7/5/12

Should the next president invest in space exploration?

7/5/12
I'm admittedly torn on the issue, at least regarding government-run space programs that cost billions. Especially during an economic non-recovery.

But Douglas Mackinnon makes a strong case:
Chinese leadership — the same leadership that has made hacking our military and commercial computers a priority — understands that no nation on earth is more dependent for its overall survival on its satellites than the United States... What if they went dark or were destroyed in orbit?

...But preeminence is space is about much more than military advantage. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, outlined that argument when he told Popular Science earlier this year:
If China sets up a permanent base on the moon, and tries to explore Mars on a time scale shorter than ours, that will be another space race. I am just certain of it. I am trying to get people to do this without having to view it as an act of war, or an act of a response to an adversary. One way is because of economics; the government could do this, and they could say, “The economic return is the scientists and technologists who invent the new tomorrow.” Space exploration is the carrot that incites people to become scientifically literate. So I view it as an economic development plan.
Maybe it’s time for the president and his Republican opponent to elevate a few issues to the “tangible” list regardless of personal or partisan self-interest. As China launches military satellite after military satellite while declaring its intention to colonize the moon, maybe preeminence in space should be one of them.
If money were no object, I'd be the first pushing for reachable goals within 5-20 years. Like more deep-space and asteroid-bound probes, manned flights to the moon--laying the foundation for a moon base, setting up a new Hubble on the dark side of the moon, gearing up for "robotic colonization" on Mars--setting the stage for manned missions. Further exploration of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. And yes, these are all physically doable with today's technology.
Right now that's just fantasy. I must confess, a part of me wants the Chinese to force our hand. But a much bigger part of me wants the private sector to step it up; profiting off of space is a lot nicer than paying for it.

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