This year marks the fifty sixth anniversary of NASA and a series of other half-century commemorations of some of the first milestones of the organization in terms of space flight. The fiftieth anniversary of the first landing on the moon, marked in 2009, was a reminder of the strides taken by man, particularly by the United States in terms of space travel. What was once only a fantasy, human travel into space and other worlds, is part of man’s proud history. The question now is: what lies in the future? In spite of the exciting accomplishments made by man, there are many questions surrounding space flight and why there is a funded program whose main purpose is just to send people to space (Baxter 2). What are the advantages of doing this? What is the rationale behind making huge investments for a program in times of an economic crisis? These questions have surrounded spaceflight since its inception but their seriousness cannot be overemphasized today. Earlier on, the competition for perceived military superiority after the Second World War and in the years of the Cold War, necessitated investment of resources into the space program. However, in peace time, space flight appears unnecessary. Only the sheer joy of exploration seems to justify sending human beings into space. However, various researchers disagree on this, stating that there are valid reasons for space travel. This paper presents arguments why space flight is beneficial to the United States.
First, space flight impacts society in terms of promoting science education. Development of safe, effective and efficient space craft is one of the challenges which have to be overcome if man is to reach space destinations safely (ISECG 2; NASA 3). Developing aircraft suitable for space travel in turn provides various scientific challenges whose solutions have to be developed through research and experimentation. The fascination of space travel inspires children and students to become astronauts, engineers and rocket scientists. The popularity of science education has been on the decline in the United States. Space activity such as the return of NASA into the moon, or the highly anticipated flight into mars using manned aircraft, would re-inspire a whole new generation of young scientists (Baxter 2). The duty for every generation to educate subsequent generations may be achieved through science, an area to which space travel is part of. The development of space incubators affords young entrepreneurs with opportunities to create new goods and services for application in the non-space sector. This adds value to space program investments.
Secondly, the scientific research and knowledge gathered in the attempt to put man on planet mars can be transferred into other areas of science and other industries. For example, developments in metallurgy and material science made by NASA have been applied to the airplane manufacturing industries as well as in car manufacturing. The area of computing is also improved greatly by the need to solve some of the mathematical challenges encountered in space exploration and research (ClassZone.com. 1; Jessa 2). Space activities foster the consolidation of manufacturing capabilities. Spacecraft and equipment requires a high level of precision which challenges existing manufacturing standards to become better. The overall result is improvement in manufacturing and the raising of standards in various sectors. Some of the materials preferred for use in vehicles today were first used by NASA to build lightweight but strong spacecraft. This indicates the importance of the space program on science and various industries.
Thirdly, space travel fosters research into environmental conservation. NASA, who burn millions of gallons of fuel in their aircraft, also conduct a lot of environmental research through their satellites and spacecraft. The effect of greenhouse gas emissions by industries and vehicles is determined in part through satellite imaging and the wealth of experience obtained from extraterrestrial exploration and travel. This information is important because it equips discourse and global policy on the need to cut on carbon emissions for the sake of future generations. The impact of man’s activities such as mining and deforestation, as observed from space, provides a real picture of the need to control the degradation of the soil surface and encroachment into animal habitats. Equipment from NASA provides images of space and the upper atmospheres which help scientists and meteorologists to predict weather and to identify insightful changes in climate (Logsdon 2). Hurricanes and tornadoes are forecasted through satellites. This makes it possible for authorities to evacuate people from affected areas and to save lives. NASA has also done extensive research in air quality, alternative energy and climate change as well as extraterrestrial bodies such as meteorites and comets which may damage the earth. Without the space program, insights on climate and the environment would not be as extensive as they are today.
Fourthly, space travel has brought about a diverse team of scientific knowledge and personnel from many countries, helping to advance the concept of one world. After Apollo 8 took pictures of the earth from space, people all over the world began to view themselves in a different light. This is because for the first time, the wholeness of the planet was achieved in a single unifying moment. The beauty encapsulated by that first picture led to the notion and term of “One World.” This “oneness” has since translated into collaboration in space exploration and research. This collaboration between various nations in the world is important for world peace and economic development. Today, space teams from the United States, Russia, India, China, the United Kingdom, and Brazil etc have worked on various space projects. The wealth of information from multiple disciplines, diverse perspectives and different education ideologies contributes to the technological know-how of participating countries. The advantage of this is that this knowledge trickles down to other sectors in their countries and contributes to overall development. Collaborations between countries promote regional economic development through increased contact and communication. These efforts are transferred into other forms of cooperation and transfer of cultures. This is a value to humanity which may not be possible to express in numerical or monetary terms but whose implications for a better world are far-reaching (Williams 1). Communications and improvement in technologies such as the internet were borne out of the necessity to communicate with aircraft and satellites in space. This has had a tremendous impact on globalization and driving business and innovation. This implies that the value space travel to the United States is high. Critical thinking is required for one to fully appreciate its importance.
The fifth advantage of space travel and the sector of space exploration is that it provides job opportunities for researchers, engineers, developers, rocket scientists, doctors and a host of other professionals. At NASA, for example, many people are employed in various capacities in various locations. This is important because it provides livelihoods and encourages students to work hard and develop themselves career-wise.
Since the inception of NASA slightly over half a century ago, there have been numerous developments in the area of space travel. The future of space travel is uncertain, especially with the ongoing debate, where opponents of space travel question its importance to Americans today. At a time of great economic challenges, many people are of the opinion that space travel is unnecessary, especially because it has prompted huge economic investments. However, there are various benefits of space travel. First, space travel impacts society in terms of promoting science education. Coping with the challenges of getting to space has prompted extensive research and experimentation. The fascination of space travel encourages and inspires a generation of young scientists. Secondly, the knowledge gathered in the process of making space travel a reality has been transferred to other sectors such as manufacturing. Computing and information technology also resulted from the wealth of knowledge acquired from space programs. The third reason is that the space exploration sector fosters research and the development of insights in environmental conservation. Satellite data and imaging is important for the forecasting of climate as well as other natural occurrences such as tornadoes and tsunamis. In addition, job opportunities for researchers, engineers, developers, rocket scientists, doctors and a host of other professionals are made available in space programs. At NASA, for example, many people are employed in various capacities in various locations. This is important because it provides livelihoods and encourages students to work hard and develop themselves career-wise.
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