How No Man's Sky Could Help Reignite Our Relationship with Space Exploration

Posted by | August 09, 2016 | Opinion, PC, PlayStation 4 | No Comments
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Have you ever dreamt of taking control of an X-Wing and blasting off into the deep reaches of our ever expanding galaxy? You’ll finally have that chance now that No Man’s Sky is available.

Hello Game’s huge space epic has you bouncing from planet to planet, discovering randomly generated lifeforms in a galaxy so huge that hours of exploration will only scratch the surface. It’s even more exciting that No Man’s Sky could offer much more than ravenous fans and ambitious developers may suggest. Could flying a ship through thousands of light-years of virtual space inspire young players to go beyond the limitations of their computer screen?

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Space exploration is no longer one of the United States’ top priorities. You could even argue that it’s no longer a priority at all. Less than one percent of the national budget goes to NASA. Our lawmakers refuse to see the benefit of putting taxpayer money in the hands of scientists and engineers whose work makes putting a man on Mars that much closer to a reality. There are a lot of benefits derived from the development of space travel. Thousands of jobs are created with the millions of dollars invested in each space voyage. Last but certainly not least, the more funding, the more we understand the fibers of our universe.

The media has a big influence on children. When kids grow up seeing The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West, they dream of throwing on a holster and riding into the sunset. But, when kids grow up watching Interstellar and the The Martian, and playing No Man’s Sky, maybe they’ll want to be astronauts, astronomers, or aerospace engineers. Studies show that more than 90 percent of kids ages 2 -17 play video games. That’s nearly every kid in the nation. If the right space adventure captures the attention of gamers nationwide, it could have a cultural impact like some movies, albums, and books have had in the past.

No Man’s Sky could be the game helping thousands of kids find a passion for space exploration and discovery. It places you at the edge of its gigantic fictional galaxy and pushes you to explore, to upgrade your ship and gear, and to interact with the various life forms you’ll find. The game is so huge that it would take a lifetime to merely get a taste of what its universe has to offer. The developers don’t even know how the game will unfold as the galaxy is randomly generated. So while they designed many of the features of the life forms and planets, they don’t know what gamers will discover while on a 2 a.m. flight across the reaches of space. If I was a kid staying up into the wee hours of the morning planning my next interstellar voyage, I’d be looking into NASA internship programs, aerospace engineering courses, and colleges that specialize in expanding international space exploration.

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The key to No Man’s Sky taking hold of dreams of so many is the concept of creating your own story within this huge setting. There are no overarching plots or traditional side quests to complete as you fly through this universe. Instead, you’ll find yourself creating your own narrative as you touch down on each newly discovered planet. We’re just a small dot on a massive map trying to understand what’s beyond our front door. In No Man’s Sky, most planets you visit will be barren wastelands, uninhabitable by any form of life. But the chance that you’ll run into intelligent life does exist. You just have to keep exploring.

I’m not here to argue about why we lost interest in space (Okay, maybe a little), but I am here to talk about how we can start to get that interest back again. We need to start off by encouraging children, and each other, to embrace our sense of curiosity so that even the concept of 18 quintillion planets leaves us wanting to know more. No Man’s Sky is a jumping off point for real space exploration. While taking a real space craft into the great unknown may not include fantastical life forms or space battles, it could contain discoveries that fuel the next technological breakthroughs that benefit the human race.

aron garst

About Aron Garst

Aron Garst is a freelance journalist from Northern California. He spends his time cooking the best chicken in the Bay Area, watching the Arizona Cardinals play good football, and waiting for the day Super Mario Sunshine 2 graces whatever Nintendo console that's sitting on his shelf. You can follow him on twitter @GarstProduction