Without it, We Lose Everything
Grant M. C. Williamson
February 18, 2013
Without it, We Lose Everything
For as long as there has been space exploration there have been people that ask if it would not be better to focus on the problems here on Earth rather than reach for the stars. Earth has a myriad of problems: hunger, over population, drought, war, racism, climate change, the list is virtually endless. So, the question is, with all of these problems why should the government be spending billions of dollars to research space when there are so many things they could be spending that money on here on Earth? There was a science fiction television show, Babylon 5, from the early nineties that well illustrates one of the primary reasons, as a species, we must continue to explore space. The commander of a space station is asked if the human race should just write space off as a bad idea and focus on Earth. His answer: No. We have to stay here and there's a simple reason why. Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics and you'll get ten different answers, but there's one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on. Whether it happens in a hundred years or a thousand years or a million years, eventually our Sun will grow cold and go out. When that happens, it won't just take us. It'll take Marilyn Monroe and Lao-Tzu and Einstein and Morobuto and Buddy Holly and Aristophenes, and all of this, all of this was for nothing unless we go to the stars (Straczynski, 1994). For this and other reasons the United States must continue to fund space exploration for the betterment of humankind and the planet Earth. Through space exploration many technologies have been, and continue to be, developed that have made life on Earth better for the majority of the inhabitants thereof, and if space exploration does not continue there will come a day when everything the human race has ever done will be lost.
There is one scientific fact that all inhabitants of Earth must come to grips with: One day the sun will burn out, and when it does, unless they have gone to the stars, all of human history will become, virtually, meaningless. This is not some doomsday theory or biblical prophecy, it is a scientific fact. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has done extensive research on the life cycle of stars and have identified a number of possible outcomes when a star runs out of fuel (NASA/WMAP Science Team, 2010). Based on that research, their conclusion is sun will eventually become a white dwarf, but long before that the planet will have been rendered uninhabitable. The timeline of Earth’s destruction is not agreed upon. There are a number of estimates from five hundred million years posited by noted geoscientist James Kasting (Carrington, 2000), to the 1.1 billion years that Adam Frank (2001) believes is the upper end of the time in which Earth would be habitable. At the extreme top end of the spectrum is the five to six billion years that NASA and Beth Hufnagel (1997) estimate the sun has before it becomes a white dwarf. All of these time periods are so far in the future as to boggle the mind, but the fact remains that one day Earth will become a lifeless rock, and for all intents and purposes the human race has an expiration date. This date has nothing to do with human nature, society, religion, biology, or other factors that might influence its continued existence. The NASA space program is the best chance to, someday, move beyond this little solar system, and to thus leave people to remember humanity’s collective past and live on.
Planetary Armageddon notwithstanding, there are other reasons for the United States to continue to fund the NASA space program. First of these is the hundreds of “spinoff” technologies that NASA has produced as a direct result of space exploration. Global Positioning System (GPS), memory foam...