Space Shuttle Launch and the Benefits of Space Technology
The scientific community has developed manned and robotic flights into space. Because of the difficulty for humans to survive in the harsh conditions in outer space the robotic missions have gone as far as Mars. Robotic missions cost about $250 million to reach mars; whereas it would cost upwards of $100 billion for human crews to land on the red planet. Manned flights are also more expensive, yet far more yielding because of the limitations of robots in performing complex tasks. Robots can provide raw field data but are unable to perform the critical thinking for in-depth analysis.
So we have sent men to the moon, and we have set up satellites and space stations to enhance our telecommunications and further our communications and research and development agenda. But the cost is so high in money and as we have come to learn, tragically the lives of astronauts as in the loss of Columbia and challenger. But still we fly for to earthbound man, space is the final frontier.
Space Shuttle Endeavour was built at a cost of $1.7 billion to replace Space Shuttle Challenger. Each mission cost the US taxpayer approximately $450 million. What is the US government doing with all that dollars?
The space shuttle takes supplies for the International Space Station. NASA anxiously watched its window of opportunity receded as thunderstorms and leaks grounded the Space Shuttle Endeavour for over a month in 2009. You see the Russians were also sending up an unmanned cargo ship and the space shuttle had to schedule to get out of the way before the Russian supply ship landed.
Endeavour holds the third and final segment of Japan's enormous $1 billion space station lab, named Kibo, or Hope. Out there among the stars scientists are able to conduct experiments that need to be exposed to the vacuum of space.
Like one of those ships running into Alaska in the pioneer days the shuttle is also taking spare parts for the space station as well as food for the six residents.
Some of the Benefits
You and I and the rest of the world have benefited from space technologies in many ways. In you home you expect worldwide TV coverage when you flip the channels courtesy of relayed signals by satellites orbiting the earth put there and serviced by space industry. Black and Decker now sells $400 million worth of rechargeable products every year. The market innovation came about because NASA's Apollo programme wanted to drill the moon without plugging into power!
How about the smoke detector in your home? A smoke detector is a must for new homes in USA. Well you can’t run out of spaceship in your nightgown so back in the 1970s Honeywell was contracted to build a smoke detector for Skylab, America’s first space station.
Numerous devices developed by the space industry are used in hospitals, airports and elsewhere to help us to live longer and better.
So while Space shuttle Endeavour waits for countdown and some count the dollars you may also count the benefits.
Trends to Watch
As America and its allies in space explorations boldly go go where no one has gone before we may look for three possible trends in the long term:
Firstly, the field of space technologies is no longer the domain of few developed countries. Canada for example has not developed its own launch capability but works closely with the countries involved in space exploration. Today, Canadians have access to not only their own domestic communication satellites but also international service providers which include Canadian elements. Furthermore, the Canadian space robotics programme contributed the CANADARM to NASA for use on their space shuttles.
A second trend which intrigues us is Space Tourism. Did someone say here comes Sir Richard Branson? Wait a minute give the Russians their moment of fame; space tourism is the new industry where people actually pay for flights into space and has been pioneered by Russia. According to Wikipedia “As of 2009, orbital space tourism opportunities are limited and expensive, with only the Russian Space Agency providing transport.” Prepare to fork out over $20 million for your ticket.
Millionaire adventurer Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group is one of the more promising startups in this arena. Do you want to see our globe from outer space? Get you space legs ready for weightlessness, become a fabulously brave passenger called a citizen astronaut, and you will fly into space after three days of training. You will board the VSS Enterprise, tickets begin at $200,000, but in time Branson is expected to discount prices to about $20,000. Over two hundred passengers have booked, talk about having money to blow in thin air.
Thirdly, the spill off from all this; look for more space age widgets and gimmicks that will add value to our work and play.