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Why should the U.S. Continue to Pursue the Exploration of Space

October 24, 2008

There are people in the U.S. that claim our National space program is a waste of money, and this money would be better spent; feeding the hungry, paying down the national debt, increasing spending on education, and the list of reasons goes on and on. The fact of the matter is the entire U.S. space program is only a tiny fraction of the overall yearly budget, estimated at somewhere between 0.7% and 0.8%. The American space program costs the average American less than $60 a year in taxes; that is less than the average person spends on food or entertainment or their cell phone bill each month! As for the benefits, the technological contributions we receive back for this small expenditure vastly outweighs the up front costs.

The American space program, from its earliest days through the present, has lead to thousands of technological advancements that are used everyday by our citizens. These new technologies have increased our national security, safety, lead to medical advancements, increased energy efficiency (which makes for a cleaner environment), saves lives, and increases our overall quality of life. Some of the technological benefits we have seen from the space program are:

Items used around the average American household

  • Better Insulation. Aluminum heat shields from the Apollo program are used in homes to drastically reduce home heating and cooling costs, making homes more energy efficient which leads to lower power consumption.
  • Smoke Detectors. These devices are standard in every home now, and were created for the Skylab space station in the early 1970′s.
  • Better satellite technology for worldwide communication and television broadcasts.
  • Small in home water purification systems were originally invented to purify water on early space missions.
  • Cordless power Tools. NASA asked Black and Decker to develop a cordless power tool for use by the Apollo astronauts to collect deeper core samples on the moon. This invention lead to the wide range of cordless power tools in use today, including the first dust busters.

Items leading to a cleaner environment

  • Satellite mapping used for forest management and weather.
  • Hydroponic systems for the growing of food sources.
  • Pollution measuring/smokestack monitor devices used in factories.
  • Advances in solar energy technology.

Items used by the medical field

  • Advancements in laser technology, now adapted to conduct laser heart and eye surgeries.
  • Better technologies used for conducting mammograms.
  • A spin-off from the Hubble Space Telescope has lead to a less intrusive and more method for conducting breast biopsies through digital imaging.
  • NASA developed technologies were adapted for use in CAT scan and MRI machines.
  • Infrared Thermometers. NASA technology used for measuring the heat of stars and distant planets was adapted for use in infrared thermometers common in every home and hospital today.

Advancements to aid in Firefighting and public safety

  • Lighter weight Respiration systems developed for Apollo astronauts were adapted for use in fire fighting.
  • Rescue jaws used by firefighters to quickly cut through doors and roofs in order to get to trapped accident victims inside.
  • Newer light weight and portable radiation detectors.
  • Personal alarm systems used by firemen, prison guards, the elderly, etc.
  • Self righting life rafts.
  • Doppler radar used for storm warning and tracking, to include wind shear detection used at major airports in the U.S.

The above list in not all inclusive; it is only a fraction of the items which were developed as a result of the U.S. space program. The total number of technological achievements gleaned from NASA space programs numbers in the thousands. Future missions planned for the moon and Mars will only aid in pushing technology further and serve as a catalyst for the next generation of technological advances that future generations will undoubtedly take for granted.

Check out the following sources for more information on this topic:

  1. http://www.nasa.gov/missions/science/f_apollo_11_spinoff.html
  2. http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html
  3. http://www.lunarproperties.com/page/28
  4. http://techtran.msfc.nasa.gov/at_home.html
  5. http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/space/2005-10-04-questions-answers-griffin_x.htm

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About the Author:
Sally Reynolds is a Liberal Arts student from Palm Beach, Florida, who loves shopping, space and writing.

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