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Science | Geography | Citizenship | RE | PSHE

History made as astronauts enter space station

Is our obsession with space wrong? Elon Musk’s company SpaceX has triumphed with its first manned US space rocket in a decade. But many believe humans have a moral duty to focus on Earth. There was no going back. The astronauts Robert Behken and Douglas Hurley felt a huge surge of power as the countdown finished and the Falcon 9 rocket ignited beneath them. Moments later, they were being thrust up through the Earth's atmosphere and into the cold infinity of space. Yesterday's flawless operation as the Dragon capsule - supplied and operated by the SpaceX company - attached to the bow section of the orbiting International Space StationA joint project between the US, Russia, Japan, Canada and the European Space Agency. (ISS) lab, 422km above China, was not only the first time that a commercial company had sent astronauts into orbit. It was the latest triumph for the South African entrepreneur Elon Musk. His ambition, he says, is to "grow a rose on Mars", and his Twitter feed carries a quote from Queen's song Bohemian Rhapsody: "Open your eyes. Look up to the skies." On this Demo-2 mission, which could last for as long as four months, astronauts will carry out experiments before returning to Earth. If everything goes smoothly, NasaThe National Aeronautics and Space Administration, responsible for the US space programme. will approve the spacecraft's use for future missions. SpaceX is just one of Musk's projects. He is also the man behind Tesla electric cars; he is developing a device called the Neuralink to allow people to communicate via microchips in their skulls, and he is pressing ahead with the Hyperloop - a high-speed transport system using pods that travel through a system of tubes. To some, he is a visionaryBlake often had religious visions, beginning at age four when he saw God “put his head to the window”., a latter-day Leonard da Vinci. To others, he is more like IcarusIn order to escape prison, Icarus was given artificial wings by his father Daedalus and warned not to fly too close to the sun. Icarus failed to heed the warning, however. The wax holding his wings together melted and he drowned. - a man destined to be brought down by hubrisArrogance. In Greek tragedy, hubris is the key flaw that brings disaster to humans.. His ultimate ambition is to colonise Mars - which raises a big moral issue. Should private ownership apply when exploring the vastness of the cosmos? But there is another question which is perhaps even more profound: does gravity have a moral purpose? Was NietzscheA 19th-Century German philosopher. right when he said, "Remain true to the earth?" Many believe that humans have a duty to remain on and care for our planetary home - and each other - instead of pursuing a project that would allow an elite few to be transported to another world. In fact, rather than being regarded as heroic, space exploration could be seen as a form of escapism - a desire to avoid the challenges posed by our mistreatment of the Earth. In other words, cowardice. So, is our obsession with space wrong? Tense atmosphere Yes. We are incredibly lucky to have the rare conditions that support human life here on Earth, so to swap it for a planet as inhospitable as Mars flies in the face of common sense. Nobody would seriously consider it if they did not believe that the Earth was about to be ruined by global warming, and the problem was too big to grapple with. To shirk that challenge is obviously escapism. No. Space exploration poses challenges just as big as global warming - they are just of a different nature. To climb into a rocket and leave the Earth millions of miles behind requires so much courage that it cannot possibly be described as cowardly. What drives Elon Musk is the fundamental human instinct to explore, and space - in the words of Star Trek - is still the final frontier. KeywordsInternational Space Station - A joint project between the US, Russia, Japan, Canada and the European Space Agency.

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