him up to watch shuttle launches from his front yard in Orlando, Florida. Sam rediscovered his love for space at the University of Central Florida in Professor Robert Bledsoe’s Space Law class. Sam hopes to publish his thoughts on the creation of space infrastructure, colonization, and mining before he graduates with his J.D. from the University of Mississippi.

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