From the beginning of time, we as humans have been enchanted by what lies beyond our world. Space was once an unknown world to be explored. Space was just ‘space’ we knew little about. It was a void – unknown territory – that we have no right to inhabit. But, despite the vast distances and many other elements being against us, we have not given up.
We overcame the limits of our own naked eye when we invented telescopes in the early 1600’s, allowing us to observe the planets. Galileo wrote about the planets in “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Ptolemaic and Copernican”. Since then we haven’t looked back.
Maybe our obsession of space comes from a feeling of inferiority towards the sheer might of the Universe. The history of the Universe dates back over 13 billion years before mankind. It existed well before us and will continue to exist whether we do or not. Not only this, but Earth is only a tiny speck in the vast cosmos – a pale blue dot, as astronomer Carl Sagan famously put it.
Space is as wonderous as it is terrifying. We could not live on any other planet except Earth and without the specialised suits we use in space we would die of lack of oxygen. However, we are curious beings seeking to uncover the mysteries of the Universe, which is totally at odds with our natural sense of fear. We shouldn’t venture into space for our own safety – but bettering the knowledge of humankind is the driving force behind voyages. This is why astronauts are so respected.
There is much we still don’t know about space. Physicians are motivated by the possibility of finding a breakthrough linked to the cosmos in their research, to rival the past discoveries of Galileo, Keppler or Copernicus.
Science has taken over belief systems for many in the modern world, as ‘facts’ become more important and information more accessible. In pre-industrial times people lived their lives on religious beliefs, but scientific testing has led to the collapse of ‘meta-narratives’. Now more people trust science than religion. Therefore, we want scientists to tell us exactly how the Universe formed based on cold, hard facts rather than be told an idea that may or may not be true.
With the internet and smartphone technology, all the information we could want is at our fingertips, which eliminates time spent pondering over the answers. Most people would prefer to find out facts about astronomy straightaway rather than hold incorrect beliefs, simply by Googling any question we might have.
On the other hand, the cosmos is beautiful to view images of. The internet has made it easier to find images of space to admire. Not only images but real-time HD videos of the Milky Way, for example, wouldn’t be as accessible before the rise of the internet. Maybe the main reason we as humans are so fascinated with space is its beauty. No wonder astrologists link constellations with predictions of the future.