SPACE EXPLORATION MERIT BADGE

Shuttle Ready to Launch

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?)

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Questions

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