Why Space Travel?

1. Jan 7, 2004

iKwak

I never understood space programs and the need of NASA. Someone help me.
What is the point of spending billions of dollars to get an expensive craft out of Earth and various space programs?
What is water exists on Mars? What is we find living organisms on other planets?
Shouldn't the U.S. and other super country worry about the planet Earth that we live in? Spend the money to discover new technologies- how to reduce global warming, reduce traffic congestion and air condition, expedite cancer research, start an agriculture program in third countries and lot more.

2. Jan 8, 2004

Artman

The solution to some of the items you listed may be found in exploration of other worlds.

In another thread in this section we were debating the importance of astronomy as a science. Some of the points made were that much information about global warming and greenhouse effect was discovered as a result of studying Venus.

One reason for study of Mars is that we are concerned that if it had water in as much abundance as we have it on earth, where is it now? What caused the oceans on Mars to dry up? Is it something we can prevent from happening on earth or is it our destiny as well?

Cancer research has benefited from study of other worlds. Some of the techniques used to improve Hubble space telescope images has been used in early tumor detection in mammagrams.

Satelites are used to monitor agriculture growth trends and may some day help predict earthquakes. They also aid in communication, and navigation.

3. Jan 8, 2004

cragwolf

Well, some good points from Artman, but the reason we do space exploration is not to cure cancer on Earth, not to eliminate poverty, not to save frogs from extinction. We do it out of curiosity, the desire to know. No astronomer I knew became an astronomer because he wanted to save the world. Of course, as with most human endeavours there are going to be side benefits, or spin-offs to space exploration, which will help solve some of humanity's problems. But space exploration would continue with or without these spin-offs.

So, iKwak, I ask you ... why do you spend money on a TV, CDs, DVDs, books, the internet, a bicycle, a car, going out to restaurants and cafes, etc etc? Why not spend that money on supporting or sponsoring a child living in poverty? Why not simplify your life down to the bare necessities, and spend the rest of your salary on helping the sick and the poor? Why should we collectively do anything different to what you're doing?

4. Jan 12, 2004

Phobos

Staff Emeritus
Here's the other discussion Artman mentioned...

Welcome iKwak.

Why do astronomy & the associated things? It's part of human nature! (curiosity, exploration, etc.)

Why would a government spend billions of dollars on it? Because this kind of science & technology goes hand-and-hand with political, military, and economic power. Strong & successful science/technology programs are a point of national pride and earn respect from the other countries of the world. Rockets and satellites have obvious military applications. The Apollo moon landing was funded to such great degrees because the US wanted to win the space race with the USSR (democracy fighting communism through pride & demonstrated power). High science & technology translates to economic benefits (consider the telecommunications industry) and higher standards of living. Note that many countries are trying to join the Space club (China, Japan, Israel, Brazil, Nigeria,....) so they can give a boost to their countries too.

The scientist may be primarily interested in finding water on Mars, but the government is only willing to foot the bill because it is in the country's best interest (prestige, technological advances, etc.). Note that the government stopped paying for SETI because they felt its cost outweighs its benefit (that program is continuing under private funds). The government frequently cuts back NASA's outer planets/deep space programs (like a mission to Pluto or Jupiter's moons) but seems to be more comfortable funding higher visibility projects closer to home (e.g., shuttle, space station, Earth observation, satellites).

5. Jan 12, 2004

ScionPunk352

I'll start off with a discussion that me and a kid at my school had about why spend so much money on the space program. It started off with a simple question, would you rather donate money to a religious institution, or a medical institution. He said religious, and I asked why, he said because at a hospital you have to pay thousands of dollars for surgery. i simply said in reply, and at a church you will get surgery for free. Then he proceeded to saying some stuff about the space program, and I simply told him...if you are going to be yelling at us about the space program, you might wish to check your own personal choices on where your money is going, because my money would go to a medical and space institution much sooner than a religious institution. This is not only because I am athiest, but also because I believe that if we manage to discover our roots, the ones that were buried in the cosmic dusts that formed our solar system, and planet, then we will have accomplished one of our goals as human beings. The desire to learn, as well as the desire to have knowledge is pretty much the biggest reasont that he are doing the space travel, because we want to know how we as human beings came to be, and why earth is one of the few planets in our knowledge that is perfect for substaining life.
-Bob Smith

6. Jan 15, 2004

Phobos

Staff Emeritus
some excerpts from President Bush's speech about his new space initiative...

7. Jan 15, 2004

ScionPunk352

So basically the reason for space travel...in the long run...is to help save our earth. Without space travel, we wouldn't be able to do all of the experiments that we have been doing, and things wouldn't be as good as they are right now. Space travel is the final frontier as they say in star trek...lol...

8. Jan 15, 2004

Njorl

It is not just scientific curiosity though. You could answer more questions with the same money if we eliminated manned space flight and spent the money on other scientific ventures. It is irrational, crotch-grabbing, rooster-strutting, arrogant pride that accounts for a lot of it.

People who claim we don't know what benefits there might be as a reason for doing it have never written a research proposal. If I write a proposal for even $100,000 without saying what might be gained, I will be dismissed with much anger and yelling. But sticking a guy on Mars for no reason, hell that's cheap at$500 billion.

