Behind Moon Travel Goal, Big Talk and Little Money (NYT)
“Unless the president is willing to step up and take a bold step like President Kennedy did, the manned spaceflight program is going to go in the ditch,” said Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida.
The comments are depressing… the first two I saw said “Send the robots!” Ugh. But one of the Science reporters makes a good point: “The Augustine panel said it would take $150 billion over the next decade to execute NASA’s current program which leads to a moon landing in 2020. Of course, $150 billion is not a trivial sum of money. But to put it in a perspective, the cost of Medicare alone in 2009 will be about $429 billion, compared to NASA’s 2009 budget of $17.6 billion. To put it another way, if NASA were shut down completely and everyone got a check instead, that would come out to a refund of about $57.27 per person.”
Think of all the technology and the research that’s come out of the space program. NASA was recently awarded an emmy for engineering excellence for the camera and other innovations that led to the Apollo 11 broadcast. The award, specifically, is the Philo T. Farnsworth Award, and it’s given to someone whose “contributions over a long period of time that have significantly affected the state of television technology and engineering.”
I think it’s extremely important to continue space exploration and to conduct research and experiments in space. The space program benefits society in an immeasurable way: it inspires awe and hope about the capabilities of the human race, and it exposes generations to science, a subject that is increasingly important and, sadly, increasingly ignored.
I’m not sure how I’d feel about a private-sector space program, but I don’t think it would bother me as long as that research and those experiments can continue. There can still be government oversight, or government grants to fund projects they want to pursue, but in any case, something has to be done to make sure that the space program continues. We must continue to push for technological advancement or else our society, and our race, will become stagnant.