Space is our Future
edited: Sunday, February 25, 2007
By P-M Terry Lamar
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Sunday, February 25, 2007
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The continued and agressive exploration of space is important to mankind.
We are explorers by nature.
I believe we, whether the US or all advanced nations, need to spend more money on space exploration than we currently do.
There are two main reasons for I believe this:
1) Man intrinsically needs the challenge of exploring a great unknown. With most of the Earth explored (though not completely understood, I admit), the great unknown is space. I know this idea isn’t new, but it is still true . Some argue that we don’t know much about our deepest oceans and I agree, but frankly I don’t think that sparks the imagination of as many people as does reaching out into space. The discussion about this is further below.
2) In reaching out into space, where minor incidents can mean instant and terrible death, mankind has had to develop significant technological tools to help explorers survive. These advancements have since greatly enriched the lives of earthbound people to degrees that few people completely realize.
Not only does it enrich lives, it gives us a better idea of the real effects humankind is having on the planet. If humans continue to abuse the Earth and its environment, we won’t be able to sustain our lives on the Earth. We have to change.
“If we don't change direction soon, we'll end up where we're going.’
Professor Irwin Corey
Spending money on space exploration is a controversial subject because many people believe that it’s waste of money. I believe quite the contrary, because in enabling men and women to live in the harsh environs of space, significant leaps forward in technology have made us safer and have led to potentially significant environmental improvements.
Everyone, or at least most people, can identify some of the benefits that space exploration brought to those of us who are ever-earthbound. Most people could name the following products easily:
- Tang (does anyone drink this anymore? Answer YES!)
- Velcro (used in innumerable products now)
- The computer microchip (need I say more?)
- Satellite television
Usually, most people stop there and can’t think of other benefits without jumping on their computer. Well, to help you out, here is a short list. Some of these will make you say, “Of course, I knew that,” but many will be a surprise to you (unless you work for the PR department of NASA). This list came primarily from the NASA website.
• NASA Technology Helps Injured U.S. Troops
Some of Uncle Sam's injured soldiers returning from duty abroad are benefiting from patented NASA technology transformed into a revolutionary new physical therapy device by the same name -- SAM – the Secure Ambulation Mode walker. The walker's technology, originally developed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., is now aiding U.S. service personnel with spinal cord or traumatic brain injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
• Cancer Detection and Treatment
- LED (Light-Emitting Diode)—LED is special lighting technology that was originally used for plant growth experiments aboard the Space Shuttle. This technology is now being used in a form of chemotherapy to treat brain tumors in children and many other forms of cancer.
• Cardiovascular Treatments
- Pacemaker Implant—Pacemakers used to treat cardiac patients, as well as the remote monitoring devices for intensive care patients, were derived from the telemetry systems that first monitored astronauts and spacecraft.
- Artificial Heart Implant—The technology used in the Space Shuttle fuel pumps led to the development of a miniaturized ventricular-assist pump. The tiny pump is 2 inches long and 1 inch in diameter and weighs less than 4 ounces.
• Detection of Breast Cancer
- Breast Biopsy System—Silicon chips in the Hubble Space Telescope that convert a distant star’s light directly into digital images have been adopted so that doctors can easily detect tiny spots in breast tissue. Locating the exact spot allows doctors to analyze the tissue using a needle.
- Faster, Safer, and Easier Mammograms—Space-based instruments used to study the atmosphere may soon have a place in the medical examination room, since atmospheric studies and mammography both require compact, reliable, low-power sensors and digital computers.
- New, Non-Intrusive Ultrasounds—Technology developed to improve the quality of pictures from Mars Pathfinder is being modified to make 3-dimensional models of breast tissue. This will allow physicians to differentiate between cancerous and healthy tissue without painful invasive procedures.
• Treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
- Video Game Treatment for ADD—In America, an increasing number of children are being treated for ADD. NASA research on brain waves has a practical application in this area. The technique uses computer games and biofeedback to treat this disorder. The treatment involves monitoring brainwaves of children and trying to get them to modify brain activity that helps them concentrate.
• Enriched Baby Food
- Formulaid—NASA-sponsored research exploring the potential use of algae as a recycling agent for long-duration space travel has led to the development of enriched baby food. The formula being fed to an infant contains an algae-based additive highly enriched in nutrients that are believed to be beneficial for infants’ mental and visual development.
