Musings on Space

To prove that I am not a total loser (i.e., a lump of flesh attached to Jack Bauer and addicted to hot chocolate), I will explore the necessity of NASA and the Jet Propulsions Laboratory (JPL) in this entry.

Today there was a staff screening of a new film that will play in the museum's IMAX theater. The movie narrates the story of the two Martian rovers from their construction on Earth to their mission on the fourth planet. The two rovers, named Spirit and Opportunity, were built to explore the Martian terrain and to discover evidence of water on Mars. Thus far, Spirit and Opportunity have proven that there was indeed water on the surface of Mars billions of years ago. Further investigation is required, but this finding brings up again the possibility of life beyond Earth. Very interesting...

But is this useful information?

I'm not an expert on Martian geology or any type of geography for that matter (I got a C in geography while at BYU. A grade that has consequently lowered my GPA by 0.5 points. Boo.), but I wonder if it is really necessary to trace the existence of water on Mars. Sure, this is interesting stuff, but how does it help us today? NASA and JPL gobble up millions of dollars every year, dollars that could potentially go towards bettering education or building homes for Katrina victims. Thus, is the government spending our money wisely when it invests in scientific endeavors that may not readily alleviate more pressing problems within the U.S.?

This is a tricky subject.

I am an advocate of space exploration because, come on, I work at a space museum! I have always been fascinated by astronomy, by the endless realm of space beyond our planet. The study of astronomy may not find a cure for cancer or help the homeless, but it does feed the human desire of exploration and curiosity. As a kid, learning about space opened a window in my mind and in my imagination. There was so much to learn beyond Earth; there was so much more out there.

But my practical sense wonders if there are more pressing matters here on Earth that may benefit from the money we give to NASA. So...what to do, what to do?

Despite these practical thoughts, I believe the U.S. government should fund scientific and art-related programs. There is a need for both these things, even if they may not satisfy immediate problems like hunger or housing. There is simply a need to gain more knowledge---and if we have the capability to explore new ideas, and in this case new worlds, then we should. Knowledge does not feed mouths or shelter the homeless, but the pursuit of it does lead to the progression of humankind.

I think about the great scientific discoveries of the past, like decoding the structure of DNA or finding out the make-up of a cell. Such discoveries have led to great advances in medicine and technology and so I wonder what advances will be generated by exploring the universe.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. On a closing and random note, I am getting sick. My throat is scratchy and I have a fever. This is shocking because I can't remember the last time I was sick. My white blood cells are like tanks! What's happening to my body?