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April 15, 2010

To The Stars – Broken Dreams of NASA

by Joseph

I’ve been debating writing this post for well over a month, but I feel like I should. I’m not a scientist, I’m just a geek who has has romantic dreams about space and feels like the US is rudderless with space exploration. I was raised on a good diet of Sci-Fi shows, novels, and movies about space. I feel like the current administration hasn’t given us any defined goals, just no more moon missions and here is a bunch of extra money to do Low Earth Orbit things. NASA itself is conflicted on what to day. Ask a variety of scientist or people on what we should do in space and you’ll get as many answers as people you ask.

The current administration doesn’t feel like we should return to the moon. Why? If we plan to go to Mars at some point the Moon is a perfect training ground. It would allow us to try to set up a base and give us some prep on how a Mars mission may unfold. With the discovery of water on the Moon we can learn to harvest it in preparation for Mars. This would be invaluable knowledge that will serve a purpose. In addition the knowledge of how to build architecture on a foreign bodies surface with in three days range would be easier than one that is 6 months or more away.

I feel as though NASA’s goals are not clearly defined. It feels like no really knows what direction to send the space program in. President Obama has selected a flexable option for NASA which cancels the Constellation program. It looks like Congress is going to fight that cancelation only to look good for their home districts. Yes NASA does some amazing things and will continue to do amazing things with their budget, but I wonder what they could achieve if we set some vary daring goals for the agency. Going to asteroids and the like is all good, but that can be accomplished with missions to the Moon. If we can land on the Moon we can land on an asteroid.

My other issue with the lack of vision for NASA is it’s been over 30 years since we last touched down on the Moon. We have not had anything to excite the population. Someone needs to say NASA this is your next target whether it’s the Moon or Mars. Excite the population and we can do amazing things dare I say impossible things. I feel as though we are not doing enough to show the youth of today the wonders of exploration and science. Some days I could be day dreaming about when I will see a man on the Moon again. I know at the pace NASA is taking I will never live to see a man walk on Mars. That is something I hope will happen and I hope to be proven wrong about.

While doing some cleaning through some of my parents things I found two large format TIME Magazines about the moon landings. After thumbing threw them I knew that if that same excitement was around when I was younger I would have a very different career than I do now. Science can help fuel our imaginations about what’s next or about the amazing things we can accomplish if we work together.

I know that all the Science Fiction tv shows and novels are not the future. But it’s fun to imagine and wonder what if, right? They do serve a purpose, to make us wonder when we will break free of being happy with circling the this blue marble. Out there is space, a very interesting place that will show us things that we have yet to dream about. Who knows what we will encounter when we take the first major steps out of our cradle towards a larger destiny. I love science almost as much as I love technology, in fact without science technology wouldn’t exist.

Science is very important to us all, without it we would not have the everyday items in our lives. From the cell phones we use everyday to the microwave in our offices that heat our lunches to the computer you are reading this on it is all based on science. I can only imagine what we will create and what new items will be in everyday use in the future.

Sometimes I look up at the night sky and wonder what would it be like to actually see the Orion Nebula or the Pleiades Cluster from a spaceship. To go places where few have traveled and to encourage others to push forward into that frontier. I wonder how much more beautiful the Butterfly Nebula would look in person then through Hubble images. I then stretch my hand forward toward the skies and To The Stars . . . . .  only for that to come crashing back down to Earth. Maybe, just maybe, someone will dream big again and let their imagination inspire us to achieve the impossible. If we don’t use our imagination that’s a shame. It’s what allows us to bring our dreams into reality.

Dr. Phil Plait also has an excellent write up about this very same lack of vision which you can check out here: 40 years later, failure is still no longer an option

I’ll leave you with one video that inspired a generation back in the 60’s to reach out for dreams of the impossible, maybe one day we will have a speech that will inspire us to do even greater things.

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