What does space exploration mean?

Note: Sorry I completely forgot to actually post this instead of draft it. :(

I went to a conference presentation a few years ago and the topic stuck with me because Dr. John McNeill (Georgetown University) insisted on defining space exploration in the context of human exploration. Satellites and scientific missions counted as something else, not exploration, because it did not involve something like humans setting foot on the moon.

As a result, the central question that my digital story will revolve around asks:

What does exploration mean? Does exploration necessarily imply human exploration, as opposed to robotic exploration?

The answer to this question provides some context for the “so, what?” in my dissertation on several space science missions, including Voyager and the Mars rovers. Because my research will delve into the imagery and public relations efforts surrounding the missions, the digital storytelling format may prove advantageous for analyzing the importance of this question. As a result, I expect the digital story to remain somewhat abstract as a thought provoking piece. I expect the primary audience for the story to be myself, as a way to organize some of the visual material and ideas, but would appreciate any feedback or reactions to the concepts presented.

While the research questions may remain my own, the elements of the digital story will be taken from actual sources such as news releases, images, and publications. Although the publications may be under copyright, the images usually reside within the public domain and careful usage should prevent major copyright infringement.

The following paragraph in the conclusion of the essay, “Gigantic Follies? Human Exploration and the Space Age in Long-term Historical Perspective” by J. R. McNeill in Remembering the Space Age, presents an interesting scenario that may end up as a quote within the digital story:

“Space exploration may survive on one or another basis, but it still will
not loom large in terms of human history unless something really new and
interesting happens, the sort of thing people in the space business probably
dream about—finding intelligent and agreeable (or at least neutral) life out
there or colonizing new corners of the universe—or probably have nightmares
about—developing effective space-based weapons suitable for use against
earthly enemies or finding intelligent but hostile life out there. If any of these
things happen, then the first 50 years of space exploration will look like the
beginning of something of epic significance. If they don’t, it will look like
a small step for mankind that led nowhere, and did not amount to much in
the balance before being consigned to the dustbin of history. It is indeed too
soon to judge whether the whole enterprise is a gigantic folly diverting money
and talent from more urgent applications, a noble calling consonant with our
deepest nature, or something else altogether.”

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