Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Giving out a rocket

From the lunatic asylum on the other side of the Atlantic comes this utter nonsense. A Professor Gerard DeGroot thinks America should scrap space exploration because of the abortive launch of the NASA CO2 measuring satellite earlier this week. He makes the case like so many luddites before him, and a pretty poor one at that; that the money spent on space exploration would be better spent here on Earth. I quote his article directly.
During a recent radio programme, a Nasa astronaut asked me how the American people might react if the next man on the moon were Chinese. I replied with a question: "why are Americans so insecure?" If the Chinese want that worthless rock, so be it.
I would ask the following by way of a reply; why is Professor DeGroot so anti-american? He decries the Ares space exploration program as proposed by Ex-US President George Bush, and does not suggest how the money spent on space exploration might otherwise be utilised, apart from a woolly reference to poverty and famine taken from an Eisenhower quote which was more about the waste of warfare than the exploration of space.

I would counter Professor DeGroots arguments thus; The US Space programme and NASA is not just about America. It provides employment for skilled Engineers and Technicians, both directly and indirectly. The information they generate and the technologies (GPS, Satellite communications to name but two) give employment indirectly to many others. Without it, the USA would not have risen to be a world superpower, both economic and military, and would the rest of the Western Democratic nations have enjoyed the economic well being without the energy and drive Americans put into the race to the moon? The space race generated, and still does generate economic activity and yes, wealth. It is one area where Government spending really does have a measurable economic effect. Or would we rather go back to the last ten years where most of the Western economies were overinflated by the rising price of housing and bankers selling nebulous products of 'risk'?

Professor DeGroot is listed as a historian. A Historian with a book to plug. So what is his book about? "The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest". I do so hope that he received no remuneration whatsoever for what was an unsubstantiated diatribe. We only need books like his to remind us why we should be taking the greatest leap of faith of all.

To conclude; in these straitened financial days, where the economy is formed from so many interlaced and fragile layers, we need hope and change. We need hope that this planet is not all there is. We need change from the anti-scientific small mindedness that keeps our species chained to this spinning ball of mostly molten rock. We need a focus to drive us out to our rightful place among the stars, or drown in the squalor of an overcrowded world. Without that goal, what have we to look forward to apart from perhaps forced Eugenics programmes to reduce the population? Take your pick. Explore the cosmos and take risks in doing so, or mandatory euthanasia when you are no longer a worthwhile economic unit? No pressure.....

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