• Rapid, Easy Temperature Readings
- Infrared Thermometer—Each year in the United States, 2 billion temperature readings are taken. Infrared sensors originally developed to remotely measure the temperature of distant stars and planets led to the development of the handheld optical sensor thermometer. Placed inside the ear canal, the thermometer provides an accurate reading in 2 seconds or less.
• Firefighter Air Breathing System
- The conventional firefighter air breathing system was heavy, cumbersome and so physically taxing that it induced extreme fatigue. Today’s air breathing system incorporates materials and technology from NASA into a lighter, less bulky breathing apparatus.
• Infrared Camera
- Infrared technology was used on the Apollo program to simulate sunlight and a sensitive infrared hand-held camera is used to observe the plumes from the Space Shuttle. This NASA technology is currently used to scan for fires. Malibu, California in 1996, thereby increasing the level of safety for firefighters.
• Satellite Tracking of Fires
- NASA’s Earth Observing System consists of satellites capable of relaying near-realtime information. These satellites can transmit the location, area, and extent of a fire. This assists U.S. Forest Service fire managers in evaluating the level of danger for firefighters and determining where to deploy resources.
• Household Efficiency, Safety, and Comfort
- Cordless Power Tools and Appliances—On the Moon, astronauts used specifically developed portable tools that were the direct predecessor of today’s cordless screwdrivers, drills and other rechargeable power tools.
- Household Smoke Detectors—A technology originally developed for NASA’s Skylab spacecraft, smoke detectors are now required by law to be placed in all homes and are universally credited for saving countless lives.
- Mattresses/Pillows—NASA originally developed a foam technology to relieve the enormous force of gravity at liftoff. This technology is now used in mattresses and pillows to evenly distribute weight and body pressure points.
• Cleaner, Quieter, and Economical Commercial Aircraft
- Turbofan—Multiple NASA developed technological advancements resulted in a cleaner, quieter, more economical commercial aircraft engine. The turbofan features a 10 percent reduction in fuel consumption, lower noise levels, and emission reductions.
• Development of Natural Gas-Powered Car
- Gas-Leak Detection System—A gas-leak detection system, originally developed to monitor the Space Shuttle’s hydrogen propulsion system, is currently being used by the automobile industry in the development and production of a natural gas-powered car.
• Clean, Safe Water
- Water-Purification System—Water-purification technology used on the Apollo spacecraft is now employed in several applications to kill bacteria, viruses, and algae in community water-supply systems and cooling towers. Among the applications is a line of home and portable water filters.
• Feeding the World - And Other Worlds Too
- NASA is developing ways to use human and industrial waste to provide the ingredients needed for growing edible plants. This technology will be needed for establishing human colonies on other worlds. Many vegetable farmers around the world are learning how to grow crops without soil. Hydroponics is increasing the Earth's food-growing capacity – ever more important with our rapid population growth.
• Preventing Landmine Explosions
Thiokol Science and Engineering has developed a more effective way of de-mining dangerous landmines by using NASA Reusable Solid Rocket Motor (RSRM) scrap propellant. The flare burns a hole in the landmine's case and ignites its explosive contents. The explosive burns away, disabling the mine and rendering it harmless.
• Nanotube technology: Photo: Dr. Jeannette Benavides prepares to run her simple, safe, and inexpensive manufacturing process for single-walled carbon nanotubes.
Earlier this year, NASA licensed its patented technique for manufacturing these high-quality "single-walled carbon nanotubes" to Idaho Space Materials (ISM) in Boise, Idaho. Now the carbon nanotubes based on this creation process are being used by researchers and companies that are working on things that will impact almost every facet of life, such as new materials with ceramics and polymers.
• Cutting-Edge Sports Equipment
- Golf Balls and Golf Clubs—A recently designed golf ball employs NASA aerodynamics technology to create a more symmetrical ball surface, sustaining initial velocity longer and producing more stable ball flight for better accuracy and distance. Composite golf clubs are also a result of NASA technology.
- Athletic Shoes—Originally developed for lunar boots, a unique NASA material for cushioning and ventilation has been modified and incorporated in the midsole of athletic shoes to improve shock absorption and provide superior stability and motion control.
Why we need, as humans, to explore space in order for us to survive as a species.
I believe space exploration is essential for three main reasons:
1) We are killing ourselves on this planet, and we have to change our direction drastically.
2) The advances from space exploration will ensure we don’t kill our own planet
3) It is in man’s nature to explore; without a significant new frontier, we will continue to believe that pathetic “reality” shows and which pop star is having whose baby are subjects that are important to our lives. In other words, we will devolve into grubby, pathetic creatures that have not even come close to the potential God bestowed upon us.
