There is no time since the dawn of agriculture nearly 10,000 years ago that soil and its management is more important to human survival.
It is also an exciting time to study soil. Advances in chemistry, remote sensing, physics, and other fields are being applied creatively to identify the role of soil in societally relevant issues. There are deep and challenging questions about the feedbacks between biota and soils, soils and biology at the limits of life on Earth, and the soils of Mars and what they tell us about the climate history of our near neighbor.
While exploration of the solar system will not impact our short term survival on Earth, it will contribute to a continuing lesson we must constantly reinforce: we need to live within the limits of our small fragile dot in space.