The Space Program

4 06 2008

Lately, I’ve increasingly been subjected to the verbal diarrhea regarding the money going into ‘useless’ scientific endeavors. Here’s a shocker: there is no such thing. A dollar going into furthering science will almost always be better spent in the long run than a dollar going anywhere else.

The masses bemoan that we don’t have time for “unimportant” things such as space exploration or stem-cell research, and instead want the public money diverted into supporting the growing brood of leaching army of lazy bastards whose sole purpose in life is to see if they can field a full battalion of children out of their pants.

Scientific advancement is often taken for granted by some, primarily by those who consider it a productive night if they can stuff Twinkies down their throats while watching non-stop CNN coverage on Jamie Lynn Spears. Modern science costs money. Modern science can also help society, in both direct and indirect ways. Just because there is no ‘cure for cancer’, that does not mean all other areas of inquiry should be put on hold. Science is often synergistic, and often involves diverse variety of fields before a solution can be produced. Worse, the need for quick solutions and instant gratification leads to bad strategies for science and forces shortcuts that harm everyone. Let’s look at something that seems to be the punching bag for everyone these days: space exploration.

First, the public’s pre-occupation with symbolic achievements (man on moon, the tin-can they call the Internal Space Station) causes real scientific progress to slow down. You go to the moon before you’re ready, after spending exorbitant amount of money, and then you stand still for the next forty years because you had no long term plan for the exploration of space. Everyone who knows anything about space travel knows that rocket ships will always be prohibitively expensive as not even Satan himself (or his minion, Karl rove) can alter the earth’s gravity, so there will never be long term consistent commercial exploitation of space. NASA is fine and dandy, but the human race will never see the real benefits unless it is cheap and easy for people to use the vast resources of space. Hell, mining one asteroid would provide billions of dollars worth of materials. But that does no good if it takes ten times that to actually get to the mining site.

The smartest way to move forward in space travel would be a plan such as the Space Elevator. Considering how much money we are throwing down the drain in government, the cost of such a tool would be miniscule. It may seem audacious but the cost of moving materials into space would become ridiculously cheap. We are giving up the prospect of access to virtually unlimited amount of resources because we are focused on useless steps like ‘Man on Mars’ instead of evolving a rational policy on the issue. If you could mine other planets or asteroids, the benefits for the global economy would be staggering. Trillions of dollars and millions of job would follow, and here’s a novel idea: that would do more to solve the social problems than simply throwing money into the black hole that is the inevitable endpoint of all social programs.

Another objection to science is that of religion. This is primarily evident in biology, and the ability to improve our genetic makeup. Soon, we’ll likely be able to modify our genes to make us stronger, healthier, better looking or one of a hundred other things. Spending a couple billion on that now would save us trillions, as we wouldn’t have to worry about treating genetic diseases that can be prevented. If everyone had the genes that ensured the best health, and the most resistance to disease, how much money would we save? But no, we don’t want to mess with the fucked up job that God did, so we’ll just leave it alone.

Finally, yet another objection is that of resources. You can’t say ‘well, so many people are starving’, so we won’t spend money on science. Unless you find a way to make a perfect human being, there is no way we will solve all of our social and economic ills, and you’re pretty much advocating a complete stand-still of all scientific progress forever.

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