While most of the world seems interested in heading off into space the U.S. has become less and less interested in the business of space exploration. The ever present cry to ‘spend’ money on Earth has diverted much-needed funding away from the construction of a strong space infrastructure. Is this argument sound? Is it wise? Or is it a knee-jerk reaction that ignores the ‘big-picture.’
A simple glance at the history of man shows us that if we cancel all funding to space flight and focus on societal woes, waiting to go into space until we solve our problems here on Earth first – that we will never go anywhere. As long as there have been people walking on this planet there have been wars, plagues, disasters and famines. NASA will receive a paltry $19 billion during the 2011 Fiscal Year. To break that down, that equals one half of one cent out of every dollar you pay in taxes.
For that we get all the probes to the planets, the astronaut corps, the shuttle program and the International Space Station – a bargain by any estimate. If we diverted the funds NASA receives – nothing would change. We would still be saddled with the social ills that we face every day – and we would lose an incalculable asset in the process.
In the 1960s it appeared that we were well on our way to becoming a two-planet species, something that would have helped us avoid eventual extinction. If an asteroid or comet were to impact the Earth today – there would be six human beings alive – the current residents of the International Space Station – that’s it.
If we had continued further with the Apollo Program we would probably be on Mars now, with colonies there. If an Extinction-Level-Event were to take place, mankind would have the ability to start over. In short – all of our eggs would not be in one basket as they are now.
We have allowed ourselves to be lulled into thinking that if we just crippled our long-term interests a little more then suddenly society’s ills will evaporate. They won’t. Space Exploration is an investment in the future of mankind and the pittance that our nation spends on it every year is well worth the dividends we receive from it.
Comparisons are often a slippery-slope that can cause an outrage. However, it is not too far-fetched to equate those that propose we gut NASA to put even more money into non-working social-reform efforts with another species that paid no attention to space issues – the Dinosaurs. Unless we want to share the fate of these long-gone creatures it’d be wise to pay more attention to the big picture – and far less to social concerns.