SPACE AND MANKIND
All available evidence points to the fact that the Universe is open and it is ceaselessly expanding. Space means the whole universe, including the earth, while outer space refers to space other than the earth; outer space begins where the earth’s atmosphere ends and extends in all directions, like, the air we breathe, space is everywhere and all around us. Most people describe space as the universe and do not distinguish between them. When the Universe was first talked of, as an orderly unit, it was called the cosmos, to distinguish it from chaos or disorder. The study of the cosmos was known as Cosmogony or Cosmology. The popular references now are to space and space sciences. Space is a wholly natural phenomenon and cannot either be created or destroyed by mankind, while the space sciences are evolved by talented scientists, a part of mankind.
The observable universe has a diameter of 25 billion light years and the number of galaxies it contains is still uncertain. Theories of space also differ, and these are based on the flight of galaxies. Outer space is infinite; in fact it is so vast that the usual terrestrial units of measurement hardly suit its dimensions. The new units of measurement evolved by scientists are Light Years and the Astronomical Unit. It is well known that light and sound are the two principal media through which we gather our impressions of the external world.
The study of space and of outer space is, of course, not the common man’s cup of tea, but the interests of mankind are deeply involved when space is put to certain uses, not all of which are peaceful. The use of space for civilian flights within a country and for the worldwide air services which have brought mankind and continents closer than they ever were and which have established means of communication unimagined by man even a few decades ago. In a matter of hours a person can fly from one continent to another; the communications gap has been bridged by what seem to be fantastic means through space. The dreamers’ and visionaries’ talk of One World has come true in this sense, even though from the political and military angle the world stands as badly split and torn asunder as ever. Thus, in at least one way the vast expanse—space— has been put to good use. Overland or sea routes take months for travelling from one country to a distant one. Travel through space by aircraft of various types and sizes, jets, supersonic, jumbos and others, is a notable achievement of mankind.
The air in space has also been used for radio broadcasts and television programmes for instruction and entertainment. Radio waves with different wavelengths have been put to various uses. The spectacular advances in space technology have enabled mankind to scan outer space. Today we can study astral phenomena from ground based radio, optical and infrared telescopes and also ultraviolet X-ray and Gamma ray telescopes functioning above the atmosphere of the earth. While these telescopes operating through space and the atmosphere (which is an insulating blanket protecting the earth) have brought many benefits to mankind, it is the military use to which space is being put that has been causing a great deal of worry to billions of people.
Spacecraft and satellites launched by several progressive and technically developed countries have become an index of scientific progress and of modern civilization. But these satellites themselves are being put to a vast variety of uses—for broadcasting entertainment programmes, educational programmes, even medical knowledge, and have thus been of immense benefit to the masses. In fact, instruction and education through satellites stationed in space (in their allotted places) is a potent instrument for mankind’s progress. Through rapid education will come all-round enlightenment and economic prosperity?
It is, however, the spy satellites, the nuclear aircraft, the bombers, the orbiting military stations being set up in space by the Russia, China and tire U.S .A. that pose a grave danger to mankind. These spies and nuclear equipped spacecraft enable a big Power to keep an eye on the secret military preparations of the other; the vicious circle thus set up defies description. The next world war, it is said, will be fought not on land or on the sea but in space. When space itself becomes an arena of terrible and highly destructive warfare, with the inevitable nuclear fallout over many continents, the resultant havoc to mankind can be well imagined.
Advanced space technologies can certainly be put to fruitful uses such as solving the basic problems of man and society. Grandiose space schemes are however best avoided by less affluent countries, despite its great potentialities. Care by mankind is especially called for because danger constantly lurks in the sky.