Space exploration is necessary for growth
On Nov. 12, a space probe the size of a refrigerator landed on a 3-mile-wide comet hurtling through space over 320 million miles away, a landing that took 25 years to accomplish. On Sept. 24, a probe named Mangalyaan successfully made it into Mars’ orbit, joining several other envoys that had already been sent. On Aug. 6, a nuclear-powered rover the size of an SUV landed itself to survey the red planet.
Since 1957, humanity has been launching robots and probes into every part of our solar system. At first, it was to gain a military advantage, but we realized we could learn from our trips into the void. People flew to the moon and probes further still. Data has been gathered from every planet, several moons and our sun.
The information we have gained from launching rockets into space has had a significant impact back here on Earth. According to NASA’s website, a brief list of benefits includes light-emitting diodes, artificial limbs, fire-resistant materials, memory foam, more efficient solar cells — the list goes on. If you have driven or flown, used a computer or a cell phone or even vacuumed your house, you have benefited from space travel.
Today, NASA will launch Orion.
Orion is a space capsule carried by an expendable rocket. It will be the first manned spacecraft to move beyond Low Earth Orbit since the Apollo missions (the last one, Apollo 17, ended 42 years ago).
In the interim, we have sent astronauts to LEO, an area of space ranging up to 2,000 kilometers from Earth’s surface. The things we have learned about the cosmos and our place in it have helped countless people and industries and will continue to do so.
However, this is not enough to fully realize the potential space provides.
In 2014, NASA was given about $17.7 billion, a fraction of 1 percent of the federal budget, to not only run its numerous missions simultaneously but to also plan and launch new ones. Every year, NASA presents a new budget, and occasionally, Congress grants more than NASA requests. But if we are to continue to grow as a species, we need to support this organization far beyond what is asked. We need to encourage our government to fund space exploration so we can build our future.
The solutions to medical, agricultural, mechanical and other problems all exist in space. We just need to go there and find them.
Nikhilesh De is a School of Engineering sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering. He is a staff writer for The Daily Targum.