Why Spending on Space Research is not only Necessary, but Downright Useful

We got 99 problems, but Space Research ain’t one. That’s the view of most common -folk who believe that spending precious tax money on research exploring Space is a waste. There’s no denying that with every passing year, we’ve probably seen an increasing number of problems we’ve faced as a species. Humans, though, have only benefited by dreaming (and then going) about Space exploration.

We sent the first man on the moon in 1969 and then forgot about space | Shutterstock
We sent the first man on the moon in 1969 and then forgot about space | Shutterstock

We Got Practical Solutions to Common Problems

It’s not like NASA’s Space program is confined to only Houston, Texas and the International Space Station (ISS). There is plenty of R&D work going around various centers of NASA and we’ve seen loads of practical solutions being part of our daily lives because of the research efforts being done for NASA.

Thank NASA for a lot of useful household items and other innovative ideas.

Even though some of these are more myth than true, there certainly are some spin-offs that were because of the direct consequences of NASA’s experiments. Even though we might not realize the impact that studies done for space exploration have had, we sure will do well to keep some of these in mind.

1. Science Education

This point is the easiest case to make for space exploration. Education is the foundation of humanity on which it has achieved some marvelous feats. Science allows us to differentiate fact from fiction and go further than we ever thought possible. And if we stop dreaming of exploring the vastness of space, we will stop igniting the minds of the younger generations to follow.

Timeline of our biggest achievements related to space travel | Shutterstock
Timeline of our biggest achievements related to space travel | Shutterstock

The last 50’s right till the early 70’s were a prime example of young kids dreaming about becoming astronauts. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were household names but how many current gen astronauts can you name yourself? If it’s zero, then that’s just the kind of world we’ve become. Apathetic to whatever is out there and looking inwards more and more.

2. Indirect Spin-offs

Did you know that Infrared ear thermometers were developed after NASA’s aural thermometer? So was ventricular assist drive. As well as the existence of artificial limbs. Yes, we as a society should directly thank NASA for their continued R&D in space exploration for being blessed with such practical tools.

Even though other objects like Velcro and Teflon have also been randomly associated with NASA’s research efforts, they aren’t the indirect spin-offs of NASA themselves. But the biggest spin-off that has impacted us humans (at least in the recent years) is the invention of a CMOS sensor. Yes, the same kind you’d find in your smartphone.

Our smartphones wouldn’t have great cameras, if NASA didn’t exist.

In the 1990’s, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory team was looking for ways to shrink cameras down for interplanetary travel. They came up with the camera-on-a-chip, also known as the CMOS sensor. Today, CMOS sensors are found in most of the world’s camera phones.

3. Natural Resources

We live in a planet with limited natural resources and the war for oil has already has catastrophic effects. We should not rely on these, if we want to sustain life on planet Earth for the next hundreds of years. Space exploration teams have already been trying to make the most of solar power to maximize the distance covered by their spaceships.

Our crops might soon turn to dust, lest we change
Our crops might soon turn to dust, lest we change

In fact, single-crystal silicon solar cells are now widely available at low cost only because of NASA’s efforts into solar as a feasible source of power. It’s a direct outcome of a NASA-sponsored 28-member coalition forming the Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (ERAST) Alliance.

ERAST’s goal was to develop remotely piloted aircraft, intended to fly unmanned at high altitudes for days at a time and requiring advanced solar power sources that did not add weight.

We Can Dream Again

Did we really need a Cold War to push us into landing on the Moon? Even if it did, we never have gone back to our orbiting satellite, since what’s the fun in that? NASA’s budget has depleted drastically over the past few years, even though they have continued to publish the list of spinoffs that have benefited us humans, every year.

Yet, we have somehow stopped dreaming of building rockets that can take us great distances. We can dream again. We should dream again. This dream will not only advance our view of Space and Time itself, but also continue to benefit us in ways that we can’t yet imagine. And yet, we are ready to argue about our own worldly problems that appear petty against the vastness of space.

The BIG Questions: Answered

Since we’re now dreaming, let’s take a step further. Humanity sure has questions of a lot of the burning questions and The Big Bang Theory as well as other major scientific breakthrough over the years have given us a deeper understanding of the world around us. Yet, some of the bigger questions remain.

How did life begin? Are we alone out there? Do Multiverses exist?

Like, what existed before the Big Bang? How did time start? Are multiverses real? If we can make a collective decision to start questioning everything and putting considerable resources into it, there will surely be a day when we can get really close to the answers to these.

Till then, we ought to back the space exploration program of every country and every organization backing it. Be it Government sponsored like NASA, or privately backed, like SpaceX.

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Chaitanya Tapase

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