Posted by: spacewritinguy | January 12, 2008

A Different Take on Why Space Matters

I was speaking with an eminent NASA engineer today, and the following question came up: “What do you think is the most important thing NASA has done in the last 50 years?” At first, he was reluctant to pick one. He ruminated about exploration, manned and robotic, before settling on the subject of satellites, especially communication satellites. “We lose track of the fact that we haven’t always had those. They had an impact on our very way of life. I think space transportation will matter as long as it’s a means to something bigger.”

That was quite an admission for a NASA guy, as my impression has been that NASA engineers are very hardware-centric. They get so caught up in their pretty rockets that they don’t always stop to consider what good said rockets will do for people in general. So what would “something bigger” be? My thoughts include:

  • Space solar power
  • Helium-3 mining and reactor development
  • Asteroid mining
  • Space settlements
  • Space tourism
  • Secure archives for important historical artifacts, documents, and life form DNA samples
  • Weapons and bacteriological labs (gets ’em off the Earth, anyway)

Anyhow, it’s food for thought, and I found this thinking refreshing.

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