SPACE EXPLORATION MERIT BADGE
A Serious Look Space Exploration
Being a Little More Thoughtful Discussion of
Top Ten Reasons for Going Into Space
Note: the original list can be found here.
- Reason Number 10
- Colonization: it's a long shot, but there are serious people who
still claim that we can travel to mars and turn it into livable space for
humankind. The process is called "terraforming".
- Reason Number 9
- Intelligence Surveillance:
Ok maybe we wouldn't bother placing a spy satellite over the Hawaiian
Tropics contest (then again maybe we would) but the very first truly functional
(i.e. non-experimental) satellite was a U.S. spy satellite. This was the
Corona series, first operational in August of 1960. The U.S. maintained a
strong lead in this super-secret technology throughout the cold war and it
was the only distinct intelligence advantage this nation ever really had.
Since the U.S. won the cold war, you simply can't dismiss the importance
of this capability.
- Reason Number 8
- International Diplomacy: this one speaks for itself. It's the only
reason we went to the moon.
- Reason Number 7
- Natural Resources: this one may be reaching, but there
are people who believe that we would want to mine the asteroids & the moon
for minerals. The most credible argument for this is assuming we would want
to build a huge space structure and wouldn't want to have to loft the raw
material into earth orbit or higher on rocket power.
- Reason Number 6
- Researching the universe: this one also speaks for itself. The
discoveries and observations made from the Hubble telescope alone are
staggering, and could never have been made from earth because of the
obscuring effect of the atmosphere.
There are new discoveries being made every day, such as finding planets
around other stars and discovering the true structure of the outer solar
system (the Kuiper belt).
- Reason Number 5
- Technology Spin-Offs: this also speaks for itself, although the
list of new technologies just goes on and on and on. These new technologies
mean new industries, new jobs, and saved lives. For example, kidney dialysis,
which has kept (and still keeps) countless people alive, came from the Apollo
program. A new artificial heart came from technology used in Space Shuttle.
New insulin pumps can eliminate the need for injections for diabetics, and the
space program is constantly producing new materials for prosthetic devices.
- Reason Number 4
- Researching the sun, moon, and planets: - planetary probes like
Voyager, Pioneer, Viking and Pathfinder landers on Mars, Magellan probe to Venus,
these and others have all changed our entire view of the solar system and all
the planets. Nothing else has ever given us the close-up view of the planets
or their moons. For example, no telescope could ever have shown us the volcanoes
on Jupiter's inner moon Io or the ice on Jupiter's second moon Europa. Nothing
could ever have given us the clue that there could be life on those moons, aside
from the space probes we've sent.
With these probes and the new, powerful orbiting telescopes we've put in
place, we are updating our once-simple view of the solar system - learning
about the many asteroids and comets and their complex orbits. We are only
now becoming aware that an asteroid or comet may have been the
end of the dinosaurs, and could be the end of us. By studying our solar
system, knowing what's there and what threatens us, and devising the capability
of averting disaster, space exploration could mean the very survival of
the human race.
We may care very much some day about this reason for space exploration.
- Reason Number 3
- Marvin's autograph: well maybe not his, but the more we learn about
our solar system and the universe the more likely it is that we'll someday
contact intelligent life.
- Reason Number 2
- Satellites in orbit: The biggie in my opinion - you would not
be reading this page if it weren't for communications satellites that make
the world wide web possible. Thousands and thousands of lives would be lost
each year to hurricanes if it weren't for weather forecasting satellites.
Even the war in Iraq would have come out differently (and not in favor of
the allies) if it weren't for satellite positioning capabilities. The
civilized world owes much of what it is today to satellite technology.
- Reason Number 1
- Because it's there: This one may seem whimsical but it is not. The
society that stops exploring and begins to stagnate begins to die. It is
only through the constant effort to learn and to achieve that we remain
vigorous, bright, and strong. The fact that we don't know yet what is out
there, and the fact that space represents our final limitation, is reason
enough for us to strive to master it. Note that the same could be said for
the ocean floor.
On to The Great Space Debate (Why Spend the Money?)
Back to Space Exploration Home Page
Your questions and comments regarding this page are welcome.
You can e-mail Randy Culp for inquiries,
suggestions, new ideas or just to chat.
Updated 16 August 1999