Thursday, September 3, 2009

Can We Afford to Leave Earth??

NASA has recently said they were a bit short on cash when it comes to picking up the tab for a few dudes to get to the Moon or Mars. About 3-4 billion dollars a year that is. Obama's presidency hasn't been able to help much in this matter either. So for the time being, we won't be suiting up anyone to take the venture upward and onward. And this is a tad troubling.

Roll of $100 Bills

It's troubling because my generation and the generation that is growing up now are missing grand unifying experience. When NASA went to the moon, that event did not only make America proud, it made humanity proud. It was a giant leap for mankind. It was a global event where we, as human beings, were a part of the whole. Witnessing our own astounding accomplishment. Not Americans, and Russians, and Chinese, but human beings.

The footprints on the moon left a bigger impression on humanity than any event before it. It was televised. It was written about, talked about, celebrated around the globe. Ask someone that was alive where they were. They will know. Sure, Americans might know where they were when Kennedy got shot or when OJ was on the loose, but people around the globe probably wouldn't remember these things or perhaps have even been aware of them. But the moon, ... the moon landing, that was different.

Two astronauts explored the surface of the Moon in July of 1969 for the first time ever. I was born on September of the same year. I never had the experience of even being alive when it happened. And then when I became old enough to become interested in space, we had already sadly lost our moon missions mojo. Since 1972 we haven't been back.

We realize now the numerous potential benefits of going back. We could learn a great deal more about our place in the universe. We could extend humanity beyond Earth. We could prepare better for future missions beyond Earth and the Moon. And perhaps we can even unite the nations of Earth into a more global, peaceful cause.

The irony of all this is that our inability to get to the moon is our own fault. With the given concept and form of monetary compensation, we have severely limited our ability to do what it is we can already do. We can design and build rocketships. We can research and develop newer, better, technologies over time. We can GO to the moon. We can GO to Mars. But amidst the structure in our country and indeed the world, we are unable to do these things.

I'm not suggesting any alternative. It is what it is. Capitalism has long ago won the hearts and wallets of people around the globe. There is no chance of going back and rethinking it. But maybe if our country and the rest of the world moved space exploration to a higher priority we might get different results. With such a low priority, missions are harder and harder to fund. If space is of some importance to humanity, which I think it is, then we need to get it some cash. And to do that we'll need to promote it.

If a space program can be looked at by the ordinary individual where they can understand the benefit to humanity then money will be easier to come by. But we place a number of different items distictly ahead of space exploration, much less more expensive and dangerous human exploration, on the priority list. This is understandable and reasonable especially considering the shape of our country financially at the current time. I can't tell you how to best overcome that. Times are tough. NASA is in difficult times and so is the future of space exploration.

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