In a discussion thread on NASA Facebook, several asked:
What do we get out of research that supports humans traveling off this planet, since the rest of us don’t get to tag along for the ride?
I decided to post my thoughts here. This is, by no means, a comprehensive argument for space. Rather, I offer a few brain bubbles on the topic…to get them out of my head, really. So here we go:
Most advancements in science and technology from space are used here on Earth to benefit humans living on this planet.
Take the issue of radiation. The sun bombards this planet every day. Look at the alarming rate of skin cancer. I know it well. I lost my Daddy to it. Outside the thin blue line of protection our atmosphere gives us, radiation is much worse. We protect our Space Station crews as best we can. But they’ve taken extra precautions, lining up water containers against the walls in certain areas to give them more protection.
Going out further in space, humans will endure much greater exposure to radiation. Any anti-radiation measures we create for space travel will find their way to market back on Earth. That’s just the way it works. We invest in the solution. You benefit from the technology.
What about the humans who sign up to go “out there.” Why should anyone on Earth care what happens to them, right? I mean, they applied for the job. They volunteered. So what do we (the planet-bound) get out of their choice?
Astronauts are human science experiments.
Astronauts get poked and prodded, spun around, submerged under water, crushed under g-forces, and suffer bone loss — all in the name of science. Oh yeah, they float weightless too. Well, that’s another grand experiment in itself.
Space pioneers, and their families, endure great danger and discomfort to expand the boundaries of human knowledge. They willingly sacrifice themselves for what we don’t know — to advance the cause, to break the code, to peek under the curtains. If we knew everything we ever needed to know about the Universe in our how-to-live-on-planet-Earth guide book, we wouldn’t need pioneers to go out there and scout out answers for us.
Humans who travel outside the boundaries of Earth teach us about living and working in a hostile environment with constrained resources. Their space ship is a closed–loop, self-contained biosphere — just like Earth.
Our home planet is a self-contained biosphere with finite resources surrounded by hostile environment of space.
220 miles overhead on Space Station: we make our own energy (solar), recycle our waste water, filter our air, and conserve all our resources. Astronauts/cosmonauts use considerably less water and energy per person than the average American. Not by choice really. By necessity. Just like the many citizens of this planet who live without easy access to water or electricity or clean air.
Off-planet living= green living!
We are working to apply these efficiencies back home to help conserve precious water and energy and air on Earth.
And don’t forget this one: unparalleled point of view from SPACE.
We give you a no-borders look at our fragile planet from the outside in.
NASA imagery offers us the big picture view of deforestation, shrunken polar cap, massive weather patterns and more. We help nations address global issues that might not be visible standing on the front porch. Our eyes (cameras and satellites) capture the whole planet for objective analysis.
We can’t solve all the world’s problems, nor is it our charter; however, we push the envelope. The issues we face off this planet are the Earth’s issues, but magnified.
Make no mistake, Earth faces the same issues: as we stretch our limited resources across the globe to meet the needs of the world’s population. I can say this with certainty based on our 50-year history at NASA:
Whatever we learn about humans living outside this planet will be leveraged to make life safer and better here on Earth.
Your life may depend on it.