As far as I am concerned our civilization peaked with the Apollo missions and it has pretty much been downhill ever since. Modern astronomers typically prefer small robotic satellite missions over human space flight. The claim is that robots can do what humans can do only better and more effective. The reason is that robots do not require the complex life support systems that humans do and that robots can be built to measure parts of the spectrum that humans can’t see.

I’d hate to sound like a luddite, but exploring ever more details of the universe to be published in some paper in some obscure journal is not what space missions should be about. The greatest accomplishment of the space race is often said to be the technology that was developed and later used in the “real world”. While that was nice and all, that was, in my opinion, not the most important result of the space race.

The most important thing was that a small group of humans went into space and realized some things on a visceral level that is intellectually less meaningful: From space, borders do not exist, but are arbitrary human constructs. From space, Earth is really fragile. From space, Earth is really small. With such a perspective, it is hard to understand why humans living next to each other would squabble over where borders are drawn. It is to understand why humans would pollute their nest to make it unlivable. It is hard to understand why humans do not take better care of their home. I wish more people could have the chance to go into space. And this time, send the poets and the writers so that they can tell the rest of us, and send the political leaders and the religious heads so that they may gain a different perspective. Do not keep sending engineers and scientists. Thanks to the latter we may know more, but we are none the wiser.