Personal tools
 
Views

Debate: Funding for space exploration

From Debatepedia

Jump to: navigation, search
[Digg]
[reddit]
[Delicious]
[Facebook]

Should governments prioritize spending on the exploration of space?

Background and context:

From the moment that the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957 the aim of the space race was to be the first to go where no man had gone before.
Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space on 12th April 1961 and over the next couple of decades astronauts and cosmonauts battled to break records and frontiers. Yet since Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon on 22nd July 1969 man’s conquest of space has slowed. By the late 1970s both the USA and USSR had given up on travelling to the Moon, let alone Mars, and were focused on creating a permanent presences in the near-Earth space stations Mir (USSR) and Skylab (USA), both of which have now been replaced by the International Space Station. The end of the Cold War led to massive budget cuts and NASA was forced to adopt a ‘Quicker, Faster, Cheaper’ approach which focused its efforts on robotic exploration. After China’s success in sending Yang Liwei into space in October 2003 and a second Space Shuttle disaster in February 2003, US President George W. Bush echoed President Kennedy in pledging NASA to manned exploration and an eventual trip to Mars. Yet some commentators claim that man is an unnecessary (and costly) distraction from scientific exploration and that we would be better off staying on Earth. They add that since Dennis Tito became the first ‘space tourist’ in 2002 and the privately built $20m SpaceShipOne won the X Prize in 2004 by entering suborbital space twice in five days, the future lies with privately run space tourism with state funding limited to unmanned scientific missions.

Contents

[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]

Exploration: Is space an important frontier for human exploration/inspiration?

[Add New]

Yes

  • Space exploration is inspiring and pushes humans to advance "Space exploration is not a waste of money". Science Ray. Sep. 30th, 2007 - "The curiosity of humans leads us to do many things. It is probably the reason for outer space research. The evidence that has been gathered supporting interesting information has just fuelled this curiosity. Curiosity is the root to all sciences. Archaeology, biology, chemistry, physics and many other braches of science were only done because of curiosity. Without curiosity, the human race might still be in the Stone Age. Isaac Newton was curious about the falling apple and why it fell. Big curiosity has made us do big things. Space exploration might lead to a good thing too!"


[Add New]

No

  • There is sufficient room for exploration on earth; space is excessive. Rather than probing Mars for life, we should be looking to the 95% of the world’s oceans that have yet to be explored and where we are constantly finding new forms of life and new scientific discoveries. For example, bacteria have been found which survive not by using sunlight as an energy source, but volcanic vents on the ocean floor – a discovery which made scientists looking for life on Mars totally change their approach. And with individuals constantly in the news for attempts to traverse the globe in rowing boats, hot air balloons and tied to gliders, there are clearly enough ‘boundaries’ on this planet to keep even our keenest explorers happy.


[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Science: Does space exploration benefit science, human understanding?

[Add New]

Yes

  • Manned space-flight has spawned many scientific innovations. The need to make equipment ‘fail-safe’ because of its role in keeping humans alive in space means that the level of funding and testing is necessarily higher than for non-manned missions. This has resulted in advances that have included the Teflon found on non-stick frying pans, new ways of testing aerodynamics which have improved planes, huge improvements in computing power and software, etc.



[Add New]

No

  • The scientific benefits of manned space programmes are severely overstated; NASA spends over a third of its budget simply keeping the ISS manned and the Space Shuttle working. The vast majority of its spending on scientific research comes through ground based research, telescopes and unmanned missions. China has made no claims that there is a scientific benefit to its manned mission and nor has Russia in recent years.
  • Few missions to space have produced notable scientific results. There are few experiments so important that they can justify the huge cost needed to allow them to be carried out by humans in zero gravity. NASA made a lot of noise about growing zero-gravity protein crystals as a potential cure for cancer when it was trying to justify building the ISS but has since dropped the claims as experiments have shown the claims were overstated.
  • Going into space to discover the effects of space on humans is circular logic. The argument that humans need to be in space in order to find out the effects of being in space should be treated with caution; it is essentially a circular argument as with no manned missions, there would be no need to find out the impact of space on humans.


[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Funding: Should space exploration be publicly funded?

[Add New]

Yes

  • Space exploration pays for itself by inspiring funders.
  • Public funding is necessary to achieve real results in space. While the private market may be able to cater for the rich few who want to see sub-orbital space (and some 11,000 have signed up to fly there with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactica from 2007), ultimately the boundaries of science involve keeping humans in space for long periods (the current record is 439 days), travelling further, discovering what the rest of our solar system holds and, eventually, trying to live on the moon or Mars. It is only through state subsidies that such exploration is financially possible.
For instance, this year, total pet-related sales in the United States are projected to be $31 billion – the double, almost to the cent, of the $15.47 billion NASA budget. An estimated $5 billion worth of holiday season gifts were offered – not to the poor – but to the roving family pets – six times more than NASA spent on its own roving Martian explorers, Spirit and Opportunity, who cost the American taxpayer $820 million both. Instead of providing a launch pad for the immorally expensive shuttles, Florida can do better and clothe the underprivileged - a genuine alligator pet collar cost only $400 a piece."
  • Space exploration stimulates economic activity and jobs on Earth.


