I’m just about finished with Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, and a chunk of that was to do with Space.
Given that Bryson goes over who discovered what, when and how, it’s remarkable how little we still know about the universe. It’s remarkable because the amount of money, time and technology that has been thrown at this has created very little knowledge, and it would seem to me that the knowledge that has been gained has little or no practical application to our lives here or even our planet. I can accept that people are curious, but the simple fact is we do not know how any planet really came into existence, we do not know what forces are at work in the universe, but we do know that if something happens on a planet or universe level, there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. If the earth tilts even one quarter of a degree in any direction, the implications would be huge, but we can’t change it. We can’t stop the world and push it back into place, we can’t do anything but cope with whatever change is thrust our way.
So why is so much spent on gaining so little ? That’s the bit about Space I just don’t understand.
I’ve seen the Hubble images over at NASA, and damn good some of them are – but what are they telling us that will benefit mankind now ? Isn’t it odd that so much money is given over to study other places in the surrounding universe, yet so little directed at the causes of global warming ? Or poverty ? Or the needs of the developing world ?
Does it really matter that we know how the moon was created ? Is knowing that Saturn has more rings bringing a higher quality of life to anyone ? Sure, people should chase their dreams and be free to study what they wish, but the resources devoted to it just seems so out of balance. It’s not just the US and (ex) USSR, it China now, and Europe with the Ariane project. WHY ? Do they need to check up on what’s been found out ? Don’t they believe what’s happened so far ? (“It’s a stage I tell you….”)
The UK spends around £180million a year. Okay, so in the big scheme of things that’s a paltry amount, but even without adding it whatever other European countries are spending, it’s still a significant amount : £500,000 a day. How much good could be done with that amount of money ? How much pain could be relieved, how much poverty tackled, how many social issues directly acted upon ?
Why don’t they spend that money finding out how better we can look after our planet ?
Before someone says that the money isn’t significant enough, it’s not just about cash is it ? It’s about time, brains, people, resources, attitude. How many computers are linked to the Seti project ? How many millions of computational hours have been put into that one ? Why not instead let your machine find something useful about Cancer ? or Protein folding and related diseases ?
Space may be an interesting thing, but I think it’s fair to say it’s a long-term project. Very long. Lifetimes and more. That in itself is maybe no reason not to do it, but there are more pressing issues:
Trawlers are stripping our seas of life
Farmers are chemically polluting our land and the water table
Factories are churning out pollutants by the ton on a daily basis
Many sources agree that by 2050, Earth will have no oil left.
They are issues that will affect the children of today, yet the powers that be can see no further than their own selfishness as they race to get their place in history as the discoverer (exploiter) of the ‘Next Big Thing’ in Space.
Space exploration – I just don’t get it.