There’s been quite a bit of NASA press recently , both good and bad – new discoveries on other planets, funding shortfalls and avoidable accidents. What hasn’t been thought about in a constructive way is just why we think we still need to be in space at all. Sure, there are space installations like satellites that influence our daily lives that should and will continue to be maintained. But why do humans need to be out there, floating amongst the debris? Does it really enrich our lives that much more to have a human, rather than a machine, out in the void, especially considering the risks (and the cost)?
MIT says yes. A recently published white paper analyzes the history of our space program, evaluates cooperative international efforts, and looks at the possibilities of involving the private sphere. There’s been quite a bit of arguing going on recently in these areas. While I may not agree that exploration itself makes the national space program worth the risk and investment, the ideas presented are generally well thought out and interesting to consider. And the idea of that vast outer frontier – what can I say? It still inspires wonder.