Njorl

9. Jan 15, 2004

LURCH

We are going because we must go. That is human nature; we are incapable of not going.

10. Jan 15, 2004

ZZ Boson

Thank you Mr. President and may God bless the Sun, the Moon and especially Mars.
And bless those millions of competitive little Sino buggers who helped point your way to the cosmos.
Please earmark my tithing to Faith-Based Space Exploration.

11. Jan 16, 2004

Arcon

I'll respond to this from the point of view of a cancer survivor. It's not like if we don't explore space that this money will be diverted to the programs that you suggest. In all likelyhood people would rather keep that money in their pocket and remain satisfied with the amount of money going into the areas you suggested. But let's suppose that's not the case and that money got diverted to those areas. As such there'd be more cancer research. To me, personally, that would mean that if I come out of remission then there is a greater chance of surviving it now. How much greater? Not that signifigant really. The picture the difference in probablility being about the same as me getting killed in a car accident this year. While I can't speak for anyone else I consider that an acceptable risk.

One question that people never ask themselves is this: Fine! Okay! I was cured of cancer. Now what? What do I want to do while I'm hear? Personally I'd like to see people walk on Mars before I die.

All my life I've looked forward to the new and wonderful things science will discover by the act of exploration. Disovery does not mean that we know where the answers lie and we simply walk over there and retrieve them. It means that we explore everywhere and we get lucky and make discoveries mostly by accident.

12. Jan 16, 2004

Hurkyl

Staff Emeritus
I'm not so sure that diverting the money from the space program to other things would still permit discovery of the same terrestial benefits.

Without the immediate need to research technologies related to space travel, people aren't gonna research technologies related to space travel (duh!), and more than likely, all of the technologies related to space travel that are useful terrestially would not be discovered (or be discovered much later).

*shrug*

Blame capitalism.

13. Jan 16, 2004

Perhaps we should have just stayed in an African rift valley a million years ago and avoided the danger and waste of effort in seeing what was over the horizon..... or perhaps not.

14. Jan 16, 2004

Njorl

Had we started trying to send a man to Mars 25 years ago, we would not have made very much progress. We would certainly not have robots there now if we had spent the effort on manned flight before.

What do we give up by sending humans? Let's make a direct comparison to a future unmanned effort. Instead of researching ways to keep a person alive on a prolonged space trip, you research robotics and artificial intelligence. A manned mission requires people, the means to keep them alive, and the fuel to bring them back, in addition to the insturments needed for any scientific endeavor. The unmanned mission would leave behind the unnecessary elements - food, water, air, people, extra feul - and increase the laboratory capacity.

So, the unmanned mission will be more effective and it will have better fruits of ancillary technology (AI and robotics vs space living). That leaves glory as the only reason for sending people.

There's nothing wrong with glory. I'd like some. Neil Armstrong, the USA and the human race as a whole acheived glory in that "small step". It was glorious because we did not know we could do it until we did it. That is not true about walking on Mars. We know we can do it. How is it glorious? If we decide to do it, it is only a matter of time and money, like digging a big ditch. Why bother?

Njorl

15. Jan 16, 2004

Staff: Mentor

Hubble. Its the single most important/successful scientific instrument in history.

Re: where the money goes. I'm a big fan of the space program and we need to keep it. But the space program gets a tiny amount of money these days and it needs to be used carefully to get the most out of it.

16. Jan 16, 2004

Njorl

17. Jan 17, 2004

How much would it cost to develop a robot with the thought capacities and mobility of a Human? It hasn't been done and can't be done without spending billions. Fortunately, we have the technology to send one of these miracle thinking, moving objects (ie a human) to Mars and all it needs is some food and shelter.

As for costs, Shuttle is basically past its sell by date and a new space transportation system is needed. The costs involved will be massive. This will be needed whether we send robots, or humans and their supplies, to Mars and the Moon. Unless by robots you mean the small limited ineffective things that they have sent recently?

So what's the difference?

We either spend a huge amount trying to replicate humans with robotics, or we can spend huge amounts getting humans there to do the job!
I'm sure that the public that pay for it all would prefer the human option.

18. Jan 17, 2004

Staff: Mentor

Acutally, I had (they announced a couple of days ago that the servicing mission would be cancelled, just not what the implication was - but its not hard to gues). But that wasn't really what I meant anyway: I meant if we had put out efforts into manned exploration of Mars 25 years ago, we never would have had a Hubble. I guess the statement I quoted from you, you were looking forward - I was looking backwards.

Looking forwards though, I fear for the Origins Program.

Last edited: Jan 17, 2004
19. Jan 17, 2004

Staff: Mentor

That really is a non sequitur - the perfect example of why is what happened last week with Spirit: There was a problem with the planned exit ramp so humans directed Spirit to rotate and take a new one. For a human to be in the driver's seat instead of directing it from Earth would cost 2 to 3 orders of magnitude more - the combined Spirit and Opportunity missions cost a combined totalof about \$500,000,000 - roughly equal to a single shuttle launch.
The difference is we won't be building a replacement for the Shuttle. The new vehicle will be a shuttle in a truer sense of the word - it won't carry much cargo.
Nope. That isn't the choice at all. The choice is: spend a tiny amount of money to do things with robots or do other, less useful, and hugely more expensive things with humans.

20. Jan 17, 2004