Space: Exploration and exploitation in a modern society

The Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Parliamentary Space Committee held a joint seminar at the House of Commons on 20 May 2009.

Space: Exploration and exploitation in a modern society

The seminar highlighted how space exploration is leading to major scientific discoveries, is essential to the UK economy and how it helps to improve our everyday lives while playing a crucial role in managing global challenges such as climate change.

Curiosity about the Earth, the planets and stars has been the driving force behind human progress since prehistoric times. Today, the exploration of the universe beyond the confines of our home planet remains one of the most inspiring, exciting and fruitful areas of scientific research. Many studies require sending spacecraft into space, mostly unmanned, although humans first reached the Moon 40 years ago and may go to Mars in the future. One of the main advantages of investigating the universe from space is that the details of far-off galaxies, as well as events marking the birth, evolution and death of stars, can be seen unhampered by the blurring effects of the atmosphere, and at wavelengths of light not easily accessible from the ground. Increasingly, scientists and engineers are developing advanced space probes, with robotic components that can operate autonomously, to explore the extraordinarily diverse planets and moons of our solar system.