Why is space exploration important?

Think about this list of everyday products. All of them were originally developed or invented for the space program:

  • calculators
  • cell phones
  • digital wristwatches
  • GPS finders
  • infrared cameras
  • laser surgery
  • materials used in running shoes
  • pace maker batteries
  • personal computers
  • radiation-blocking sunglasses
  • satellite TV
  • Tang
  • Teflon
  • ultrasound
  • Velcro
  • water-purification systems

A lot of people think we should give up space exploration, largely due to cost (and it is expensive — NASA spends approximately 16 billion tax dollars each year). But as you can see from the above list, money spent on space exploration does not nebulously float away into the galaxy. It creates new technologies and products, as well as new jobs and businesses. So maybe you could live without Tang, but would you give up your computer, the GPS navigating system in your car, or your cell phone? Just within the next few years, the space program is expected to improve our knowledge of solar energy power, cryogenics, and robotics that are expected to offer great improvements in health care, energy and the environment, everyday technology, and many other areas.

But more importantly, human beings just seem to have a natural desire to learn more, to figure out things we don't understand, and to explore the unknown. What if Christopher Columbus decided to be an innkeeper instead of an explorer? What if the Pilgrims decided to stay in Europe rather than come to America? What if no one ever left their hometowns? Would you want to spend the rest of your life in the place you were born, or do you want to see new places, at least on a vacation once in a while?

We humans thrive on new experiences. Space is probably the ultimate "new experience," and one of the best places for humanity to turn to keep learning. The Hubble telescope (launched in 1990) has already reshaped what we once knew about the universe. I say, keep exploring.