Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Shuttle Launch Gets No Respect

I came across a
Reuters article today announcing that the big three major television networks will be airing Wednesday's shuttle launch live during their daytime programming.

What startles me is that this needs to be announced. I really can't understand why more people are not more interested in the space program. This launch is basically only getting this type of coverage because of the Columbia disaster according to the article, which claims that it is likely that "public interest will wane after the first few successful missions." (Of course the 24 hour news networks will have extensive coverage because there is no major child molestation case for them to cover, so they need something to fill the air time between car chases and terrorist attacks.) It is startling to me that both the networks and the public are not as impressed with every shuttle launch. Think about what the fuck it means to travel to space! Yet the runaway bride - she gets primetime coverage?!! What the hell is wrong with you America.

I know some people might even view the space program as a waste of money. I couldn't disagree more. Cigarettes are a waste of money (both buying the pack and paying for your lung cancer treatments 20 years later). Most of Defense spending is a waste of money (and I realize there is an unfortunate overlap between NASA and Defense technology contractors). But to me, the space program is about the only exorbitant government spending I am in favor of in theory - it produces results, it has the potential to change humanity for the BETTER, and it inspires millions of people to think about existence beyond their own experience. Not to mention, it is really the only "cool" scientific field left in a time when less and less children are pursuing the sciences in schools. Still not convinced? Here are some contributions NASA has made to the world:
  • Kidney dialysis machines were developed as a result of a NASA developed chemical processes
  • Water purification technology used on the Apollo spacecraft is now used to kill bacteria, viruses and algae in community water supply systems and cooling towers
  • Cordless power tools & appliances are one of the most successful commercial spin-offs of space-based technology
  • Grooved runway techniques developed by NASA to channel water are now applied to highways (where they have reduced accidents 85%) and airport runways (where tire friction performance in wet conditions has improved threefold).
  • Your high performance shock absorbing running shoes and protective helmets utilize NASA technology from space suits
  • Bar coding was originally developed to keep track of NASA's millions of parts and tools - good thing that one never took off
  • Imaging devices developed for the much-criticized Hubble Telescope are now used in breast cancer scans that can detect difference between a malignant and benign tumor without the need for surgical biopsies.

There are about 1,400 other documented inventions that can be attributed to the space program - not including all of the offshoots that those inventions later helped to produce. And I didn't even touch on the satellite technology and environmental breakthroughs that effect our lives in more ways than we can even count. I don't want to get bogged down in statistics, but I did read that it is estimated that the space program earns up to seven times more revenue for the U.S. from the jobs and economic growth its innovations produce than from its R&D costs. And consider these innovations all come from less than 1% of our nation's budget.

Is there mismanagement of funds at NASA? Of course - it is a large government program. I'm sure improvements and reforms could be made. But to me, NASA is suffering from a PR problem. The fact that the public isn't more mesmerized by the achievements of EVERY space shuttle mission is incredibly discouraging. So please tune in tomorrow, visit the NASA website, and learn more about the amazing human achievement of space exploration. There is the potential for this type of research to change our future - and the least we can do is take an interest in the shuttle mission as brave astronauts risk their lives for science.

3 comment(s):

  • Dude...you forgot about Tang. Where would we be without Tang?

    By Blogger afsdfsdsa, at 12:04 PM  

  • The VP of FSU came to speak to my class my freshman year about his time as an astronaut and ever since then I have so much respect for them. But I guess I always have since the highlight of growing up in Vero Beach, FL is seeing them take off. Great Posting!

    By Anonymous Jackie, at 12:20 PM  

  • I agree with your posting fullheartedly but I wish you would adjust the language, perhaps by changing the f-word to f***, so that it's more PG friendly and nobody will be turned off from viewing it.

    Kudos for doing the work to put this information all in one place.

    By Anonymous James, at 12:16 PM  

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