Why do we Explore Space?

There's something about the vast expanse of the universe that fosters investigation at the both the amateur and professional levels. In each case, there are times when the cosmos is obscure, incomprehensible, and endlessly perplexing. And there are also times when it's revealing, awe-inspiring, and humbling to the core. 

All of the time, its grandeur beckons.

Jupiter and Stephen Hawking
Jupiter, imaged by NASA's $1.1 billion Juno spacecraft.
Image Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, SwRI, MSSS; Processing: Damian Peach
Quote Credit: Stephen Hawking foreword in "The Physics of Star Trek"

All we ever see is a little slice of the universe. From planets, to stars, to whole galaxies, to galaxy clusters; the best we can do is look out through our little pin-hole at one small aspect, one small corner. It's impossible to observe the whole. We'll never be able to observe the whole.

To supplement this deficiency, we have minds. We're lucky in this respect: even though we can't see the whole of the cosmos, we can attempt to conceptualize it on some level. This is likely to lead us towards a model of the universe that's false or illusory in some way—but given that we're finite (and fallible) beings who are attempting to brazenly grasp infinity, that's somewhat understandable. 

Carl Sagan Cosmos
Credit: Carl Sagain, Cosmos

It's in our nature to explore, to question, to theorize. And when it comes to the universe, well, here we are presented with the ultimate question: why does it exist at all? It's a question that the cosmos will never be able to answer for us. We'll have to hazard a guess all by ourselves. 

We still have a lot to learn. As long as the human race lives on, we'll never stop learning. Our answer to the ultimate question and others like it will continue to evolve. It'll never be good enough. We'll always be pushing further.

This is our gift. It's also our curse. That we question incessantly—and that we're never truly satisfied with any answer.

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