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Space Exploration: A Chance To Launch Morale

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The U.S. space program has been a national treasure since the great space race in 1969. NASA gave the country inspiration and hope in a bleak and depressing time. However, funding for space exploration has taken a beating lately because of the disinterest and the more urgent problems of the downward spiral of the economy. However, with recent innovations and new ideas, if we were to supply scientists with the means to create and research, we could further our knowledge of the universe. Hopefully the funding of new space travel would give our country the encouragement and motivation to get out of the slump we are in today.

Our country is in a decline and most everyone knows it. When we think about the economy, bailouts for corporations, and just politics in general, people seem and tend to get depressed or annoyed. But a solution, however pricey, would be to put aside some money for a project that could and would raise the hope for the future. Creating new technology and inventions always boosts morale in humans when we know that we are working together to enlighten our minds and making our future more interesting.

Lately there have been private funds for research for the continuance of exploration of the universe. Certain donors give this money because they realize that to make things better for what lies ahead, funds need to be provided. Not many will work for free and equipment for the largest vessels known to man doesn’t come cheap.

Space exploration takes a long time to plan out. In the late 1950s the Soviets launched many satellites into space. We needed to get on board with the fact that the U.S. wanted to be the first to land on the moon. Many advisers began planning to factor in a budget within the government funds. It takes a long time to organize a trip into space, not to mention set up the correct gear, find the best men with training for the job, and analyze the environment of space so that there are no mistakes. For this reason, research and development need to happen now so that it doesn’t take the U.S. as long as it did in the late ’50s to finally get back up into space.

Of course, there are certain things that are happening in research labs and up in space currently, but we could still further exploration if we tried. For instance, the Constellation Program of NASA has an agenda that puts man back on the moon in 2020. However, the program has been described as already over budget and behind schedule. There are many other new propositions in space exploration that need to be taken seriously and funded.

There has been talk about the International Space Station and the reason it is hovering above the Earth. The International Space Station, which has had 202 astronauts on board working to complete it and recently celebrated its tenth anniversary of humans inhabiting it, is all about analyzing and focusing on the effects of long-term human space travel. Currently, they are concentrating on microgravity and how it affects humans, physics, and other matter. This type of research seems beneficial to understanding how humans would react if we were to ever visit Mars or other distant planets.

In relation to distant planets that could be explored, there has been a newly discovered one called Gliese 581 that is orbiting a red dwarf and has a composition very similar to Earth’s. Scientists have said that there is a strong possibility of finding life there. If we could somehow find a way to get to this planet, it could open up innumerable doors of research and possibly technology. If there was alien life there who knows what this would mean to have this discovery under our belt? Even if there was no sentient life there, we would have an entirely new world to examine and study. The results of this journey would be extremely fruitful and beneficial to the future.

A new means of travel has recently come to popularity from a YouTube video, all about space elevators. Space elevators were proposed in the late 19th century, but because of new technology and a means to build them, it seems like this could be a definite possibility. A huge anchorage system would be in place on Earth, while the elevator, made of carbon nanotubes, would take passengers up into the vicinity of Earth’s orbit. Making this a reality would mean that, for a price, simple civilians could experience the wonder and awe of outer space and would help garner some much deserved attention for the amazing technology of this innovation. Not to say it would turn into a type of amusement park ride, but this would generate interest in the space program by making exploration readily available to more and more people.

NASA has declared that there will be continuing robotic exploration of Mars, but the privately funded one-way trip to this planet has gained much more interest because of the human involvement. This trip, which already has 400 volunteers signed up as new settlers to this planet, could happen in around 20 years. Although it would be interesting for volunteers to go, this would mean a bleak future for them. And by a bleak future, I mean one without returning to Earth. These colonists would arrive at Mars and experience the new land unlike any other has, but they would be finishing out their lives there. Supplies could be sent every few months, but it would be impossible to return to their home planet.

Space plans like these have me baffled. Yes, there would be incredible new discoveries and it would be phenomenal to see the outcomes, but there would be an uprising in terms of moral issues. If there would be even one volunteer that changed their mind after the fact, a disaster would occur and the situation could culminate into a real-life science fiction horror. So, I say we stick with the plans that have been thought through and seem ideal in exploration.

With these ideas in place, the space program can only go forward in terms of its knowledge and research. There will continue to be better and better conceptions within the realm of space and technology, but to prove that it is a priority and will generate notice, we need to extend our funds to pull ourselves out of the sense of chaos our planet seems to be in currently.

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About Mary Beth Pearson

  • Pedro

    Would you agree with me that NASA could/should be partially, if not completely, privatized?

    [Personal contact info deleted]
    Thank you, very nice article of urs.

  • Parts of NASA could certainly do with being privatised but it is as a research and development agency that it has made its most significant contributions, and most pure R&D is funded by government. NASA is one of the most maligned and underfunded government agencies, taking up only about 2% of the federal budget, yet people (members of Congress included) still have the perception that space exploration wastes huge quantities of taxpayer money.

    The task of ferrying humans into space can and should be done by private launch companies, and this is in fact current administration policy. Obama also quite rightly cancelled the Constellation program, which was duplicative, inefficient and over budget, in order to focus NASA’s efforts on robotic exploration, which has yielded the agency many of its most spectacular results and returns, and on manned missions to Mars and to the asteroids: places we haven’t already been to. (Not saying that we should abandon the Moon, but the private sector is quite capable of managing a restored human presence there too.) This space vision is the most far-sighted and imaginative since Kennedy’s, IMO. Such a shame that it will almost certainly be abandoned the moment Obama leaves office.

    Couple of other points: it’s unlikely that a space elevator would have much mileage as an amusement park ride, since the trip to orbit would take hours or days. There would be some initial novelty value, but it would quickly become as tedious as long-haul air travel.

    And the one-way option to Mars is broadly analogous to the voyages of the Mayflower pilgrims and other early American settlers, who departed England with full knowledge that they probably would never return and no intention of doing so. They certainly didn’t regard their future as bleak, nor did it turn out to be. The Martian pioneers will be of this mindset.

    There were of course some New World colonists who later regretted their choice, but changing their minds was not an option. They either handled it themselves or were dealt with by the social mechanisms of the new colonies. The first humans on Mars will expect and experience these same challenges.