Space for ‘SPACE’ in our lives
The James Webb Telescope was launched on 25th December 2021, 11 years later and 10 billion dollars over budget than initially planned—a collaboration between the space agencies of America, Canada, and a handful of European countries. The launch was almost cancelled due to mismanagement and budgetary issues, however, it was the firm belief of the team behind it that kept it going. The bigger the mirror in a telescope, the better it will be at catching wavelengths and gathering data, but in order to fit inside a rocket, it was folded up as it was built in an origami style. The project from its conception to its launch has cost approximately 8.8 billion dollars to NASA. Each delay and test run resulted in it being a very expensive endeavour. There was no scope to have even the slightest of mistakes in the telescope, otherwise, all the time, labour and money that was spent, would have gone down the drain. The project almost lost its funding in 2012, when Congress proposed a bill in the parliament as a punishment for cost overruns and delays in NASA projects. The fear of failure in this project came because of this project’s predecessor, the Hubble telescope, in which a slight mistake caused the telescope to capture blurry images.NASA did not have any plan B in case of failure. This project ate up funding for other astronomical projects and everything else would come to a halt because it would take a long time to regain that trust that had been lost. Space exploration as a field sparks controversies, with many people believing that the money and labour used for space exploration could be better used for improving the living conditions of the society on our planet. But the advancement of humanity in the field of space and working towards humanitarian crises aren’t two options. It is vastly more complicated than a simple either-or situation. There are advancements in medical frontiers, owing to space exploration which can dynamically change the way we view medical treatment. Astronauts in space experience microgravity, radiation, bone loss, and changes in blood pressure, and some of these experiences correspond to the sedentary lifestyle of older people. Some machines and robots are used to help monitor the health of astronauts in the International Space Station which are now being improvised and used for surgeries, medical tests and biopsies. The Canadian Space Agency is collaborating with space technology companies to provide healthcare assistance in remote parts of the country, by using the systems that are ordinarily used to monitor an astronaut’s health from Earth, like biomonitors. A biomonitor is a device that tracks the heart rate and blood pressure of a patient through a compact device and mobile application. This will not only help the country to provide better healthcare facilities but also metaphorically reduce the distance between the urban-rural divide, and hence focus on equitable distribution of resources. Due to the lack of gravitational forces, astronauts’ bodies experience a weakening of their natural adaptations to gravity. So on returning, many of them face symptoms like nausea, fatigue, and fainting. The solution to this aftermath came up with a g-suit, a garment that applies pressure on the body. This affordable technique has been used to stop bleeding in women after childbirth and has hence helped save innumerable lives globally. The Indian Space and Research Organization is also working towards combining space tech and healthcare with the aim of providing affordable medical treatment to the masses. However, the medical advancements in India aren’t at par with other countries, but the foundation of growth and development in this sector has been laid down. ISRO along with the medical infrastructure of India has been working on plasma-based research since 2001, which has led to promising results of the better healing capacity of chronic wounds in patients. There is no denying that space exploration is expensive but when merged with medical infrastructures, it has provided us with solutions to a variety of problems. Space exploration is no longer a race among countries to establish their dominance in the geopolitical arena of the world; it has helped mankind achieve the giant leap that Neil Armstrong envisioned with the first step on the moon. It has the scope of further uniting countries and helping citizens globally, to achieve a better quality of life. The data acquired by the various kinds of research and the results achieved are not limited to the countries participating in the research; the knowledge is being shared in the hope of evolutionary advancements. Space exploration is not just helping us get a better understanding of the origin of existence but also improving said existence. It is helping us evolve in a way never imagined. Putting a price on human interest seems a daunting idea for us, as we owe our growth as humanity to curiosity and the necessity for curiosity.