The Future of Exploration
Let us agree, to begin with, that by "exploration" we mean the venturing of a human being into a place where no human being has been before or, at the least, where no "civilized" human being has been before.
In that case, the earth is not what it once was as far as exploration is concerned. Undoubtedly, there are a few mountain peaks that have not felt the tread of the human foot, a few hidden valleys not yet visited by civilization, some obscure caves that remain as yet in hiding, and, of course, tens of millions of square kilometers of the ocean floor. On the whole, though, there is nowhere on earth we cannot travel if we but decide to take the trouble to do so.
The future of human exploration, with its full glamor and danger, rests in space; and there, too, let us agree to discount exploration by instrument. Where may we expect human beings to go?
Already an even dozen human beings—all American males—have set foot on our moon, so that exploration in the fullest sense is no longer confined to our single world.Unquestionably, we can spend a great deal of time exploring the moon in detail even if trips there and back become routine.
But take that for granted and let's ask where else we can go.
To begin with, the moon is at our back door, some 380,000 kilometers away. That isn't much even in earthly terms, for it is only eleven times the circumference of the earth, and there must be a great many tourists and businessmen who have logged far more than that in air-travel in the course of their lives. And in terms of rocket speed, the moon is only three days away. It took Columbus thirty times as long to cross the Atlantic as it took Neil Armstrong to reach the moon.