“Space, the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before. ” Those are the opening lines from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Ever since I can remember I have been fascinated with outer space and what we might find out there.
I am intrigued by the idea that we might discover new things none of us have ever imagined in the nearly infinite unknown that is our universe. But there can be no Discovery without exploration, and recent massive cuts to the space program have brought our extraterrestrial exploration to a near stand still. But it is not just my own infatuation with the skies that drives my opposition to these cuts, nor is it the dreams and determination of all the scientists and astronauts involved with NASA. Amongst those stars is a shining path for our future.
As anyone will agree, the space program is a great financial Endeavor. A single space shuttle launch costs nearly half a billion dollars. While many people may see this as an unnecessary expense, that is only because the grandiose nature of theses extraordinary undertakings is lost upon them. The space program did not only expand our knowledge of our solar system and countless stellar phenomena, but also inspired every aspect of humanity.
The most obvious benefits are to all areas of math and science. Every individual field in these two areas of study has what is essentially a symbiotic relationship with the space program. Clearly, space travel would be inherently impossible without the study of math, physics, chemistry, and medicine. Consequently these disciplines, and many others, would not have made the advancements and achievements we now take for granted. GPS would be nothing but a dream if not for the satellites place in orbit using technology from decades of aerospace research.
That dream was made possible by the hard work and determination of men and women striving to achieve their own dreams. In a recent testimony to the U.S. Senate, well known astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson delivered an inspiring message of hope for the future. Through the space program mankind has accomplished things once thought impossible. Cell phones, cordless power tools, modern computers, and even Lasik surgery all use innovations attributed to the space program.
The reason for this is, quite simply, these men and women are dreamers. When told something is impossible, they do not simply accept their Challenger’s supposition and walk away. They ask “Why can’t it be done?” This spirit of exploration is not unique to the men and women as NASA, but they posses it in great abundance. This is the some spirit that drove Christopher Columbus, and the reason our first space shuttle was named the Columbia. It is their determination, their belief in the possibility of a world with a brighter future, that invigorates their ambitions and inspires people across the world.
Space travel has had as great an effect on our culture as it has upon our technology. For years authors, poets, musicians, and artists have created works exploring the beauty, mystery and enthralling sense of adventure that are inherent in space travel. There are few people who would not instantly recognize Elton John’s Rocket Man or have never heard of Star Wars. Since the dawn of time humanity has been driven forward by our inclination towards exploration. Our oldest stories include lost treasures, like the city of Atlantis, that are just waiting to be discovered.
It is clear why many people refer to the modern era as the space age. So much of what is integral to our society was either taken directly from, or inspired by the advancements and discoveries made by NASA and its compatriots. The space program brings us stability and purpose. How many kids spread out in an open field to stare up at the stars, or dream of being an astronaut as soon as their heads hit the pillow every night. It doesn’t just inspire innovation and art, but unshackles imagination and determination.
If we turn our back on that now, our culture, our technology, and even our economy will severely stagnate. In fact, it has already begun. Once we were entertained by stories of cowboys facing the unknown of the western frontier. Now we enjoy watching people get drunk and insult each other, and girls who are only sixteen and already have a child. Every year a new Apple product is released that is, for all intents and purposes, exactly the same as the previous year’s. I doubt I need to tell you much about the state of the economy.
When President Obama set the bailout in motion, he poured $750 billion dollars into the very banks that were responsible for state of the economy. That would be similar to a parent who gives his child $1000 in the hope that it will teach him to stop wasting his allowance. To help pay for this, he made massive cuts to NASA, and put on hold all hopes for future exploration of the moon and Mars.
This bailout cost more than NASA has received in funding since it’s inception. As we have been continually abandoning our navigation of the skies, our hopes for the future have been left among the nebulas and infant suns of outer space. It is time we reclaim them, and through education and exploration bring all of humanity into a new golden age of prosperity and progress.
Exploration and education provide jobs for millions, and motivate and inspire millions more to see possibilities they had never considered. Take the money back from the banks, which seek only to acquire more money, as that is their sole purpose for existence, and reignite the fires which, in the Cold War, fueled the innovations that drove us to become the most influential nation in world. We may no longer have USSR breathing down out necks, but we have enemies far greater that we cannot conquer along. War, famine, injustice: all of these enemies may be confronted with knowledge and experience gained through the space program. Perhaps this path will give us all the ability to live long and prosper.