Does Man Belong in Space?

Pigs Fly

I knew a good guy, he rode a Harley. At the time, Harley's had the strange advantage of not depreciating after leaving the lot, (I don't know if this is still so). He wore the black leather getup and rode his hog to work everyday. He didn't have a lot of money, but he and his wife owned a nice mobile home in Santa Cruz. His plan was to buy a Harley, ride it till he could afford a newer, bigger one, and do the same trick with the next. Pretty solid plan, at least at the time. He was practically minded and honest.

One day, we were talking about aviation, I don't know how we got on the subject, but I probably started it with some comment about rather spending money to fly than on buying a Harley. He expressed a different view. He said, "If man was meant to fly, God would have given him wings." This coming from a man riding a two wheeled, spark plug, piston and computer driven vehicle that far, far exceeded the 22 mile per hour top speed of man. I could only scratch my head. But it makes one think. Is man meant to fly?

The Price We Pay

There is no doubt that modern technology has made life not only more convenient, but also healthier and safer. What price do we pay for the proliferation of technology in our time? Pollution for one. Is it destroying our atmosphere? That is actually hard to say, since there is a lot of hysteria being promoted by agenda driven people to put it nicely. But some scientists think so. On the other side, people scoff at the idea that humans can have a major impact on the Earth. If we open our eyes and look at the evidence with an objective view, we can safely say we are having some impact on our environment. All you need to do is look at the layer of smog blanketing major metropolitan cities during the summer and you can reach the same conclusion. If we look at this one aspect of technology, we can say that the fault lies with the automobile.

What’s to Blame?

Hold your horses! Is it the car that should take the blame, or is it the way we use it? And that is the crux of the matter. If some junkie shoots up with whatever concoction goes into the needle, do we blame modern medical science? Of course not, that's absurd. How can we apply a different philosophy to modern transportation then? The car is not inherently evil, it is the way we use it that dictates the morality of car ownership. Focusing only on the smog effect for the moment, obviously, there are too many cars on the road. But this is caused by our way of life and our infrastructure. There are various solutions to this, the French compressed-air car, electric cars, better public transportation and so on. Riding a bicycle to work is a good solution for some situations, but not for people who work late at night or commute twenty miles each way.

Obama instituted a "Cash for Clunkers" program that will give a 4500 dollar credit to anyone trading in an old gas guzzler for a new and more efficient car. This is a good step forward, since using less fuel will result in less fumes, hence less pollution. Perhaps he will push a requirement for better public transportation as well. That would be nice. The point is that there are solutions, but not all are easy or quick to implement. However, understanding this, is advanced technology a bad thing? Probably not when used in moderation.

Is it Worth it?

What about space flight? The government funded space program sucks in money like a rabid black hole. We spend 1.5 billion to launch an 86 ton shuttle on millions of pounds of thrust from a million pounds of fuel. From the program, they bring back technological advancements like, (hold your breath), velcro. There have been other advancements such as better x-ray techniques for breast cancer detection and fire resistant material used by firemen. But it is a lot of money, why couldn't that have been spent on doing research for these needed advancements directly? Why is an astronaut's life worth more than a fireman's? It isn't. By maintaining a presence in space, we stay at the cutting edge of science and ensure military superiority over the rest of the world. You might ask, don't China, Russia and India support their own space programs? Yes, but none do it as well as the Americans, nor are as well funded. Not only that, but by maintaining a presence in space, we retain the capability to launch satellites needed not only for spying on other nations, but making sure that we continue to stay ahead of other nations technologically and thereby encourage a strong economy. Think satellite TV, (not the greatest achievement culturally speaking of course), GPS and telecommunications. Without satellites launched into space by our expensive space programs, we would not have multi-million dollar industries that employ tens of thousands or even millions of people which in turn stimulate our economy.

Economic Revival and Necessary Waste

Being first and a world power is extremely expensive, but necessary. Commercial, non-government funded space flight is becoming a reality thanks to the funders of the X-prize which inspired inventors to compete to send the first human being into sub-orbital space without any government assistance. Space entrepreneurs were inspired to enter the space business as a result, although it is important to mention that the tendrils of imaginative innovation leading to commercial space flight were already budding before the X-prize. It will be a good thing if the private sector becomes involved. Only when a free market exists can society thrive. America does it well in many areas, especially technological innovation. But space has always been the impossible realm of NASA. The government funded space program has yielded many benefits and will continue to do so, but with the door opening to cheaper and more innovative space travel, we will see an economic revival and reap even more scientific benefits.

