Saturday, July 09, 2011

What Is Wrong With This View?

I saw this poll on CNN today that asked: 
"Is the knowledge we gain from space exploration worth the money governments spend on space programs?"
Imagine my surprise reading that 34% said "No."  "No."  That is one-third of the people who answered the question said, "NO!"  I'm not British, but this has me gobsmacked!  It is also distressing to me because I appreciate a lot of the derivative technology and products that arose out of the space program and see them in daily use in so many places enumerating them is not entirely possible.
I use computers and smart phones.  In the Air Force in 1978, I used to do data entry on old IBM key punch machines that would fill half a room and were so noisy you practically needed headphones.  The trays of punch cards were then taken to the computing center, put through a reader and the results captured on large reel to reel tapes that filled buildings half the size of a aircraft hanger.  Today I use a desktop PC which would barely fill an area 1/100th the space, a smart phone and an iPod.  Both memory compaction and parts miniaturization were revolutionized by the space program.  The progressive lens glasses I wear for my farsighted astigmatism and middle aged presbyopia weigh less than 2 oz.  In comparison, the single vision glass lenses I wore 35 years ago weighed close to 5.5 ounces.
Imaging technology used in medicine was improved on huge scale because of the space program.  Along with that we should note improvements in things like organ transplants, artificial hearts, machines that monitor our vital stats, respirators, UV protection suits for people with severe allergies to sunlight even prosthetics for limbs and face parts were vastly improved and made lighter, more flexible and even more aesthetically pleasing to the users as a direct result of the knowledge from the space program. 
A lot of sports equipment has also been made stronger yet lighter because of knowledge and applied materials science developed by the space program. 
Materials like carbon fiber have made our cars and aircraft lighter and more energy efficient.  Kevlar helps protect our cops and nomex in fabric helps keep our firefighters safe. 
What I'd like to see is that the one-third, that 34% put down and walk away from everything they use in their day to day life because the tools, gadgets, toys and conveniences used ALL have roots in the space program.  Do without if you think it's not valuable!  Please, just stop being hypocrites about it!   If you don't want it, then don't use it!

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