When I read recently that they were decommissioning the ISS around 2015, I was really perplexed. We’ve been building it since something like 1998. So it takes us 11 years to complete and you’re going to get scarcely four years out of it? And even that time won’t be terrifically useful, because upon completion, the shuttle goes out of commission, making it a little more difficult to get people up there. Compound that with the fact that the follow-up ship won’t fly until 2014, and that’s best case scenario…
It just kindof sounds like a mess.
Luckily, Sally Ride thinks we should hang on to it for a little while longer. Which I’m down for. It’s a little weird to look around at the financial crisis, there all being no money anywhere, and to think that in the next few years we’ll be setting the stage to head back to the moon, and then even someday Mars! I’ve heard a few people get a little uppity and say something to the effect of, “We shouldn’t be wasting all that money on stupid ol’ space when regular Earth People could use it better.”
This world, how it taxes me so. The easy retort to that is to ask them if they know how many people are employed by Lockeed Martin, MacDonald Douglas, and Boeing, combined. A hefty chunk of each of those companies is devoted to space contracts. Those people all just lost their jobs because aerospace is a bit of a niche market, especially if your job is to build a spaceship. NASA employs around 300,000 people, and contracts out about 18,000 additional people in industry, which is a good chunk of people. They have an operating budget this year of 17 billion, which might sound like a lot, but lets recall that the War in Iraq costs ballpark 150 billion a year.
I read an article that said NASA costs the American household about 150$ per year. The author went on to ask if that would pass if put to a vote, and felt it wouldn’t. I saw that number and thought it was a steal! I guess it just depends on how you look at it. For example, friend of mine used to ask the question, “NASA, what have you done for me lately?” I was in the JFK Memorial Museum/Library a few weeks ago, and I found the answer to that on a small plaque. It read as follows:
“The following innovations, products, and inventions are just a few of the by-products or spin-offs of the space program:
- GPS Navigation Systems
- Kidney Dialysis
- Satellite TV
- Interactive Computer Training
- Virtual Reality Technology
- Cordless Power Tools
- Bar Coding
- Medical Imaging
- Invisible Dental Braces
So, if you were ever wondering, the estate of John Fitzgerald Kennedy asserts that you owe all of the above to the United States’ space program. No one thing on the list is indispensable, but a handful have saved a good many lives, and the rest have made our lives considerably easier.
It’s exciting to me then that we’re gonna keep the space station up there a while yet. Or at least we’re thinking about it. I know not everybody feels the same way about it as I do, and I can respect that. But we spend a lot of money on a bunch of stupid crap in this nation, and when those people start to bitch about an agency that has some of the most global and altrusitic goals of any in America, I guess I get peeved.
Anyways, rant over.
Yay space station!