Thursday, May 15, 2014

NASA : The risks and rewards of exploring outer space

by Christian Glatz

“Earth is the cradle of mankind, but one cannot live in the cradle forever” (Konstantin Tsiolkovsky).  We are destined to explore, when you observe a toddler the one thing he wants to do more than anything is crawl and go off to the unknown… and place anything he finds in his mouth, but I digress.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was established on July 29, 1958. NASA’s main purpose is to conduct aeronautics and aerospace research, focused on better understanding Earth through space.
During the Nerd Nation convention I attended an Educational Forum headed by NASA’s Director of safety and Mission Assurance from the Kennedy Space Center, he gave us a first-hand look at the risks and rewards of exploring celestial frontiers.
So, have you ever thought “What does NASA do for me?” Well, do you like your polarized sun glasses? Or your cellphone? How about using GPS to navigate while driving? Or have you ever used Velcro??. In order for humans to be able to survive in space, scientist have to come up with cutting edge technology which then is used for everyday life. This research does not come cheap, during the 1960’s NASA got as much as 5 billion dollars (Today’s money is $33 billion), at the same time that’s when technology had an exponential growth. The money was used to send humans to the moon, place research satellites around the earth, send research robots to Mars, and send exploration satellites outside of our solar system.
Exploration outside our planet is very risky, even though we have developed automation, there are some things robots can’t do and that’s why we need astronauts. NASA has thousands of people that work day and night making sure that our astronauts can go out, conduct the research, and then come back home alive. A research study conducted to identify how many asteroids are around our solar system that can potentially strike earth concluded that there are over 15 thousand of them. The effort now a days is to understand asteroids and figure out a way to prevent their collision with earth.
Going back to the budget, unfortunately the it has been decreased so much that NASA had to retire all the space shuttles and now we have to pay other countries about 63 million dollars per astronaut to be able to send them to the international space station and allow them to conduct further research.
I believe an agency dedicated to exploration, and whose research byproducts benefit us all should continue getting funds. We don’t want to take a risk and be annihilated by an asteroid, when we can prevent it. An example of an asteroid impacting earth in the last 100 years, look up TUNGUSKA EVENT.

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