03 Nov 2008

Essays on Space Exploration

As a past member of the Front Range L-5 Society here in the Denver Metro, I find myself continuing to advocate space exploration and development.  Yet in these times of tightening finances for our society at every level, my advocacy is constantly challenged by those who are concerned about governmental waste.  Their question is also universally worded:

How can we afford space exploration when our government is going broke?

My question is how we can afford not to explore space?  On the NASA spinoffs and technology page (http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html) there are some 200 different technologies that have developed from space exploration or that space exploration has enabled us to develop through the technologies developed for space exploration.

In truth, space exploration itself represents less that 1% of the total governmental budget.  The industries that have developed from space exploration technologies have given back (by conservative estimates) seven times what has been spent over the history of space exploration.  This means, by the conservative estimates, that space exploration-related technology companies have generated more than 5% of the total governmental budget, funds that would end up being replaced by tax dollars if the technology-developing space exploration program were discontinued.

Does it still make sense to shutdown NASA and end our exploration of space?

  • Visit the NASA spinoffs and technology page and select just one technology from the massive list there that space exploration has generated or made possible.  Describe how that one technology has affected our society and speculate on where we might be economically and socially without it.
  • Interview one of our elders who witnessed the first space exploration flight or space shuttle mission and explore what it meant to him or her.  Prepare a report on the interview and critically analyze the social and emotional significance of the event.
  • Space exploration, in addition to the technological benefits, has had many mishaps over the years.  Interview someone who remembers one of the disasters and explore what the event meant to him or her and what steps NASA has taken to avoid such mishaps in the future.

Even before the day our grandfathers and grandmothers sat around and listened to the pulsing drone of Sputnik, we have dreamed of going to the stars.  Space exploration and space exploration programs like “Star Trek,” “Space: 1999,” and “Battlestar Galactica” have sparked multiple generations of science, engineering, and space exploration interest in our young people.  The next person who asks me what good the space exploration program is to us, I think I will ask him if he likes his cellphone.

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