On the first point, you have only to look at the ever-increasing population growth and warnings of global warming and reports of deteriorating air and water quality to believe, or not believe as is your choice, that this is a problem. I believe it is not only a problem, but one which the small steps some people have made to thwart it are not enough to stop the devastation. We need huge technological leaps in order to stop it and turn it around.
That brings me to my second point. Above, I described a few of the technological advances that space exploration has brought to us. Those were just a few of the many, and we have really not gone into space as much as we could with our resources. If we explored more, the advances would be even more fruitful, beneficial, and may give us the means to repair our damaged world. The critics, and a few critics here have contacted me with public or private comments, state that the advances aren’t worth the money spent. It could be better spent trying to feed and clothe the poor and hungry. Frankly, I completely understand this viewpoint because I am a believer in helping the downtrodden and giving people a chance to live better lives.
The money spent on space exploration doesn’t disappear into the vacuum of space. It is spend here on Earth in industries that pay people who in turn pay taxes which helps pay for social programs. It develops new industries, new jobs, new job markets, new taxes. It helps feed and clothe people by providing more jobs and by providing more taxes. While the benefit may not directly feed as many mouths as if it were spent directly on food, most people agree that giving people jobs in order to feed themselves is better than just providing them food for a few meals. Right now, it is primarily the Government that is paying for any new space exploration, but eventually it will be private corporations which will start paying for it, just as they are paying for the launching of communications satellites now. Once that occurs, and it will only occur after governments take enough steps forward to it feasible, the costs will not fall on the taxpayers’ shoulders. One final point here, in 2004, Virgiliu Pop reported SPACEDAILY: “Here are $976.3 billion dollars – almost a trillion - spent every year in the US on pets, toys, gambling, alcohol and tobacco. It is 63 times the amount spent on space exploration – with the difference that NASA has not destroyed lives as the alcohol, tobacco and gambling did. It is not the exploration spirit that Americans need to give up in order to alleviate poverty. It is the consumerist spirit.”
Now, onto my third point, Mankind thrives on exploring, meeting new challenges and adapting to new conditions. Unfortunately, in recent history, our adaptations have been to learn how to better exist in huge cities with polluted air and unhealthy conditions. According to Phil Smith, at SPACE “We have about a million years of evidence showing that humans (and our near-ancestors such as Homo erectus) have roamed extensively across the globe. Migration is a key aspect of human behavior.” He says that the process follows four stages, exploration, pioneering, settlement and maturation.
You will meet some people who are not interested in exploring, pioneering, or even settlement, they are content with the maturation phase. But there are those who must explore, and they capture our imagination, whether we are the explorers or not. Some of us will let others explore and then follow to pioneer the new regions. And as for settling, I know we have bold settlers. Are there any among you who would grab the opportunity to settle on the moon if it is offered to you? Not all of you would want to do that, but I’ll bet the idea gives you a tickle of excitement. Some of you are raising your hands right now. We need strong dreams to propel us forward as humans. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream was a big dream and it drove people to do great things.
Other people who have propelled us forward in our human development have had dreams, whether they described them as such. The great explorers of our globe took huge risks and spent huge (at that time) amounts of their sponsors wealth. The sponsors, over all, became even more wealthy, but the dreams and the fulfillment of those dreams inspired huge portions of the population. How many people today would want to put their entire family into a wooden ship and travel to an unknown land? Few would, but there are those who did and the perils, as we know even today, were significant.
The settlers who took their families and all their worldly good in a covered wagon could have stayed in the cities and earned money, but they wanted more. They followed dreams of meeting obstacles head-on and beating all the odds. It gave them purpose, it gave them meaning. The dreams and the accomplishment of them defined them as bold members of the human race. Give those poor hungry children some food and clothing. Give them educations. Then, give them the ability to follow a dream. We are not lemmings who jump off cliffs for unknown reasons, we are not lions who dwell in and defend their limited domain, we are the ones for whom God made our world and our universe. We are mankind, we have dreams and the abilities to achieve them.
“That's one small step for [a] man; one giant leap for mankind.” — Neil A. Armstrong, Commander Apollo 11, first words spoken by a man walking on another heavenly body, received at 9:56 pm local time in Houston (Mission Elapsed Time 109:24:13), as Armstrong stepped off the LM 'Eagle' and onto the Moon in the Mare Tranquilitatis (Sea of Tranquility), 20 July 1969.