My thoughts were kind of rambling around when seeing an email update about the current shuttle mission to the International Space Station.
It occurred to me that manned spaceflight launches are rarely, if ever, televised anymore. Heck, for that matter I've found it bloody difficult to even find a live web-cast of these events. Oh, I am not a hamster, I realize that most people are apparently bored with manned spaceflight or have this idea that the money would be better spent elsewhere. (Which is a view that I both disagree with and refuse to debate.)
I think that space exploration has done us a world of good, not only in times like Apollo 13's desperate race against time, cold and dwindling supplies of air and power to return to Earth. Or the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters where people all over come together in a mutual agreement of support.
There's the technological developments that resulted from it. I honestly believe that modern computers wouldn't be half of what they are today if not for the needs that had to be addressed for computers that didn't fill a warehouse. And it's not just computers either, a lot of modern electronics has it's roots in the space program.
Do you suppose that if we'd skipped the space program that we would be on the edge of coming up with the cheap, renewable, clean power systems that are being developed now? How about that tankless hot water heater? Or that fancy High Def plasma screen tv on you living room wall?
Then there's advances in food storage and preservation. Those guy's have to eat up there and without gravity to make normal everyday things work right, innovation was once again the result. How about ultra lightweight, flame resistant, heat reflecting materials?
Then there's simply the fact that space is the single biggest unknown ever. It' s out there, above our heads, daring us to discover what's out there. How can we possibly even consider the idea of turning our backs on it?
So the next time you see mention of a chance to watch the launch of a manned spacecraft, set a few minutes aside and watch the thing.
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