- What are the benefits of space research?
- Why do governments spend billions of taxpayers money on exploring the solar system and beyond?
- Aren’t there better things to spend money on?
- Shouldn’t our top scientists and engineers be doing better things?
Many people would say so. Certainly, there is a lot of hunger in the world. The money that has been spent on the Hubble Space Telescope, for instance, would certainly have made a big difference if it were spent instead on relieving poverty in a third world country.
Nevertheless, apart from extending our knowledge of what is out there-there are a number of significant benefits of space research. Here are a few (not necessarily in order of importance).
- Medical Research – many of the experiments that were done in the shuttle and other space stations have led to the development of new drugs and surgical techniques.
- Materials Technology – some of the new materials that have been developed have proved enormously useful in other fields, e.g. the super heat resistant tiles used on the space shuttle.
- Electronics – Because of the limited space inside a spacecraft, there has always been the desire to make electronic components smaller and smaller. This has led to the development of semiconductors and integrated circuits.
- Telecommunications – Satellite television, GPS and other communications across the globe would not have been possible were it not for space research.
- Environmental studies – From space, we can observe the Earth. We can study the surface of the Earth and its atmosphere. This can help us to understand and protect the Earth and its ecosystems.
Although the benefits above it is important that scientific research should not always be with profit in mind. Some research should be just for the sake of extending our knowledge if commercial benefits result from this then so be it. Astronomy is the oldest science. Since mankind could think it gazed up at the stars and wondered what is out there. It may be, in the distant future, that space travel will ultimately save mankind. We will journey out to find new worlds to colonise.
We will go boldly where no man has gone before.