|TV image of Neil Armstrong taking "one small step"|
When asked by novelist Norman Mailer why he felt it was important to go to the moon, Neil Armstrong answered, “I think we’re going to the moon because it’s in the nature of the human being to face challenges.”
Other scientists working in the space program have said, “We're a race of explorers. It’s our destiny to travel to the stars.” Or words to that effect. Others claim that the new technologies developed for space travel “trickle down” as practical products for consumers. I'm sure this is true, even though right now I can't think of any examples.
A few years after the moon landing challenge had been faced, the human race lost interest, and funding for more exploration dried up. Astronauts haven't traveled to the moon since.
The truth is, if human beings are so keen on facing challenges, there are plenty of challenges facing us right here on Earth, such as war, terrorism and genocide; nuclear proliferation; poverty, hunger, disease, and overpopulation; dwindling fossil fuel reserves and the need for alternative energy sources; government corruption and waste; debt and failing economies; pollution of air and water; human rights violations and mistreatment of women. And these are just some of the major unresolved challenges.
Maybe NASA isn’t set up to handle them. But how about space missions to learn how to cope with climate change, whether caused by nature or humans?
An even scarier problem is the detection and deterrence of near-Earth asteroids. We don’t think much about asteroids, but there are billions of them rocketing around the inner solar system, and many of them are of the “near-Earth" variety. In 1908 an asteroid too small to be detected with current technology entered Earth atmosphere and exploded over Siberia. The blast leveled a thousand square miles of forest. A similar event would totally destroy New York City. Scientists say more strikes like this are inevitable. They even say we’re due for a larger asteroid strike, like the one that caused the global extinction of dinosaurs and most other species 65 million years ago.
So, NASA, how about that for a challenge? Forget sending a manned mission to Mars. Who cares whether there are microbes there? Use your funding instead for something even more challenging, and what could be more important than protecting life on Earth?
Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2012. Building Personal Strength .