I am late to this game. My boyfriend, Alex, has been on top of this issue for a long time, and I have always kind of blown him off or argued these same points: Why spend money on space programs when we have so many poor people in this country/there are so many hungry people/have not done anything to fix global warming/have other, better, more important thangs to spend our collective money on? Well, it turns out this is all total bologna. There are lots of reasons to spend money on space exploration that will positively affect life on Earth, and maybe even save life on Earth.
|Does anyone use this device? Thank NASA!|
taken from apple.com
Technology transfer is one reason. When we study space, we learn a lot about the world we live in. We learn a lot about humans. We learn a lot about how to make life on Earth less complicated, in turn figuring out more efficient ways to grow food, clean our water, and create new materials and gadgets that will make life on Earth better, particularly for people in developing countries. Much of the technology we take for granted today came from our study of outer space.
Spending money on space exploration and spending money to eradicate hunger are not mutually exclusive. In fact, much of the technology that allows us to eat healthier food, grow food more efficiently, and keep our food supply from rotting came from our study of space. Finding foods that hold up well in outer space is research that can be applied to our everyday lives, and did you hear about the solar powered refrigerator that was invented by NASA? I think people in developing countries will agree that this is a fabulous invention. Again, Congressional budgets are more complicated than this- money that is currently being spent on federal welfare programs would not be cut to fund more space programs. It's just not a zero sum game, and this is a very short-sighted way to look at what investing in the future really means. You were right, Alex. I was wrong. There is a first time for everything.
|taken from the latimes.com|
Technological developments aside, this post comes to you on a very exciting day for astrophysicists and space enthusiasts alike. It has also been a terrifying, horrible day for those in Russia's Chelyabinsk region, where a meteor the size of a bus injured approximately 1,200 people. I live with a science freak. All he could talk about for the last several days was this asteroid, which missed the Earth by 17,150 miles, and was three times the size of the meteor that injured all of the people in Russia. NASA didn't know about the bus-sized meteor that crashed into the Russian mountains, which apparently happens every thousand years or so.
|Call Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck, stat!|
taken from blastr.com
The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs was about 6 miles in diameter, and there has been talk the last couple of years that this asteroid, which is 1 mile in diameter, could crash into the Earth in the year 2028. They have decided that this is highly, highly unlikely, and the asteroid will probably miss Earth by a pretty significant distance-- but still. I am not huge on conspiracy theories, and I don't get scared easily, but the fact remains that asteroids have led to mass extinctions in the past. It could easily happen again. The good news? We have lots of ideas about how to stop this from happening. The bad news? As usual, we are too cheap to allocate the resources necessary to do anything about it. Ironically, it's not really the crashing of the asteroid into the planet that causes mass extinction- it is the large amount of debris that such an impact causes shooting into the atmosphere that kills everyone. The climate changes too quickly... rapid climate change can cause mass extinction? Who knew?
|Hey, kids! Space is still cool!|
taken from woodstockcafe.com
I am not saying that we need to invest in space exploration just to save ourselves from a mass extinction. In fact, I think studying space has lots of positive impacts on all of humanity, including getting children excited about learning and science- a simple outcome maybe, but its importance cannot be overlooked. Politicians talk a lot about "investing in our future." Investing in space exploration is a great way to invest in the following areas: asteroid impact prevention, agricultural research, water conservation research, drought prediction, technological advancements, education, and how to improve the management of our natural resources. Whether the investments in space directly impact these areas or become inspiration for future projects, it is all money well spent. So let's do it, Congress! Cut the bologna, and invest in space exploration!
EDIT: This comment makes this blog post even stronger, adding points I thought of but promptly forgot about, as well as more examples of why space exploration is important. I am biased since he's my boyfriend, but I think this comment adds a lot to the post. In case you don't click on the comments button below, I have added it here.
"The truly excellent thing is that nerds, dorks, and amateur enthusiasts the world over have already been cooking up schemes to avoid global disaster. The most practical one is hardly intuitive though.
Unlike “Armageddon”, the best way to prevent an asteroid from annihilating the Earth isn’t by placing nuclear bombs inside of it but by gently and repeatedly pelting the object with thousands of tiny impacts. You send up a rocket, essentially a ‘space shotgun’, to intersect the path of the approaching asteroid. When it’s in position, the mechanism shoots out tons and tons of smaller marble to fist-sized bullets that start punching away. Gravitational equations show that many tiny impacts are more powerful than large singular blasts. If launched soon enough, and if intersected far away enough, the asteroid can be nudged off course from the Earth.
On to technology now.
One excellent example of 'space technology' comes from the initial failure of the Hubble Space Telescope in the early 90s. After being placed into orbit, it was discovered that the lenses on Hubble were faulty. Images of distant cosmic objects (Star, Galaxies, Nebulae etc) were distorted and blurry. It would take the convincing of Congress + 3 more years before the replacement lenses could be sent up and fitted on.
So what did we do until that time came? American mathematicians began writing new algorithms to decode and re-process the blurred images to make them viewable. Indeed it worked. That breakthrough, that hard work trying to fix a problem, led to the revolution in imaging for mammography. Yep. Women the world over can be thanking NASA for accidentally producing faulty space lenses.
The point is obvious and repeated in so many other examples. When America pushes the boundaries of what's possible, even if it makes a mistake, the resulting process nets enormous benefits for everyone.
And so Julia is quite right! Investing in one venue, SPACE!, is an investment in everything and in everyone. It's only a shame is takes near cataclysm for everyone to demand protection, demand responsibility, and demand a future."