Return On Investment
November 26, 2012
I am not a scientist. I am simply an older, retired taxpayer with a love of science borne of growing up during man's conquest of space and stepping foot on the moon. I was a science major in college but never worked in the field. No one has to persuade me of the intrinsic value of basic research or the benefits to society of exploration of space or any other scientific exploration. But as a baby boomer disappointed at the stage we are at in human exploration, I think it needs to be pointed out to Planetary Society members that not everyone, by a long shot, believes as we do. When I was a young man watching the Apollo program unfold I believed with certainty that we would have bases on the moon by distant 2012. The economic constraints to that hopeful vision are now even greater in this era of budget deficit reduction (which I agree with to protect our children's future). I have read with interest comments by society members advocating robotic research versus human exploration and the advantages of each. Some thought human exploration too expensive and not feasible. I would like to point out to planetary exploration enthusiast that what will determine whether our children and grandchildren will accomplish in exploring and colonizing new worlds is not technology but psychology. Without the collective will of the general, and unfortunately growing non-scientific masses, to back these endeavors with their tax dollars, exploration of any kind will not happen. People have to have a sense of investment in something to commit financial and human resources to it. I do not think it pessimism to state that unless we, in the long run, commit human lives to exploration that exploration itself, robotic or otherwise, will cease. The growing pressures on the United States budget going into the 21st century doom significant commitment of resources in the decades to come. In my view the only way to overcome that difficulty is human exploration with establishment of temporary and permanent bases on the moon and eventually Mars. And since that is obviously an expensive undertaking the only sustainable way to bring it about is an economic return on investment. We must devote our resources to locating and producing consumable products be it rare earth elements, minerals, gold, diamonds, solar energy, or whatever is out there in order to get commitment from our society, the majority of whom think space exploration is a wasteful folly. There is no guarantee the progress made thus far will continue past the next administration around the corner.
An asteroid or comet headed for Earth is the only large-scale natural disaster we can prevent. Working together to fund our Shoemaker NEO Grants for astronomers, we can help save the world.