Everyone has heard one of the most iconic quotes of all-time from Apollo 11 mission commander Neil Armstrong, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” But what does that really mean? Chances are everyone in their lifetime has looked up into the stars and dreamed about going into space. The idea of going into space was never a reality until the latter half of the 20th century when the United States and Soviet Union began their race to space and the moon following World War II.
In 1961, the Russian’s sent the first man to space and eight years later, the United States put the first man on the moon.
Since then, there have been over 135 shuttle missions along with over 3,700 satellites launched into space. The great minds that are put together in planning these complex missions into space are creating new innovative ideas and technology. In doing so, space exploration costs hundreds of billions of dollars and many believe that is far too much of a cost to continue the program. While space exploration may exceed the desired costs, it is far too important to not continue the funding for the revolutionary turning point it is bringing. Space exploration should continue to be funded because of their mission to conduct research and expand the advancement of technology to help benefit the growth of humanity.
Following WWII, significant time and money were invested in programs regarding rocket propellants and nuclear propulsion. With the help of former German scientists and American scientists, the new organization AERL (Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory) became a national resource for innovations in rocket engine technology. The AERL influenced commercial and military programs and systems that are used today. In 1958, the AERL was renamed to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Industry). Over the last 60 years, the scientists and engineers have progressed and advanced aviation and our space exploration program. These discoveries have led the United States to be the primary leader in the aerospace industry.
In 1970, a Zambia-based nun sent a letter to NASA’s Associate Director for Science, Ernst Stuhlinger. In the letter she asked how he could suggest spending billions of dollars on a space program while there are starving children here at home on Earth? Stuhlinger responds by telling a true story of small feeble village located in Germany 400 years ago. In this village was one wealthy man, while everyone was ridden with disease and the plague. These villagers relied on this man for money, so they could provide medicine and food for themselves.
When one day, a traveling entrepreneur came through the town and met the wealthy man telling him how he’s been working on these glass lenses that are going to be revolutionary. The wealthy man hops right into the opportunity and devotes all his time and money into the project. The villagers become angry with the man pestering him with “Why are you not helping us instead of playing around with these silly lenses?” The man stood his ground saying, “I will support this man and his work, because I know that someday something will come out of it!” Good work did come out of it and the two created what we know as the microscope. The microscope later became one of the most important inventions in medicine history that later helped cure many diseases and plagues.
Besides the well-known aspects of space exploration, there have been developments and multiple benefits to the general public and society in many ways. Advancements in health and medicine, transportation, public safety, consumer goods, energy and environment, information technology and industrial productivity. These advancements have not only saved lives and made life easier but created thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue. Space exploration has serious measures they must follow down to every detail in order to succeed.
One of these is making sure the spacecraft is 100% clean of any foreign substance that could spread among the ship and even to the astronauts. For example, when thinking of an ambulance, it has disease ridden, bloody, germ spreading passengers riding in it every day. The idea of something spreading to another body is highly probable. NASA uses a device called an ‘AMBUstat’ that rids 99% of any foreign substances. Basically, it is a sterilized fogger that is placed in confined space for 22 minutes and emits water, peracetic acid, and hydrogen peroxide. Jason Thompson, the emergency product and research program manager stated,
“All you need to do is a five-minute cleanup—strip linen, throw away any visible trash, spot clean any visible matter—and run the fogger for 22 minutes. Let it sit for 15 minutes with the doors shut, and let it air out another 10 minutes,” he says: under an hour from start to finish to destroy “pretty close to 99 percent of the organisms in that space.”
As soon as medical officials heard of this successful device, inquiries rolled in from hospitals, schools, and jails (for inmate cells) that wanted this ‘AMBUstat’ to use this NASA invention.
Another revolutionary device that space exploration has brought us is called ‘FINDER’. ‘FINDER’ stands for ‘Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response’ and is a radar device that detects heartbeats trapped under wreckage. NASA’s constant attention to track weak radio signals and exploring out deep into the stars helped innovate this new technology to try and get a better signal and view. This device was just released in 2016 and is still working out it’s kinks but is soon expected to be in full use during disaster and emergency situations. David Miller, the Chief Technologist was asked about ‘FINDER’, he stated,
“NASA technology plays many roles: driving exploration, protecting the lives of our astronauts and improving — even saving — the lives of people on Earth. FINDER exemplifies how technology designed for space exploration has profound impacts to life on Earth”
One product that positively affects all families and babies across the world is baby formula. Space exploration and baby formula don’t really sound like they should go together, but when scientists of NASA were messing around with algae to try and create a way to produce oxygen in space through photosynthesis; they discovered certain and essential fatty acids in the algae that are in human breast milk. The fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA), are all-important in the development process of newborn babies and infants. Thanks to NASA, these babies and infants have a healthier and more nutritional additive to the alternative to breast milk.
In the 1970’s, the NASA agency urged its scientists to create special water filters so their astronauts can have clean water. And that’s just what they did. Using crafted filter cartridges and iodine, it created the perfect water filtration system for spacecraft. This paved the way for coming up with other ways to filter water for human consumption. Today, they’re even going as far as filtering human waste such as urine for human consumption.
The list is endless for inventions made by NASA. Each year NASA releases a “Spinoff” magazine that consists of dozens of new ideas and inventions that are benefiting life on earth. One aspect, and the most important aspect, regarding space exploration is the human aspect. Since the beginning of time, man has always desired to not only be 1st in achieving something, but the best. Societies that outperform other societies ending up being the strongest, healthiest, and most advanced society during their time.
The challenge of the unknown, not without the fear of failure has led to success and failure in space exploration. Throughout centuries, mankind has been developing and adapting to achieve the unknown. Cavemen learned to use fire for cooking, warmth and survival. Just 200 years ago, we learned to use and store electricity changing our lives through out the world for the better. The United States sent a man through 240,000 miles of what is the worst environment in the universe and landed on the moon. That leads to the questions of what new discoveries will space exploration lead to in our lifetime. Space exploration needs to continue to be funded as we continue to evolve as a race. The human race’s curiosity wills always get the better of them, and someday we might discover the human race isn’t the only race around the universe.