Why We Explore the Universe

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Date Submitted: 05/25/2013 11:25 PM

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May 6, 1970


Dear Sister Mary Jucunda:

亲爱的 Mary Jucunda 修女:

Your letter was one of many which are reaching me every day, but it has touched me more deeply than all the others because it came so much from the depths of a searching mind and a compassionate heart. I will try to answer your question as best as I possibly can.

每天,我都会收到很多类似的来信,但这封对我的触动最深,因为它来自一颗慈悲的饱含探求精神的心灵 。我会尽自己所能来回答你这个问题。

First, however, I would like to express my great admiration for you, and for all your many brave sisters, because you are dedicating your lives to the noblest cause of man: help for his fellowmen who are in need.


You asked in your letter how I could suggest the expenditures of billions of dollars for a voyage to Mars, at a time when many children on this Earth are starving to death. I know that you do not expect an answer such as "Oh, I did not know that there are children dying from hunger, but from now on I will desist from any kind of space research until mankind has solved that problem!" In fact, I have known of famined children long before I knew that a voyage to the planet Mars is technically feasible. However, I believe, like many of my friends, that travelling to the Moon and eventually to Mars and to other planets is a venture which we should undertake now, and I even believe that this project, in the long run, will contribute more to the solution of these grave problems we are facing here on Earth than many other potential projects of help which are debated and discussed year after year, and which are so extremely slow in yielding tangible results.

在来信中,你问我在目前地球上还有儿童由于饥饿面临死亡威胁的情况下,为什么还要花费数十亿美元来进行飞向火星的航行。 我清楚你肯定不希望这样的答案:“哦,我之前不知道还有小孩子快饿死了,好吧,从现在开始,暂停所有的太空项目,直到孩子们都吃上饭再说。”事实上,早在了解火星之旅的技术之前,我已经对儿童的饥荒问题有所了解。而且,同我很多朋友的看法一样,我认为此时此刻,我们就应该开始通往月球、火星乃至其他行星的伟大探险。从长远来看,相对于那些要么只有年复一年的辩论和争吵,要么连妥协之后也迟迟无法落实的各种援助计划来说,我甚至觉得探索太空的工程给更有助于解决人类目前所面临的种种危机。

Before trying to describe in more detail how our space...