Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Postscript on the Anniversary

I'm kind of getting back to my normal daily drudgery today, as I spent all of yesterday watching and listening to moon stuff (when not chasing children). I was able to listen to both the landing and first step on the moon without all the usual editing, as well as a little of the original CBS broadcast (with the late Uncle Walter). Of course, being NASA, it was a lot of boring. But the payoff is that after many minutes of acronyms and info-laden boringspeak, you get what has been clipped out an memorialized. Goosebumps abound.

But aside from the symbolism, and the the nature of the human triumph, I had one more nagging question put in my mind by my wholly practical and thoroughly uninspiring mother (btw, that's not a knock on her; she is my mother): Why should we continue spending all this money on space when we have so many other things we could be spending the money on?

It it a fair question (although she didn't phrase it as a question (again, you have to know her)). Because in a time where we are facing unholy amounts of government debt, and my argument against the insanity is that government must be limited, it's hard to justify spending millions to shoot robots and billions to shoot people.

However, while NASA, like almost everything else, would face some cuts to control spending, there are two reasons I believe we should continue funding them.

1. Space exploration fuels our creativity, our technology, and expands our sense of the possible. The simple fact is that exploring is costly, and the benefits may be years down the road. But much of the technology that began the space race began from our pursuits of war. We discovered that exploring space forced us to push the technological envelope to learn, rather than kill. It makes us try to find answers in places where no one has even thought of the questions before. And most importantly, it gives us somewhere to look other than our own little patch of the old mud ball. The desire to go somewhere new, where no one has gone before, has driven us, built us as a country. and it's a continuance of that tradition for us to look to the cosmos.

2. Space is still a place that only governments can really explore. One of the justifications for government to do something that is not explicitly stated in the Constitution is that it is something that is not feasibly doable by private industry. Our Interstate highway system is such an endeavor. The government has been at this for 50 years. Satellites have been going up in greater numbers, first by government, then by private industries, buying space on the government flights, and we are just now reaching the point where private companies are working to breach the edge of space for wholly private purposes. on their own. But the Moon is still decades away from colonization and discovery of a real reason to set up shop on our celestial neighbor. And Mars has only felt the touch of robots. So while we must scrutinize where our money is going, and we may not see a clear return, it is one of those expenditures that will truly benefit us all.

So I'm ready for us to start going back to the Moon. And although our space program is again at the same point as it was after Apollo (no human spaceflight vehicles operational after 2010, the next generation still on the drawing board), a rededication to pushing the envelope into the unknown is the key to continuing our journey as a people.

But the fate of our exploration falls to all of us. So who's on board?

5 comments:

Satyavati devi dasi said...

I am so not going here with you.

James' Muse said...

I'm down. I'd like to visit space someday, being the sci-fi nerd that I am.

Lets do it.

Patrick M said...

Saty: Not even on the future parts (your brush with asshattery aside)?

Name: Soapboxgod said...

The government is so drowing in sea of fiscal shit. The last thing they ought to be throwing more money at is NASA.

Patrick M said...

Soapster: The LAST thing? Actually, I think I could come up with a big list (and associate Obama bills) of things that are worse.

Again, it's not a matter of throwing more money their way. It's whether it's a thing we should be throwing money at at all. Obviously, any money would have to be within budgetary restraints.