Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Why The Government Should Increase Spending on the Space Program

Right now there is frozen moon orbiting Jupiter called Europa. Underneath its surface of ice is a liquid ocean. Who knows what unimagined ecosystems might exist in those oceans? Someday, somebody who was inspired as kid is going to drill down to explore those oceans. If we are smart in our choices then those kids could still be our own.

This year in America, 79 billion dollars were spent on Education. 84 billion dollars were spent on Health. And eclipsing both of these, a massive 683 billion dollars were spent on defense and military, including funding for war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Far below this is something which is far more beneficial to us all, something which has changed all our lives several times throughout history. Space exploration.

This year, only 17.7 billion dollars were spent on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA. And according to recent trend this is going to go down each year. NASA have recently stopped their space shuttle launches due to lack of funding, which is due to a lack of interest among people in general. This is a trend that must change if we are to give the chance of exploration and adventure to future generations.

Many people argue that even less should be spent on space exploration programs. They say that the money should instead be spent on fixing problems here on Earth, such as housing, health and medical research. But the reality is that space isn’t as expensive as many people think. Contrary to popular belief NASA doesn’t make big shiny fireworks then fill them with expensive stuff and launch them into space just because they feel like it. The money stays here on Earth. It drives the economic system just like any other industry, paying the wages of - in the case of NASA - over eighteen thousand hard-working employees.

Even so, more and more people are of the opinion that space exploration is a waste of money, time and effort. But the benefits of astronomy may not be direct as expected. Close examination reveals that there are many benefits to space exploration that we can all - and have all - experienced.

Not many people know how much space exploration has changed our lives in recent history. It’s an industry which brings together thousands of smart people from a variety of fields and puts them to work on very difficult problems, and this has shown to result in many excellent new inventions. For example, astronomers sought ways to reduce the weight of rockets and came up with the micro-chip idea. Modern computers were then developed from these micro-chips. Where would we be without the computers we have today?

Invisible braces, scratch-resistant lenses, ear thermometers, long-distance telecommunications, water filters, improvements to athletic shoes, smoke detectors, roads, aircraft runways and so many more. These are all thanks to NASA.

And these are only the beginning. It’s impossible to know what other discoveries could be made in research for space exploration. It is definitely an investment for the future.

Earth’s population is growing dramatically. Less than a century ago, in 1927, there were roughly 2 billion people on the planet, and we now number well over 7 billion. The risk of natural or manmade disasters make human settlement in other areas of space a very real possibility. Thanks to space exploration we already have a habitable satellite orbiting the Earth. It’s called the International Space Station and right now, there are six people living on it. And that’s only the beginning. Various entrepreneurs and businesses are working on real plans to put hotels in space, which anyone can visit. Any of us could, in our lifetimes, take a holiday into space … as long as you have four million dollars. It’s only a matter of time before the ideas of science fiction can become a reality.

Furthermore, money spent on astronomy is used to defend our planet against possible threats. NASA funded research scans the skies for dangerous asteroids, and tries to work out how we could divert them from a collision course with Earth if the need arose.

Space exploration also acts as a point of inspiration for future generations. The remarkable feats that have been and are yet to be accomplished in space will naturally encourage many students to study high levels of science and mathematics. Nobody can deny that space inspires people. Over five hundred million people watched the Apollo 11 moon landing live on television in 1969.

It’s a natural human instinct to explore the unknown, but there are now very few outlets for this on Earth. Space really is the next level. It’s a field in which we can all feel pride, excitement and wonder.

But first we need to stop the growth of the stigma that space exploration is a waste of time and resources. It has proven its benefits in the past, and the possibilities of the future are beyond imagination. Let’s make space exploration an exciting opportunity for future generations.