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Space exploration equals money well spent always

By Dian Vujovich

Today, I’m wearing my Star Trek The Next Generation Communicator Pin in honor of the Shuttle Discovery’s final touch down. It’s a replica of the gold and silver little ditty that Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his crew wore on their uniforms and tapped every time they wanted to connect with one another. Wish it really worked. If it did, I’d telegraph to all how important America’s space program has been and will be in the future.

Yes, it’s true, I’m a fan of space and no I’m not really wearing that pin— just looking at it and smiling.

Space, you know, truly is “the final frontier” for those who allow their imaginations to float beyond the Earth’s atmosphere and dream of things their neighbors would likely pooh-pooh.

I shutter to think of where we humans would be if we couldn’t imagine and think, go and do.

As for the Discovery, in the 27 years it has been on the job that rocket ship has flown 39 missions and spent 365 days doing so. It transported the Hubble telescope into space and allowed us to see images of the vast universe never seen before, created legions of jobs, taken us to the Russian Mir Space Station, allowed women to fly as astronauts and the list goes on and on.

Without it, or any of America’s other space program projects, we’d be light years behind on oh so many levels.

Imagine, for instance, life without satellite communication today? Forget that GPS in your new Mercedes or Ford. Or invisible braces, scratch-resistant lenses, memory foam, ear thermometers and water filters? All were created as a result of our adventures into outer space.

The Tang thing, however, is myth. General Mills created the drink in 1957. In 1962 it was selected for an experiment by NASA in their effort to find a high-quality drink for our astronauts during their space journeys.

And then there are the costs.

Plenty of folks think space exploration is a waste of our tax dollars. Many who are fans think NASAs budget ought to be cut to the bone. Current budget proposals do cut them and leave NASA with a 2011 budget of about $18.6 billion.

If you think that’s unreasonable, consider this: It takes between $800 million and $2 billion dollars to bring a new drug into the market place. That includes R&D, patents, etc. etc.

So which would you prefer? A dozen or so new drugs with so many side effects you wonder how in the world they got FDA approval that then frequently get yanked from the market for one reason or another, or, trips into outer space where the tools necessary to do so result in very practical at-home everyday products we all can use?

I’m going with the practical stuff.

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