This is the French winner of ESA's XMM Essay Competition "What's new Mr. Galileo?":

Space has always led men to dream, and also to frighten themselves. Space makes one lose his balance. One is frightened by the immensity and by the color, black or dark blue. Space is like death, it is difficult to contemplate. But when one lies on the ground and looks at the starry sky, it is beautiful and peaceful. Space is like the sea depths : they are both world of silence and nimbleness.

Everyone can imagine what he wants to, regarding ETs . People used to say that litle green men were living on Mars. It does not seem likely. But maybe other planets are inhabited by civilisations we did not meet yet. The day we'll get in touch with them, either it will bring star wars on, or we'll establish a peaceful relationship, and our world will be enlarged.

Maybe some very remote day, people will be able to travel in space. How much time will it take before spatial shuttles go from every big city here to other planets humanity would have colonized ? Only 30 years ago did man set foot on the moon.

Human beings have given names and stories to the stars and planets. Some people still believe you can learn your future from the constellations. At least they like to hear their horoscope.

Astronomy will enable us to know the origin of the Universe and the beginning of the Earth. And if astronomers happened to fix the boundaries of space, some people would weep from joy, and some from sadness, for humanity would have lost a dreamland.

But this knowledge will be out of the reach of ordinary people. The figures are so huge that we cannot really think them; and we cannot conceive what there was before the Big Bang. Nobody is really able to understand space, except some very skilled scientists.

Astronomy shows a major human quality : never be content with what we know, always want to learn more. Here there is a disagreement in our form (the 4th1) some
of us say that it is a fault, and not a quality; that human beings are too greedy and possessive; they want to master the Universe.
Yet, small children want to become astronauts.

Humanity is right to spend money on spatial research, because it may bring benefits back :
- We may find new substances there.
- And if some day we meet a form of life more advanced, it may help us to progress.
- Then, there are the satellites, which already help us a lot. We can see our planet at large, and make meteorological previsions. We can also survey ecological mishaps, as the expansion of the hole in the ozon layer.
- Satellites are also the mean of the huge improvement of communications facilities. Without them we should not have so many TV channels, easy telephoning and Internet.

And if we, inhabitants of the Earth, are some day in jeopardy from some spatial collision, or ecological disaster, or overpopulation, it would be a good thing to be able to leave for another planet. Only it's sort of horrible to imagine we would have to leave our place because we would have ruined what had been given to us.

All in all, space is a good thing.

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