Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Humanity Needs Space Exploration

This is about as far away from Earth as most astronauts ever get.

As a fan of science fiction, I may be overly optimistic of our prospects for extensive space exploration in the near future.

Be that as it may, I see no reason why we shouldn't try. What is there to lose? Dissenters will argue that we would be better served spending money here, at home.

Doing what, exactly? Spending it on wars we do not need? Boondoggles which will end up serving no purpose when all is said and done?

I suppose that this latter argument can be made against space travel, but it would be a mistake to do so.

The research, knowledge, technology, and inspiration we get from reaching out to the stars overrides any short term financial costs. It's amazing to me how NASA manages to accomplish what little they do with such a small percentage of our budget to work with.

President Obama has the right idea with his idea to transition the space exploration industry to the private sector, though I believe he has jumped the gun by several decades. He of all people should know that many of the most ingenious human projects began at the government level.

There isn't enough organization and direction at the private level to spearhead something like space travel, which won't make any real profits for years to come.

The government needs to provide a framework. Whether it's a moon base, technology to reach Mars, mine asteroids, or construct extensive space stations, Uncle Sam needs to take the first step in such a vast undertaking as this.

Then, if we're lucky, we will be able to hand the keys over to private industry.

I am still saddened by the fact that, since the 1960s, humanity has made little progress in terms of space technology. Nothing we have built since then has compared to the Saturn V rockets, and with the ancient shuttle program finally being retired, there is very little we can hope for in terms of progressing beyond the boundaries of Earth's atmosphere.

Opportunity awaits those willing to explore the heavens. With NASA still quibbling over the details of a Mars mission that may or may not launch in 2020, 2030, or 2040, it appears as if we'll have to wait a bit longer before we can begin to live out the fantasies portrayed in science fiction.

Am I wrong?

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