One could successfully argue that space travel is wasteful. It is, but waste in this sense is merely a by-product of reaching higher and making life better. What if Edison had stuck to selling newspapers, candy and vegetables? What if he didn't let his mind wander in school? Instead, he kept dreaming and ended up inventing the light bulb and electric power distribution to name a scant few. On his road to many successes, he was fired for conducting experiments after a battery he was working on leaked acid onto his boss's desk. If he hadn't been a dreamer and wasted so much material and time, simple inventions we enjoy today might not be in existence at all. This is a philosophical example to prove that waste in the pursuit of advancement can not be quantified or disdained.

Alternatives?

Would we be better off feeding the poor instead of floating in orbit? Maybe. But without spending money on technology, science and finding our limits, where would we be? Would the USSR still be around, would we be Communists standing in bread lines? Or would we be able to defend ourselves against the next terrorist threat, or Iran, or China? Where would Israel be today without the support of the United States and her military superiority brought about by economical and technological innovation?

At first glance, space flight is wondrous. At second glance, one might shake their head at the massive amounts of money, time and material spent and call it a waste. With a final and scrutinizing look, we can see that not only is it beneficial, but necessary.

We Should Go!

Finally, does man belong in space? Space is not a natural habitat for mankind. But neither is the ocean, yet men have made it their home for thousands of years on ships of trade and war. Because men decided to brave the "end of the world", America was found and developed in to the nation it is today. Brave men still travel to the end of the world, and in part thanks to them, America stays at the leading edge and remains a world superpower. God did not give man wings in the physical sense, but he gave us the mind to make them. It is up to us to use our wings wisely to benefit others, help the hurting and avoid the temptation to use that knowledge for laziness and self gratification.

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Comments 24 comments

Ande Moore profile image

Ande Moore 7 years ago from Austin, Texas

Good hub. Hopefully more of NASA's plans can come to pass for further exploration. The elevator, new mining resources, and so many other projects are on hold because of cost. To me I would rather see our money go towards space exploration than to nationalizing health care, stupid pet projects, or any other socialist idea the seems to be coming around the bend every day. Hopefully our spirit of adventure and the need to explore has not died out to the need to sit back and let the government take care of us. We are just a micro-organism in the universe, but I don't think that we should act like it. My only regret it is not as easily to jump on a ship to space as it was to hop a ship sailing out of port. Besides, we may need to have the technology to get off this rock someday. Well, back to work. Keep up the writing and I'll get back to you in a day or two. Kinda buried with work for the past few weeks. Have fun.


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 7 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks for commenting Ande. I don't know if socializing health care is not worth spending money on, but I love your spirit of exploration and discovery! Glad to see you're still around and thanks for reading.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

Exceptional hub, Alexander. The amount of thought and research you put into your hubs is phenomenal. Thank you


Zollstock profile image

Zollstock 7 years ago from Germany originally, now loving the Pacific NW

I am with Gypsy – this is good stuff, well-researched, and captivating (even for the non-techies like this little hubber). The free-market approach to space travel freaks me out a little, though. Whether it's candies or pharmaceuticals, education or transportation – once market forces come into play and profit becomes the ultimate goal, safeguards for consumers (and producers) and environmental concerns may be put on the back burner. And wouldn't a non-governmental approach to space travel counteract the US responsibilities (global presence, defense, etc) by taking the focus away from the country of origin and putting the spotlight on the investors/inventors?

BTW, my own unfamiliarity with the subject makes me crave captions for the photos you included ;-).


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 7 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon Author

Gypsy, thank you so much for the compliment. The hardest part was finding good pictures.


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 7 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon Author

Zollstock, thank you also for that. In a perfect free market world, the public is supposed to be the gauge for dictating what sells. One of the problems with this is advertising. You'll notice that lots of people buy American vehicles even though they last half the time that better brands like Toyota and Honda do. You might also notice that Ford, GM and Dodge commercials are on the tube constantly, not to mention the promotional appearances in movie deals. So in part, advertising trumps quality. However, safety is something the government does well, from airbags to seat belts, cars need so much safety material, that the increase in weight destroys much of the fuel efficiency gain we could get from modern engines. The aviation industry is even more regulated. It will be the same with commercial space flight. Too many mishaps, and the public will take notice as well. No one pays attention to a car crash, but when even a small aircraft crashes, it makes the news all over the nation. When Columbia broke up on reentry, we never heard the end of it. It will be the same with commercial space travel, and by the time it becomes common place, the government will have made a bookshelf of new laws that will take space pilots a 4 year degree to understand.

I also do not think the government will be uninvolved in space travel, in fact it will insist on keeping the program running at least for the same reasons you listed.

I'm afraid I don't have specific information on the captions, but here's what I can do in order:

1- Astronaut in suit waving

2- Picture of the Earth from the moon

3- I should stop, I am just being silly now.

