On July 29th, 63 years ago, the US Congress passed the legislation, which established NASA, otherwise known as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA is a government established agency that is responsible for the technology and science related to space and air. As you may know, NASA’s purpose is not only to analyse and explore space, in case of Earth’s demise, providing alternative approaches to human survival beyond our atmosphere but also to protect the human race from the harms of space. An example of this would be detecting asteroids that could pose a threat to human existence if the trajectory proves to be heading towards Earth. However, it is questionable as to the necessity of space exploration. Annually, the US government provides NASA with a budget of $22.629 billion, and this number is ever-increasing. Although this only represents around 0.48% of the total of the US government spending, it is highly debated as to whether spending this amount of money is necessary, and could instead be directed to other means, e.g. building renewable energy sources to help reduce climate change.
Applications of space research
However, it is important to recognise the necessity of space exploration for proving/disproving scientific theories that have previously been developed on Earth. These theories have brought us insights into gravity, the atmosphere, fluid dynamics, the geological evolution of other planets and most importantly it has shown us the connection between the sea, sun and moon. Thanks to Sir Isaac Newton’s discovery in 1687, we now know that tides are very long-period waves that move throughout the ocean in response to forces exerted by the moon and sun. Fishing, recreational boating, and surfing all rely on tidal data. Commercial and recreational fishermen alike rely on their understanding of tides and tidal currents to boost and improve their catch rates. According to the report published by Allied Market Research, the global fish farming market generated $271.61billion in 2018, and is projected to reach $376.48 billion by 2025, witnessing a CAGR of 4.7% from 2018 to 2025, and is therefore a staple part of our global economy.
The Space Race and Jeff Bezos
Nevertheless, It could be argued that the race to space has become glorified, being used as an anchor for the economically elite to exhibit their wealth. The last century’s space race was a competition between the world’s great powers and a test of their ideologies. It would prove to be a synecdoche of the entire Cold War between the capitalist United States and the socialist Soviet Union. Has this desire to be deemed most rich and powerful continued into the 21st Century? On the 20th of July, Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, alongside three other passengers (his brother, Mark Bezos; Wally Funk, a storied aviator; and Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old fresh out of high school), made the trip to space and back. Bezos stated that by going first, he wanted to prove that his technological advanced vehicle was safe, and that Blue Origin is finally ready to make its 11-minute suborbital trips, an experience people can buy. The $5.5bn journey raised the question as to whether this accessible technological advancement was a step in the right direction, or whether its consequence will lead to an even greater division between the top 1% and the remainder of the population.