“There is just one thing I can promise you about the outer-space program — your tax-dollar will go further.” -Wernher von Braun

Over the past 100 years, we’ve gone from looking out at a Universe whose very nature — the stars, nebulae, and even the planets — were virtually unknown to us. And because of the investment we’ve made as an entire world in the endeavor of science, it’s almost breathtaking to realize how far we’ve come.

Image credit: ESA/C. Carreau, edits by me, via http://www.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2013/03/Planck_history_of_Universe.

Image credit: ESA/C. Carreau, edits by me, via http://www.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2013/03/Planck_history_of_Universe.

But the big question — the one no one seems to be asking — is where do we go from here? Where do we want to go, where do we need to go, what is it we should be learning, pursuing, investigating and investing in? And why aren’t we doing it?

Image credit: NASA, via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exploration_of_Mars#mediaviewer/File:Mars-manned-mission-NASA-V5.jpg.

Image credit: NASA, via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exploration_of_Mars#mediaviewer/File:Mars-manned-mission-NASA-V5.jpg.

Go and read about what we could be doing, if we would only dream a little bigger.

Comments

  1. #1 Jason Knipmeyer
    United Kingdom
    June 4, 2014

    It seems these days that if a subject has the word “War” attached to it, the beancounters are hasty to release the purse-strings – “War on Terror” – “War on Drugs” etc.
    Why not declare it a “War on ignorance”?

  2. #2 John Baker
    St. Louis MO
    June 5, 2014

    I have supported space investments for over fifty years and completely agree with all your points. The amount of money spent on space science is minuscule compared to major budget items like Medicare or public pensions yet many seem to think these modest programs are the cause of our 500+ billion dollar deficits. I’ve long since given up arguing with the “arithmetically impaired” which is one of the reasons I am a big fan of your brilliant blog. Your willingness to entertain the notion that the public can actually be educated is naively inspiring. As much as I would like to see a reversal in science funding it, along with pretty much everything else, will be swamped by our overwhelming fiscal insanity. We are creating, out of thin error, roughly 80 billion dollars per month to fund government operations, yet we still run half trillion dollar overruns. Zero interest fiscal inflation, like its cosmic analogue, cannot be sustained. Once interest rates return to normal levels every discretionary budget dollar will be devoured and “frills” like space science will be sacrificed for the “common good.” The only sciences that will flourish during the great fiscal balancing will be theoretical; anything that requires real money will have to wait for a new saner economy to support it.

  3. #3 Mark
    Canada
    June 5, 2014

    People say Governments can not create jobs, while this is true on some level, the spending for NASA and other pure and Applied research programs will create jobs. You can count in a way all the jobs at companies like Google, Facebook, etc as jobs and wealth created from the funding of the first Internet. Now with the Low Earth Orbit moving to the private sector, Government funding should be looking futher outward, like Mars, Asteroid visits, Larger Space Stations. this would allow the private sector a toehold and spring board to expand.

    We should also not forget that only 5% of the oceans are mapped and explored.

  4. #4 R H
    Houston
    June 5, 2014

    Here is what Neil deGrasse Tyson said about this very issue 4 years ago…

    How much would _you_ pay for the universe?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQhNZENMG1o

  5. #5 Avattoir
    June 5, 2014

    Jason Knipmeyer – because, tho a decided minority overall, a fortified majority in a current numerical majority of states is lashed to a rubric that commands they support the enemy.

  6. #6 A B
    June 6, 2014

    That’s why the privatisation of space technology is an important milestone. That way, investors who are willing to invest in space research can do so easily.

  7. #7 a nony moose
    samesvill, il
    June 7, 2014

    yeah came here just to say, in the article that linked me here it’s said that worldwide gdp is 100 billion

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28nominal%29

    errr. nominal, 70 trillion.

    yeah so might want to fix that up there and in the future, fact check before publishing. it takes approx 1 duckduckgo to do so.