Exploring the last frontier

Jack DeMaio
Staff Writer

It’s no secret that curiosity has long been the temptress of man’s appeal for exploration and the pursuit of knowledge. For centuries man has set his sights upon the night sky to not feel bound to the Earth he stands on, but to realize an alternative to the mundane life that’s so commonly lead. Not only does NASA aid in that pursuit, but the organization also provides an abundance of life saving technologies and information. To claim NASA is a waste of taxpayer money is an acutely false allegation. As long as humanity continues to thrive, our dependence on NASA and the aerospace industry will only increase.

nasa-roverIt seems odd to think about the everyday contributions to society that space exploration provides. After all, how does sending rovers to Mars help life here on Earth? Humanity’s investment in the aerospace business began in 1958; the year the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was founded. This paved the way for scientific advancement across the board with some serious everyday applications.

At the time of the organization’s creation, America was involved in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. The competition lead to America’s focus being set on doing what no nation has ever done before: sending man to the moon. To pull it off, America needed cutting edge technology that would allow the mission to be a resounding success. Likewise, sending rovers to Mars and probes to explore the deepest regions of our solar system required an immense amount of research and the invention of new materials and software.

The sole purpose of rovers and space-faring probes isn’t just to provide information of how the Earth and other planets work and develop. The technology used to create them holds dramatic implications for everyday life. NASA has either had direct contribution or direct influence over the creation of inventions such as Velcro, CAT and MRI scanners, memory foam, sunglasses (their ability to filter UV rays), surgical equipment used with LASIK procedures, kidney dialysis machines, infrared technologies, and so much more.

Even the GPS in your car or the cell phone you hold so dear would not exist if satellites weren’t carefully placed in orbit around our pale blue world. NASA has a section of their website that lists their contributions to technology here on Earth, called their Spinoff Database. Aside from these practical applications, the industry also aids in answering fundamental questions that have been tugging at man’s curiosity for centuries.

Aerospace allows us to observe and study planet-eating stars, supermassive black holes, and a variety of other celestial objects. Exploring space and its seemingly endless depths grants humanity a greater understanding of how the universe works, where it all came from, and what the future may hold. Space exploration may also answer the age-old question: are we really alone? By taking a closer look, NASA’s impression on the world becomes outstandingly evident. In addition to groundbreaking technologies and information that arise from the organization, NASA also caters to our security needs.mars duuude

If an asteroid the size of Asia were hurtling toward our fragile home, who would we call (Certainly not Ghost Busters)? The aerospace industry maps out the night sky and is able to track objects that may pass close to Earth. According to NASA, over ten thousand near-Earth objects have been discovered and cataloged. Of those ten thousand, 1,433 of them are classified as being potentially threatening to life on Earth. And yet, NASA’s budget has been continuously degrading these past few years.

America’s spending towards aerospace is currently $17.7 billion. That may sound like a lot, but NASA’s budget wavers in comparison to the $647 billion that’s spent on defense. Defense is certainly an important fraction of America’s budget, but in 2011 alone, nearly $20 billion was spent on simply providing air conditioning for U.S. tents. Eventually, Earth will not be the most habitable planet available to us anymore. It’s crucial to invest in technologies that will allow humanity to flee Earth if need be. It’s imperative to begin that investment now.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration will always exist as one of the most beneficial investments that not just America has made, but the world. Even being grossly underfunded for all they do, NASA manages to make the most out of every penny and focus their sights on the betterment of human life and understanding.

From practical contributions to society to asteroid defense plans, the aerospace industry is certainly deserving of a little more recognition than what’s given. It is in my highest hopes that America makes the effort to put science back at the top where it belongs.