Thanks for the comment and the as-usual different perspective, you leave no stone unturned!


WaRpeD 7 years ago

Humans and space don't get along. We have to take an entire environment with us just to have the basic necessities. Space travel must be explored due to the human instinct for survival. If we ever need to get away from earth because of an impending global disaster it would be nice to hop aboard a luxury space liner and survive - in luxury. Many people will die exploring space and its possibilities. But if people think that once we have hotels on other planets, humanity will become a utopian society- that's fantasy. I know you didn't say that. What I'm saying is the separation between poverty and wealth will remain the same no matter how advanced our civilization gets. I think the movie "The Fifth Element" is a good look at how society will function in the future. Many sailors never came back from their voyages and we must expect that many astronauts will never come back from theirs. Even though the dangers are plain to see, people will continue to take risks and spend eye crossing amounts of money to find the undiscovered country. Live long an prostate.


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 7 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks for the comment WaRpeD. I see you've been watching Walle. What you said about poverty and wealth continuing to co-exist, I think so too. But I also think that in order for a country to prosper, it needs to take risks for the sake of advancement and growth. Space is just one more frontier that is part of that prosperity. By turning our backs on space for the sake of conservatism, we promote an attitude of stagnation. If I'm right, then not pushing forward will make everyone poor. It's unfortunate that we cannot end poverty with money. Space is dangerous, but if Columbus hadn't taken the risk, America would not have been born the way it has. If all those dreamers hadn't flown off buildings and killed themselves, would we have flight today?


WaRpeD again 7 years ago

Let me put another 2 Guilders in. Your Harley friend in Santa Cruz Said "If we were meant to fly, He would have given us wings". Well He did, but you can't see them. Sure the bird can fly because it has wings, it doesn't have a brain powerful enough to go beyond its physical boundaries. Our (human) wings are our combination of ; mobility, the way our hands work, our constant desire for something better and most of all - our prehensile tail. No, no, no (I wish). I mean, our mind-boggling brain. As soon as the first Homo erectus bashed another's brains in with a "tool", we were on our way to space. [to angry? Sorry]

{A scull from the Pleistocene epoch was discovered by Dutch anatomist Eugene Dubois in the 1890s, naming it Pithecanthropus erectus meaning "upright ape-man", later re-named Homo erectus.}

Now we have tools all around us, from the socks on our feet to this amazingly complex computer with enormous potential. We are no longer huddled in a cold cave worried about who will be eaten next. And YES, technological advancements are important, but I wish that the good side of our humanity could take just 1% of the money being spent on space flight and end homelessness and world hunger. Remember, 1 in 6 children in our big beautiful blue marble go to bed hungry.


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 7 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks for visiting and commenting again WaRpeD. I'm pretty sure I mentioned somewhere in the article or the comments the fact that because God has given us the capacity, our ability to make wings ARE our wings, so we are in total agreement there. 

I don't think that ending world hunger is a matter of degrees of percentages, but more a matter of willingness. You stated before that we will always have the poor with us. Not to be offensive to you, but Jesus stated that fact as well, so you and the Bible have something in common ;-)

I would say that everyone who can give to help the needy, should do so. But we must also understand that to give away all our wealth is not going to solve that problem. My comparison is that a millionaire can give all of his money away to "help" a hundred people, but then he will be penniless and unable to help any more people with his wealth. Wouldn't it be better if that man were to give a certain small amount to continually help thousands or even millions of people to learn how to make money themselves?

Although I do not see 1% helping too much, it would be a good idea to set aside a certain amount to really impact quality of life problems permanently.

There are other problems of course. Many people go hungry because small time rebels take over an area and take the aid that is meant for the poor people. I don't think that 1% would actually match the money that flows from America to other countries in need anyway. We do give a lot of aid to non-Americans.

Of course, my solution is to build more churches, Christians are notorious for acts of kindness, and if individuals can be encouraged to give, then we are better off than depending on a limited government program anyway.


maven101 profile image

maven101 7 years ago from Northern Arizona

Great Hub...Great comments...Great question..Does Man, indeed, belong in space..? I answer with an emphatic YES, on many different levels, not the least of which is survival...

Without space exploration included in the equation, " sustainable growth " is an oxymoron..Think about it..it suggests a pattern of growth somehow continuing indefinitely within a closed bubble...but a bubble can only " sustain " so much growth before we bump into the walls...Even with huge improvements in clean technology and recycling, under the closed sustainable growth scenario, it is simply impossible for every human being on the planet Earth to achieve the life style of the average North American, without destroying that same planet. Yet, morally, there is absolutely no reason they should not be as rich as we are...We can sustain the growth of the human species and all the other life of planet Earth only by bursting the bubble. In this respect, space exploration can be viewed as a social contract as well.....Larry


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 7 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks for commenting and your thoughts maven101, I never really took a critical look at sustainable growth, it kind of is an oxymoron!

