Fifty-eight years ago, on April 12, the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel to outer space. The Vostok 1 carried him, and it took Gagarin 108 minutes to take off, take a turn around the Earth, and land. Now that I think about it, it took Gagarin less time to orbit the Earth in 1961 that it takes me to go from Ourense to Lugo in 2019.
On a day like today, a new era began—the era of space travel. It was a historic moment celebrated in the International Day of Human Space Flight. This UN resolution purports to reaffirm the roles of science and technology in society’s well being and to ensure that its wish “to maintain outer space for peaceful purposes” comes true.
This phrase, closing the General Assembly’s resolution and establishing this international day, prompted me to imagine the thousand and one reasons the UN wanted to remind us that our use of outer space must be peaceful. Because it is curious that most great technological advances (GPS, the internet…) began with the precisely opposite purpose in mind: they began with wars, with destruction, with invasions, and with the struggle for power in mind. Are we not capable of advancing without conflict?
Human beings are capable of making possible the impossible. They only need to find a good reason to want to change the world. Perhaps the thirst for power and conquest weighs more than the thirst for equality and sustainability. The space race is as necessary to understand our existence as the race for peace is to our very existence. We were capable to orbit the Earth in 1961 and to preserve outer space for peace, but right here on the ground, it seems we don’t want to stop fighting.