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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Give your two cents worth...

This week I went to a debate over Human Space Exploration. I have to say I was very intrigued. Not something that I would have initially had an opinion about but after sitting and listening to it, there were some very good points that were brought up. I am just curious, if you have a few spare minutes (like we are all just so bored and have all the free time in the world right?), put in your two cents worth. Sometimes just thinking about a topic off of our normal day-to-day topics will stimulate and cultivate the mind to alternative trains of thought and may relieve a bit of stress and help calm the mind by processes of thought. Maybe...

This is the summary for the side of opposition:

The advancement of Science Argument-

1) Given that resources for space exploration are limited, money should not be put into MANNED space missions as opposed to UNMANNED space missions, unless science can be expected to advance faster this way.

2) Science cannot be expected to advance fastest this way. (MANNED missions)

3) For now, therefore, manned space missions that go beyond providing support for the unmanned ones should NOT be funded.

The Practical Argument-

1) Manned spaced missions that aim to establish permanent human settlements in environments lacking breathable atmosphere are in the end doomed to fail unless we have an energy-efficient way to generate a breathable atmosphere from non-breathable substances. (Air loss through leaks, even it if it kept to a minimum, are for all practical purposes permanent, and mechanical systems can be counted on to be imperfect.)

2) We lack an energy-efficient way to generate a breathable atmosphere from non-breathable substances.

3) It is wrong to fund space missions that are in the end doomed to fail.

4) For now, therefor, manned space missions that aim to establish permanent human settlements in environments lacking a breathable atmosphere should not be funded.

The Obligations at Home Argument-

1) Environmental problems here on Earth (the web of problems that include human overpopulation, soil loss, increased toxins in the environment, global warming, desertification, loss of bio-diversity, etc.) deserve the unwavering focus of humanity.

2) Manned space missions that has their long-term goal the exodus of minority of humanity to extraterrestrial space amount to being a diversion of attention away from the more pressing problems here on Earth.

3) We have no business diverting attention away from these problems before they are adequately resolved. They matter that much.

4) For now, therefore, manned space missions that have as their long-term goal the exodus of a minority of humanity to extraterrestrial space should not be funded.

(Majority of these arguments from Steven Wienberg, physicist at the University of Texas at Austin, Nobel Laureate, and recipient of the National Medal of Science)

Now, the arguments on the side of maintaining MANNED space missions

Science and Society Advancement-

1) "The longer we stay on the planet Mars - the more scientific experiments we can do."

2) "We choose to go to the Moon. We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are willing to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others too."

3) Many household products are a direct result of developing materials for human space exploration- such as food preservation, medical, materials (golf clubs), communications, fire protection, watches, etc.

4) Thus the push to go to space advances science and society in beneficial ways.

Cost/Benefit -

1) "Economic, scientific and technological returns of space exploration have far exceeded the investment. Globally, 43 countries now have their own observing or communication satellites in Earth's orbit. Observing Earth has provided G.P.S., meteorological forecasts, predictions and management of hurricanes and other natural disasters, and global monitoring of the environment, as well as surveillance and intelligence. Satellite communications have changed life and business practices with computer operations, cell phones, global banking, and TV."

2) "For every dollar we spend on the space program, the U.S. economy receives about $8 of economic benefit."

3) Right now, all of America's human space flight programs cost around $7 billion a year. That's pennies per person per day. In 2006, according to the USDA, Americans spend more than $154 billion on alcohol. We spend around $10 billion a month in Iraq. And so on."

4) "Royalties on NASA patents and licenses currently go directly to the U.S. Treasury, not back to NASA."

5) The current ISS (International Space Station) effort is now moving towards privatizing space exploration, expanding the economic base to support exploration of space.

6) Thus, NASA is an income source and entrepreneurial enterprise for the U.S. and not a drain.

Survival of the Species -

1) "Mankind will not remain on Earth forever, but in it's quest for light and space will at first timidly penetrate beyond the confines of the atmosphere, and later will conquer for itself all the space near the Sun."

2) "Exploration of space will provide humanity with an answer to the most fundamental questions: Are we alone? Are there other forms of life besides those on Earth?" Knowing about life, helps us understand life and ourselves.

3) "Space exploration will eventually all us to establish a human civilization to another world (e.g. Mars) as a hedge against the type of catastrophe that wiped out the dinosaurs."

4) Thus, moving into space protects our species.


Dubner, Stephen. " Is Space Exploration Worth the Cost?"

Tsiolkovsky, Konstantin. "Konstantin E Tsiolkovsky Quote." First Science

Krauss, Lawrence. "A One-way Ticket to Mars" NY Times. 31 Aug. 2009

Kennedy, John F. "John F. Kennedy Moon Speech - Rice Stadium." NASA website

It was interesting to hear this debate. Basically, the side of opposition was saying the use of probes and robotics will produce, at least the same, if not more, especially scientific, results. More or less that a machine can do what a human can.

On the other hand, the side for maintaining manned space exploration explained how it has advanced not only science, and the teaching of, but all education in some shape or form. NASA has been really pushing for the advancement of education in all forms of all subjects.

I have been involved with a research group since last semester that is funded through a NASA grant. I have been amazed at the science that is involved with all different aspects of this whole group. It has really helped my technical skills develop and look at school more professionally. Our department Chair, Dr. John Heinrichs, has deep convictions about teaching and helping us develop into professionals in the science field in any of the different areas. He has many mentor qualities about him that I respect greatly. Most of the research he has done, or currently looking into with us, and makes sure that everything we are doing is, and will be accepted with validity in the science community. I personally, had the opportunity to travel last Spring Break to Boulder to sit in on the yearly planning conference with him and his fellow colleagues. The depth and subject matter really drew me in.

I hope that the fall weather finds you all well and best wishes to everyone!! Get out and explore your world!! It is amazing in so many different ways.

Peace be with you!!