Sunday, March 15, 2009

Discover What?

The Space Shuttle Discovery launched again today. The U.S., through its space agency NASA, has three "orbiters" which are a part of the space shuttle fleet: Discovery, Atlantic, and Endeavor. Discovery was first flown in 1984. It is named after ships used by the explorers Henry Hudson and James Cook. It performs research and does some work at the International Space Station.
One of the big unanswered questions relating to the space program is exactly what is the point of all of this. In the early days, when we were dedicated to the idea of putting a man on the moon just like Buck Rogers, it seemed like space exploration was simply an inevitable part of the miraculous scientific breakthroughs of our nation. For all the time and money, all the effort, all the hours, what did we get? Tang, as I recall, an artificial orange-flavored powdered breakfast drink.

Is the Discovery being sent to discover something? Or is all of this simply a militaristic desire to take military control of outer space? Nobody ever tells us anything. But it's our money. Don't we have the right to know what's going on?

I've read articles saying that we need more missiles, more weapons, which we can put into satellites, then send a signal and wipe out a person with some ray-gun from space. Is that what this is? And if so, at what cost? Is it possible that by going up and down, leaving all this crap out floating around, we actually could be destroying the atmosphere, leading to the end of all life as we know it? If the goal is military, shouldn't we step back and look at the costs? After all, our nation is broke, much of the world is hungry. Is this really how we should spend our money?

Discovery has flown 35 flights, completed 4,888 orbits, and flown 117,433,618 miles (195,938,294 km) in total, as of June 2008. It takes really cool photos of earth.

I grew up with the space program. I have nothing but respect for all the people who worked to make this a possibility. I know everyone who has ever worked on the space program has dedicated years of their lives to the one goal of making sure each flight is safe and successful. I wish everyone involved a safe trip without any problems. And when we see the astronauts just getting inside one of those spaceships, nevermind floating around in outer space, the courage is undeniable. There is no question these people are dedicated to a project they believe has enormous significance to the world. My question is whether it's time to take a second look, and maybe get a little more citizen involvement in the decisions about when to proceed, how to proceed, and funding.

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