Yesterday, at around 7:45pm Eastern (US) Standard Time, mankind proved to those Martian rapscallions that the poles are no longer a safe hiding place. Braving heat, cold, cosmic radiation and the metric system, the Mars Phoenix lander touched down on the northern polar ice cap of Mars making it the third rocket-slowed lander in US history to successfully touch down on Martian soil. The first pictures show a healthily if narcissistic machine on solid ground and with fully deployed solar panels.
Only hours after this amazing feet (which is rapidly becoming viewed as commonplace by many) are the humanitarian whiners beginning to chide NASA.
Same old saw: isn't this money better spent solving the worlds problems?
Or: shouldn't we solve the world's problems first?
OK. I have to point out the obvious logical fallacies to these idiotic quips. I have compiled a short but definitive list. It looks like this:
1. It's not a lot of money. NASA typically gets one-half of one percent of the US operating budget or 15 billion dollars annually. NASA has about the smallest departmental budget in the US government.
2. Space Research benefits mankind. Many humanitarian technologies such as global communications, miniaturized computer technologies, weather prediction, GPS location and solar power have come directly from space exploration.
3. Many important technologies come from seemingly unrelated research. Smallpox vaccines came from livestock.This week, research on South American beetles may have provided a breakthrough in optical computer research. You can not predict where that next earth-shattering discovery may come from. De-funding one discipline may cripple another. You have to explore and research everywhere because you cannot predict which datum will save your life down the road.
4. Ultimately, space holds the solution to all of mankind's long-term problems. Ultimately, we will only find the food, energy, metals and room we need off world. There is only so much of that stuff here. Unless you believe that one in four people needs to be culled for the sake of our crowded planet, there are no earthbound solutions to these problems in the long term. We will have to get the things we need from other places. And history shows that looking for these resources at the moment you need them - is already too late.
Basically, space exploration is the solution and not the problem. If you are a space exploration detractor, then you are part of the problem and not part of the solution. I would go so far as to say that culling people who disagree with space research would do more to help mankind than would culling space exploration itself.
Space is more than our destiny, it is our salvation. Without programs like this in our lives today we have a dark future ahead. Phoenix may be analyzing soil and looking for evidence of organic life but to do that, it refined the engineering necessary to get our machines off the Earth and safely aground anywhere we damn well want to put them. Soon, these machines may be generating power, mining useful metals or moving pesky E.L.E. objects out of our orbital path. We spend the money and materials now so that when we need do do these jobs, we already know how. If we wait until the need arises, it may be too late to do anything.
Still think space is money waisted? Do me a favor and change your species. Humanity is already at quota for dead weight.