What is the fascination with space exploration?

Jake Keeley

There are many things that I do not understand, but I do not think I am alone when I say that I do not understand the fascination with ‘space.’ I’m sure if we surveyed elementary aged children, one of the most frequent occurring desired occupations would be an astronaut. Aside from a police officer, or a fireman, kids love astronauts. And I can’t totally blame them, as I too enjoy spacecrafts. In fact I have designed and engineered over 100 spacecrafts using LEGO’s alone. 

And certainly I can remember emulating life without gravity as I was taking big, moon-bouncing strides just yesterday. However, I can’t help but ask what’s next? There are so many unanswered questions that even if we got an answer, I’m not sure we would know what to do with it. Is there life other than us? If the answer is yes, how does that change what we do on a day-to-day basis? If the answer is somehow figured out to be a firm no, does that change our approach either?

NASA couldn’t care less about what we think because they are moving. After a long hiatus of being in the news, NASA has found themselves in the headlines twice in the past week. Not only did they recently find seven potentially hospitable planets, the movie “Hidden Figures,” depicting the story of a team of African American women mathematicians who played a major role in the early US space program, was nominated for the best picture award. 

Best picture is certainly no small feat, but seven planets is extraordinary. Not only was the finding monumental, the naming was revolutionary as well. 

“TRAPPIST-1” finally serves as a nod to rapper ‘Future’ who not only has a mixtape called “Astronaut Status,” but has also dedicated an entire project to the one time ninth planet from our sun, only to be reclassified as a dwarf planet, “Pluto.” No, NASA can’t convince me that TRAPPIST stands for The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope, because no one in their right mind would believe that.

After spending what felt like too long roving the planet Mars with nothing really to show for it, it seems like TRAPPIST-1 presents a real opportunity with some genuine traction. NASA suggests that three of the seven planets are within the ‘goldilocks zone,’ where the temperature is neither too hot to boil off water, or too cold to freeze it.

However, there is still much to be learned about any of the planets, and it is certainly much too soon to speculate on the prospect of life. The best thing about it is that it is essentially a win-win scenario, because even if we determine that the planets are uninhabitable, we have an entirely new set of planets whose aliens can potentially invade Earth in the next sci-fi thriller. 

We can even derive an entirely new species based on the environment TRAPPIST-1 presents. Just think of the possibilities. I already have, and it basically culminates in a reboot of “Predator,” because unfortunately all Hollywood can do these days are remakes.

In leaking Future’s new mixtape, NASA has again sparked our interest in the unknown. Whether it stems from our longstanding love affair with films such as E.T., Star Trek, Star Wars, and other sci-fi films, it is evident that regardless of our reasoning, our infatuation with space will continue into the future.