The rapid progress in Space Technology over the past century has enabled extraordinary accomplishments for humanity: we have landed on the Moon, constructed a permanently crewed space station, sent rovers wheeling along the surface of Mars and made jaw-dropping discoveries with our large satellite telescopes. The latter have revealed more of our planet, showing us its amazing environment and finite resources in greater detail than ever before, as well as majestic images of star birth large collisions between galaxies and even a black hole.
Space exploration has captured the imagination of many people, including not only aircraft pilots and scientists but also authors and artists. This fascination explains why astronauts consent to sit, at great peril, as described by Tom Wolfe in The Right Stuff (1979), on top of the enormous Roman candles (Redstone, Atlas, Titan or Saturn rockets) that carry them into outer space; it may also explain why the recurrent calls for manned voyages to Mars and other destinations in our solar system continue to attract attention.
However, as the Cold War ended, a new rationale emerged for government-funded space activities, which sought to use outer space to improve life on Earth. In particular, space-based technologies such as communications satellites have revolutionized global telecommunication systems and enable far-to-reach communities to be served without the massive infrastructure costs required for terrestrial alternatives.
Similarly, global meteorological satellites have helped to revolutionize the way we monitor and respond to natural disasters. In addition, space technology has opened the door to growth industries such as asteroid mining and space tourism. It also provides a platform for addressing many human challenges such as improving the quality of our lives, saving on energy costs, developing sustainable agriculture and responding to climate change.