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Progress for humanity. Colonization was deeply ingrained with the fact that Europeans were coming into areas that already had humans living there. And even indigenous people caused the extinction of species with overhunting. Space has no such problem. There are no humans or other species to kill off on life-barren rocks.
Life beyond Earth is superfluous because all of this still affects life on Earth.
Edit: Also I think its irresponsible to see “lifeless” spaces as places that we have a freedom from responsibility to. Space and the beyond is part of us, still connected to us. It is colonial sensibilities that push static and sanitized ideas of place. This is why the questions of life beyond Earth, questions of space exploration, cannot just be asked in the context of STEM, which oftentimes reproduces colonial sensibilities by default because it separates itself from humanities and social sciences.
Has it been confirmed that no other species exist in the entire universe? FYI, everything that is sent to the space and vice versa passes through a process of disinfection to reduce the chances of infecting alien ecosystems with Earth bacteria which may be invasive. There are areas (with potential life) on Mars that are still intact by human machinery due to this exact fear. Space isn’t exactly life-barren, there’s bacterial organisms and maybe flora at the very least.
Okay, that’s fair. But in general, there are lots of areas in space that have a near-zero chance of containing life. We could easily enough verify that, say, an Earth-like planet lacked life as part of a probe and terriform process.
It is difficult to seperate colonialism from some of the colloquial visions for expansion into space.
I am am pretty convinced that it is a mix of capital driven tech-optimism and justification for colonialism. I personally think of climate change as inseparable from colonialism. So the idea that we can just find Earth 2, or turn Mars green is mostly cope for the fact that the global minority has destroyed the world.
At the end of the day space exploration is deeply tied to the MIC and is embedded in the strategic goals of capital. It relies on access to cheap labor and resources just as any industry does, and this affects the periphery more than anyone else.
This doesnt apply as much for the global majority, who, as part of their thrown condition, must be technically and scientificly capable for defensive purposes. I also am not sure how Soviet or Chinese visions of space exploration might be qualitatively similar or different than the western mind. I think there is a difference between exploration and expansion. But I think westerners have them mixed together.
I love astronomy but I think there is a ton of dogma involved with thoughts around exploration and expansion that are rarely addressed by STEM.