Last few months have certainly renewed interest in space exploration among millions of people worldwide. NASA’s Maven, ISRO’s Mangalyaan and ESA’s Rosetta mission, all of them in quick succession have certainly caught global attention. The fact that Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar got released around the same time only added to the frenzy.
These missions inspire feelings of awe and wonder across many but at the same time a lot of people question the amount of resources invested in them. Even more so when such missions are undertaken by space agencies of developing nations. "Why not spend that money on social reforms, infrastructure?" "Think of all the people you can feed instead". These comments are inseparable to every discussion about the business aspect of space exploration.
The argument that space exploration leads to wastage of resources seems rational to some people but even the most hardheaded businessmen will understand its immeasurable returns once they start digging deeper into it.
So here are 6 reasons why spending millions of dollars on space programs is worth every penny:-
One of the first offshoots of space exploration that comes to one’s mind is development of satellite technology. We have all read multiple uses of satellites in our middle school science textbooks such as communication, forecasting, remote sensing etc. However their real importance can only be understood with the help of real life examples. Indian space program is criticized by many, in fact most people were against it when India decided to make heavy investment in space technology soon after independence. When ISRO transferred its first satellite to the launch station on a bullock cart, it perfectly summed up the country’s condition at that time. There was a massive cyclone called Paradip in the Indian state of Odisha in 1999 which killed almost 10,000 people. A cyclone of similar intensity called Phailin struck the same region again in 2013; but this time due to better satellite technology and more organized administrative measures, the fatalities were reduced to 45.
Technological breakthroughs achieved by space agencies often trickle down to consumer products that all of us use. Did you know that we owe the invention of the following things to NASA: - Laser Technology, Satellite Dishes, MRI Technology, Water Filters, Smoke Detectors etc. In fact the lightweight and heat resistant materials created by NASA are used all over the world.
There is something about venturing into deep space that brings us closer to each other despite our political/cultural differences. As the noted astrophysicist Carl Sagan once said, “Astronomy is a humbling experience”. The more we discover about our universe the more we realize our insignificance in the scheme of cosmos. In a way this helps us understand the feebleness of our differences with each other and unifies humans all over the world.
The cosmos inspire us like nothing else. When Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon, it fuelled an interest in science across an entire generation of people worldwide. The next two decades witnessed some of the best astrophysicists we have seen in recent times.
5.The Cost (Not as High as It Seems)
It seems like we spend a lot on space programs but you will be surprised to find out that it’s not that much when we compare it to our other expenditures. The cost of India’s Mangalyaan (Mars Orbiter Mission) was less than a big budget Hollywood movie. Even the world’s penultimate space agency NASA spends less than what Americans spend on frozen pizzas every year.
Our earth is a dust particle in the vast unending universe. It has had its fair share of accidents. Perhaps the most well known example is the asteroid that wiped out dinosaurs and enabled primates that dwelled on trees to become dominant species. The dinosaurs didn’t have the technology we have today. So if such a situation arises again, our survival will rest on the capability of our space program.
Exploration of deep space is intrinsic to the nature of human beings. It is in our DNA to be curious about things, to venture into the unknown and find answers in order to discover more questions. Thus by investing in space missions, we are actually being true to ourselves as a species. The fact that it has unmatched business returns is just a bonus.
No matter what business you are in. Once we start appreciating and enjoying the thrill of the process itself, success shows up in more ways that we imagined.