Re-funding manned space flights as a means to drive the economy and drive innovation
This July will mark the third year that the United States hasn’t had a manned space program since it was conceived in 1958. The reason for the loss of the manned space program was its cost. Our congressional leaders looked at our space program and decided that sending Americans into space was just too expensive.
That bit of nearsightedness and lack of vision is what’s making things so difficult for America. We have leaders that look at NASA’s budget in terms of expense and payback. As if sending people into space was like selling cars on a lot or cans of beans in a store. The cost of the manned space program was insignificant when compared to the rewards it provided for our nation.
To put it into terms we can all understand consider this. The bank bailouts of 2008, the cash we fronted to the banks, was more money than has been spent on the American space program from its conception to today. Think about that for a moment. We bailed out corrupt corporations and discarded one of the greatest inspirations the world has ever known.
If you ask the average American “What have we gained from the manned space program?” more than likely they will be able to tell you about Tang™ and Velcro™. A few might even mention GPS and satellite television. Frankly speaking we have forgotten to dream.
When I was a child I remember hearing about how we would live on colonies on the moon. There would be hotels in space and we would take trips to Mars. Our day to day lives would be fundamentally changed because of our space program, and yes, we would have flying cars. So not all of it was realistic at the time, but the exploration of space still inspired us. When I was a kid and a teacher asked what we wanted to be, there was always one kid that said “astronaut”. These days they just want to get paid to play sports. We forgot how to dream.
So now, like everything else, our “Congressional leaders” are telling us that space is too expensive for our budget. They tell us exploration of space should be privatized and for profit. That’s amazingly short sighted and detrimental to our nation as a whole. This is especially true when you consider we are not the only nation with aspirations of space exploration and exploitation.
Here’s just a small sample of what our space program has given us. The artificial heart came into being because of NASA’s research into advanced liquid pumps. We have satellite weather surveillance that warns us of impending catastrophic weather events. The mechanical arm used on the space shuttle led to a surgical system surgeons use to operate three instruments simultaneously, while performing laparoscopic surgery.
In 2001, the first complete robotic surgical operation proved successful, when a team of doctors in New York removed the gallbladder of a woman in France using the Computer Motion equipment. Teflon was developed by NASA. Thanks to fluid physics experiments conducted by astronauts in space, we can now detect cataracts far earlier than ever before because of an instrument being developed from it.
The Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge are coated in a protective material that NASA needed to invent to save its launch pads from the destructive effects of hot, humid and salt-laden air. The list of physical materials and machines that have benefited the United States and all of humanity is long and distinguished. Yet, our congressional leaders couldn’t justify the expense of a manned space program.
Just as every action has multiple consequences, our exploration of space inspired people who inspired generations. Yes, there are countless people who spend their time making costumes to attend Star Trek conventions, but did you know that many of them are scientists because they were inspired by the show and subsequent movies?
The show was inspired by our space program and the political unrest of the 60’s, and it wasn’t on the air for very long. Yet look at what that one television series has given us. If you’ve seen your child and knew if it was a boy or girl before they were born, that’s because someone was inspired by a fictional medical device on a TV show. How much is your cell phone like Capitan Kirks “communicator”. Actually, to be honest your phone does more than his communicator ever did, but I still stand by that example.
The ripple effect of America’s manned space program throughout our world is immeasurable. We listened as John Glenn circled the world and we as a species wanted to go farther and explore more. Then we walked on the moon and we marveled at our ingenuity. We believed we were taking the first steps toward a space economy. Then we stopped dreaming because we thought it was too expensive.
Here’s the deal. We’re not the only nation that explores space. If we hand it off to corporations to do our dreaming and our exploring, just how well do you think any corporation is going to compete with a country like China or Japan. Japan spends roughly $900 million, while the European Space Agency spends $3.5 billion. We’re not alone in the quest for space.
Those numbers sound huge, but when you put it in perspective, for each tax dollar you pay each year, less than one half of one cent goes to NASA from each dollar; it’s even less now that we’re no longer supporting a manned space program. The biggest expense by far and the most urgent reason which supports our need as a nation to explore space has to do with future technology.
We are on the brink of something wondrous. You know all of that neat stuff you saw and wanted because you have seen it in the movies over the past few years? Well, I have good news. It’s about to exist because of the discovery of graphene. I could go into a long explanation of what and why graphene is going to change everything, but instead I’ll just share a link to a video that should get you excited.
However, don’t go falling for the people trying to get you to invest in graphite mines. Graphene is just organized carbon to put it simply and carbon is one of the most abundant elements in the universe. But I digress.
We should invest in a manned space program because of the future economy. We all know that resources on earth are not infinite and quite often getting to them is both dangerous and environmentally hazardous. Soon, other nations are going to start looking around in earnest at the unimaginable resources in earth’s back yard.
There’s a rock out there we call Amun 3554. A company called “Planetary Resources” which is based out of Seattle and funded by people like James Cameron, Bill Gates and the owners of Google are taking a serious look at Amun 3554. Sure, it’s a mile long rock just floating in orbit around the sun, but based on studies we’ve made, that small rock has a mere $8 TRILLION worth of iron and nickel and another $6 trillion worth of cobalt.
That’s Trillion with a “T”. Then when you throw in the platinum group metals like iridium, rhodium and palladium, Amun 3554 is worth a cool $20 trillion dollars U.S. That’s one rock floating relatively “near” earth. No one knows exactly how many rocks are like that, but we know there are millions of them nearby. I bet processing all of those metals would rescue Detroit, but I know for a fact that the country that gets there first is going to be the greatest financial superpower the world has ever known.
Frankly speaking, when people say we can’t afford to fund NASA, I believe in all actuality the cost of not funding our space program is far greater than we can ever imagine. We need to dream again and we need to inspire the next generation to do more than play video games or try to get a shoe named after them.