At the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah USA, May 2012
Learning about the Universe and who we are starts here on Earth, in our backyard. The knowledge we gain at home is very important because it's our first step in understanding the world around us. More than that, many places in our Solar System have similar processes or features to places on Earth. For instance: rivers, mountains, storms, rain, thunders, can all be found on other planets and moons perhaps not all of them in the same location but spread throughout the Solar System.
On the other hand, our drive to learn more about the Universe and how it works has enabled us to understand how things function on Earth and improve our environment. There are many questions that humanity will have to answer in the years coming. The biggest unknowns are related to how will we cope with the increase in population, how will technology develop to support that and in general we have to ask ourselves the big question: "How is the future going to look like?"
These questions can be answered if we learn our science right. Science is perhaps the easiest subject to learn. All we need is curiosity and drive. Curiosity is an innate feature of the humankind. We are born with it. Drive comes from inspiration; for instance it can be as simple as looking at the stars at night and dreaming that one day we may be able to understand the Universe. Learning comes from doing things. So here is where the loop closes. We learn about things here on Earth (we call that scientific research) to then extrapolate how same things would work on Mars. We call this analogue research.
Some places on Earth are great analogue for planetary sciences. Planetary sciences is a new strong interdisciplinary field which has grown from astronomy and Earth Sciences and now incorporates many other disciplines such as planetary astronomy, planetary geology (geochemistry and geophysics) atmospheric science, hydrology, oceanography and astrobiology to count only the most famous.
The desert of Utah is one of those places on Earth that looks like Mars, feels alien and has many things that can teach us about our closest neighbour planet. New Zealand is another one. With its unique features that range from deep oceanic vents to volcanoes, extreme environments and endemic species, New Zealand could contribute tremendously to the knowledge sought by the planetary sciences research currently undertaken worldwide.
More than that, New Zealand is a nation of explorers. We all came here more or less in modern times from somewhere else carrying our cultural baggages and leaving our homelands behind. We understand how it feels to be away from home but we also understand how it feels to look forward to the future. The new technologies in communication and travel are leading humanity towards globalisation yet we know a big deal here about keeping our cultural identity, a great source of strength.
For the duration of our stay here, New Zealand is our home and the knowledge we gain from being here is making us better people.
Just like we would do if we would go to space.
Space exploration can be an inspiration that can take us inwards to learn more about Earth or outwards to share these learnings with the rest of the world, in any case the end result is more knowledge. What we really do is actually learning more about who we are and what we are capable of.
I hope you will find this site useful for your quest, whatever that may be.