I do like the idea of living like hippies, actually I mean to have technology but limit its use, but then we would lose our edge and become prey to those who willingly misuse it - in this case I mean other nations. Growth is the only way.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

IMO this Hub represents your best work. You have given the information in detail and your presentation is articulate. Thank you for a fine essay. I enjoyed it.


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 7 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon Author

Thank you for the high praise James, you always have something positive to say. I will also always welcome any criticism when you do have it my friend. I appreciate the comment :-)


astralfeedback profile image

astralfeedback 7 years ago from Michigan

This is well thought out article, Alex. I'm really glad I read it. I've pondered many times if we should even go into space. Between, the body losing muscle mass at an alarming rate without gravity, the bombardment of radiation from every possible direction, and the fact that we can't really seem to go anywhere but the moon has all disturbed me. And I LOVE space and NASA. But I'd be lying if I said I never doubted our reasons for going up there. But I like how you pointed out all the benefits that have come from space exploration (i.e. GPS and satellite). And yeah, maybe we could be feeding the poor by not going into space. But we could also feed the poor by selling a couple priceless artifacts from the basement of the Vatican, and no one seems to be bothering with that plan. We need to keep exploring space. Every nation that quit progressing and exploring withered away. Really excellent article!!


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 7 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon Author

astralfeedback, wow, thanks for your observations and leaving such a well thought out and complimentary comment. I have pondered many of the same questions you posed, but in the end I have to agree that every country that quits progressing will decline into nothing.

Good point about the artifacts in the Vatican. I would guess that they have even more money than what those could bring in, and it is hard to judge if they could be using the money more constructively. I will stay far away from that issue since I have a bias against the Catholic church, but it does parallel the space exploration / money dilemma.

Your hubs are fantastic as well and I'm honored by your high opinion of this hub.


Tom T profile image

Tom T 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

The title caught my eye. I once worked on a project where a sensor I built went into space, circled the moon and was supposed to meet up with an asteroid. The second part never happened but I was exposed to people who had spent their lives learning about space. This is a fascinating hub and I can tell you that the answer is yes. Man adapts and yearns for knowledge and understanding. Space is just another frontier. Sure it offers challenges but man in his quest for understanding can over come them. Thanks for the hub and you get a big up vote for this one.


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 5 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon Author

I am honored by your visit Tom, it must be mind blowing to interact with those people, and also to be a part of the team that creates the components for a space vehicle. I'd love to know more about that project. I wonder what happened, programming glitch or other mechanical failure? I have mused on the career of an orbital mechanics flight planner (I don't even know what that's called). That must be an interesting job, but probably also nerve wracking seeing that the loss of a probe happens more often than we would like.


MysteryPlanet profile image

MysteryPlanet 5 years ago

I really like this and enjoyed reading it. I dont usually read a hub all the way to the end but this kept my attention. By the way I absolutely do believe that man belongs in space, or at least some of them any way. In fact I know a few who should be sent up in space as soon as possible ;0)

Also, coincidentally enough, I rode a motorcycle yesterday - it was the first time I had been on a bike in over 20 years!


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 5 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon Author

What a neat coincidence! All I can say is I drove behind a good rider on a nice bike last night and I WISHED I was riding :-)

I'm glad you enjoyed reading, Mystery. Space is like any frontier, and we can tame it if throw enough metal and ingenuity up there.


randslam profile image

randslam 5 years ago from Kelowna, British Columbia

I'm looking forward to seeing what source of energy, or energies, will be used in the future.

The standing still start, missile delivery systems of the past made the use of huge amounts of fuel necessary and one must wonder if NASA will change its tactics completely by using laser delivery systems, piggyback takeoffs or simply take the Trekkie method, "Beam me up, Scotty!"

Great hub, Alexander.


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 5 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon Author

Hello randslam, thanks for visiting one of my favorite hubs. When I think of ground based launch systems, I always wince because I want our venture into space to be mobile - that we don't need Earth to launch a mission. But realistically, that is far into the future. But I too wondered why some sort of piggy-back launch system was never instituted. I appreciate NASA, but I'm glad space flight is becoming commercialized. Did you ever imagine it would become a capitalist venture? ;-)

Thanks for stopping in!


TrahnTheMan profile image

TrahnTheMan 4 years ago from Asia, Oceania & between

Man, that's a thoughtful article. It's certainly giving me a new perspective on NASA! Thanks Alexander.


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 4 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon Author

Thank you TrahnTheMan, I appreciate the visit.

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