The reasons for space travel are countless. Population growth is a major problem that could be helped if space travel led to discovering potentially viable living environments other than Earth. Currently, the population is doubling every 35 years and may speed up with increased technology (1). There is a vicious cycle of poverty, lack of education, and corruption that is already occurring in third world countries due to the population. A second problem that could be helped is a direct result of the first. Industrial production must be maintained, but space and resources on Earth are limited. Space exploration may allow people to relocate these processes, preventing humans from being ruined by their own wastes (1).
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Currently, the space program is involved in many explorations. There are missions that are exploring Mercury, as well as Spirit and Opportunity roving on Mars’ surface. The Stardust spacecraft has recently studied the dust and dirt of the comet Wild 2 and will return to Earth in January 2006. The Cassini orbiter is going on a four-year tour of Saturn to see its magnetosphere and the interaction with its moon and rings. The Cassini orbiter is also studying Saturn’s solar winds, internal structure, and atmosphere. Aura was launched to study the Earth’s ozone air quality, climate, and atmosphere. Most recently, Expedition 10 Mission was sent to the Space Station to conduct experiments and spacewalks until April 24, 2005 (4).
Physicists and aeronautical engineers have developed several new possibilities for future interstellar travel. One prospect is a space elevator. NASA scientists are currently discussing the possibility of building a 50 km space tower with a cable made of carbon nanotubes which would be bound to the top, reaching into space (5). The other end of the cable would be attached to a counterbalance, perhaps the Space Station or even an asteroid. Then, magnetically levitated vehicles attached to magnetic tracks on the cable would act as trams to carry people into space at thousands of miles an hour. Another possibility, among many others, is solar sails. They are considered to be the most feasible way to travel into deep