Is Outer Space Good For America?

1978 words - 8 pages

But American presence in space is not just a power play; the scientific and technological benefits of space exploration remain its most invaluable quality. In the past, space initiatives have yielded countless meteorological benefits, including the prediction and management of hurricanes and other natural disasters. Surveillance, mass banking and communication, military intelligence, and environmental studies are all areas expanded through American space presence (Dubner n.p.). Not to mention the medical advances: Joan Vernikos, a member of the Space Studies Board of the National Academy and former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division, notes, “Studying humans living in the microgravity of space has expanded our understanding of osteoporosis and balance disorders, and has led to new treatments” (Dubner 13). Space travel has also aided in the invention of medical technology. The beneficiaries of instrumentation such as digital mammography, outpatient breast biopsy procedures, and the application of telemedicine to emergency care can thank manned space missions for their current implementation. For every dollar we spend on the space program, the U.S. economy receives about $8 of economic benefit, according to Hubbard, who also believes space travel “serves as a stimulus for children to enter the fields of science and engineering” (Dubner).
Also to take into account is the potential for space colonization, something space enthusiasts argue is “essential for the long-term survival of our species” (O’Neill n.p.). America always needs more land for its ever-increasing population, and Mars would do the trick. Though a hotly contested prospect in the late 20th Century which was dropped after space travel lost its novelty, global warming fears and ongoing Middle Eastern military conflicts have re-ignited the pursuit of American-led Mars colonization. Despite signaling the end of manned spaceflights, even President Obama recognized the potential of Mars, saying in his speech at the JFK Space Center “By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it” (Obama n.p.). But Mars isn’t just valuable for its land; its surface is potentially rich in life-sustaining minerals. As NASA scientists have now confirmed the former presence of water on Mars, the planet is assumed to be rich in minerals like calcium carbonate, which might have been left by dried up hot springs, thermal vents, lakes, or ponds far back in the planet’s history (Ames 25). Essentially, these are minerals required for human survival, the same that are dwindling on our planet. Mars has the potential to be an American terrestrial lifeboat, if we’re the first to get there that is.
But detractors believe a Mars colony would be an expensive, far-fetched project, a kind of pie in the sky for scientists living in a theoretical and economic bubble. Since NASA began its attempts to reach...

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