Space exploration is a popular subject for science fiction writers. Often, the setting of the story will involve a distant date in the future that is hard for most to contradict as plausible, and capture the wildest fantasies of those who follow the story. Of most interest here, the workings in the plot will often be shaped by the space travel of man to likewise distant worlds which are also inventions of the writer’s yet equally impossible to disprove. While some predictions of future worlds have already failed to come to fruition with the passing of the deadline years predicted in their works, others have yet to be verified or refuted. At present, though, space exploration is a risky business, and most of the information we have collected from our own solar system is not the result of manned space travel but rather the data collection of unmanned probes. There are a number of challenges facing humankind’s transit through outer space today. Below are some of these difficulties:
1. Difficulties of repairs – Previous manned space exploration missions have had their share of problems with needed repairs and failed launches. At worst, spacecraft have failed to get off the ground and people have died; for example, the Challenger disaster occurred in less than two minutes after the initial firing of the rocket boosters. Even in cases where disaster has been avoided, though, it was lucky that the distances traveled were not of considerable length. For space travel missions of considerable distances, there is a great risk that something could go wrong with the spacecraft, but that the crew will not have the necessary resources to fix the problem from space, and it is not as if the craft could easily turn around and come back home.
2. Costs – Federal governments and private investors alike have talked about space exploration and colonization of bodies in our solar system in the near future. However, this would be fiscally feasible for only a select few. Space travel, at present, is immensely expensive, and even short trips would conceivably set the spender back millions of dollars. Certainly, manned exploration of space is a luxury.
3. Sustainability of life – There is not a wealth of past precedence for the continual habitation of space. The Space Station Mir has given the world hope that colonization of space is achievable through a small sample size, but space travel of a extended duration may have significant deleterious effects based on radiation levels and cosmic rays. Furthermore, long-term space exploration is dependent on stable living conditions, which are also subject to system failure.
4. Inadequacy of technology – To travel outside our solar system and reach other galaxies, significant speeds would have to be produced. At current rates/methods of propulsion, however, most people would not survive a supposed intergalactic trip. The distances are simply just too far for even relatively short journeys.
Manned space travel as represented in movies and other media may yet be achievable. Realization of some wild sci-fi fantasies in our lifetime are unlikely, though. With some people continuing to doubt man has even landed on the moon, humans have a lot of work to do before that point.