[Add New]

No

  • The costs of pushing the boundaries in space are too high. Even with a budget of $16.5bn for 2006, NASA expects it will take more than a decade to return to the moon and has no date for Mars. The cost of really pushing the boundaries of human exploration is too high even for the big-spending Bush administration, so surely we need to examine the scientific and technological returns of the space programme as it really is rather than how it appears in Star Trek.
  • Private markets are better suited to invest in space exploration What better way to colonise space than to leave it to the private market to develop the space tourism market to include space hotels and moon bases? The success of the $10m X Prize at attracting interest and private investment in private space programmes has shown that there is no need for the state to be involved in space travel on the non-science side. Given suitable international safety standards (as were agreed on air travel in the inter-war period) it would transfer the investment and risk away from the taxpayer as well as producing the sort of space travel that would really inspire the human race – the sort that tens of thousands of people would actually get a chance to take part in.
  • Significant private capital can be raised for space exploration. Even if NASA is unwilling to fund a particular project does not mean it cannot take place – the Beagle 2 project to search for life on Mars was organised by British scientist Professor Colin Pillinger and raised a significant amount of its ?50m cost from private sources and sponsorship. The Beagle 2 never responded from the surface of the Red Planet but the principle of scientific communities being able to raise sufficient capital for small unmanned missions has been proven.


[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Planet: Does the human race need to be able to move to another planet?

[Add New]

Yes

  • Humans should not rely solely on Earth for their long-term future The potential damage done by an asteroid or comet that collides with the Earth could range from the impact of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima to the complete destruction of all life on the planet. A manned mission might be necessary to destroy or divert such an object before it reaches our planet. There is also the potential for other terrible damage to be done to the Earth (whether through climate change, warfare or overcrowding), which could mean that as a race we would have no choice but to leave the planet. In that situation, high levels of knowledge about human space travel and the ability to colonise Mars or other planets would be essential.


[Add New]

No

  • The risk of us being wiped out by an asteroid like the dinosaurs is very very small. In any case unmanned missions (missiles, satellite mounted lasers etc.) would probably be as effective as any manned attempt to divert an asteroid despite what films like Armageddon and Deep Impact might suggest.
  • Humans should not bank on destroying the Earth and moving to another planet. As for the potential for us to mess up the Earth sufficiently to require us to leave the planet, perhaps we should work harder at looking after this planet rather than looking for another one to damage.



[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Mars: Are missions to mars important, worth funding?

[Add New]

Yes

  • Even if 60% of Americans currently oppose funding a research on Mars, if a time for evacuation ever comes no one will be able to oppose the decision to evacuate Earth, thus research on Mars should be made mandatory.
  • In case of the Earth being over populated or over polluted, Mars can be used to restart civilization anew. Technology can always help make humans adaptable to Earths climate.


[Add New]

No

  • 60% of Americans oppose funding a mission to Mars. "Do you think the US should fund a Mars mission?" 60% said no.[2]
  • Mars mission is not first in the list of priorities. There are already enough problems at home into which the money could be invested. As Patti Davis argued in 2004, the funding for the mission -$750 billion- would much better be used in alternative energy research and fighting climate change. [3]


[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Robots: Should people be flown to space instead of robots?

[Add New]

Yes

  • Humans are able to make judgments in space exploration and testing. There is a distinction between collection of data and interpretation of data. Robots are very good at collecting data but not good at responding to that data and acting flexibly on it.
  • Robots are inefficient at collecting data. The most flexible robots yet to leave Earth, the Mars Rovers, could only travel a few metres and test some nearby rocks. Humans on the Moon were able to travel significant distances, selectively choose rock types from a variety of locations and prioritise experiments based on the results they received as they were on the Moon’s surface. Ideally scientists would like to understand other planets and bodies as well as they do on Earth. This would require huge numbers of experiments and surveys which would be much better done by long manned missions or permanent scientific missions (as have been posted to Antarctica for decades) rather than a series of unmanned missions over a decade. This also applies to experiments carried out in zero gravity onboard the ISS or Space Shuttle, such as attempts to grow protein crystals or look at the impact of zero-gravity on the behaviour of organisms.
  • Humans must be in space in order to test the impact space has on them. Only by having humans in space that we are able to find out what the impact of space does to their physiological and psychological well being. This makes future manned exploration more possible as well as teaching us about humans. Discoveries on bone and muscle depletion during space travel have helped in the care of bedridden patients and on how to speed up the rate of muscle growth.
  • Manned missions force space-craft to have greater weight-bearing capacities for rocks. A second reason why manned experiments and exploration would be more effective is that any manned mission will necessarily be heavier. This is because it has to carry the weight of humans and their life support equipment. For this reason the cost of returning samples or carrying extra scientific equipment will be more possible because of the negligible weight they add to the payload. This means that even if the mission is primarily about political grandstanding, science will still benefit. Compare the USSR’s ability to bring back 321g of lunar rock using robots with the 382kg brought back by the US Apollo missions. The latter proved the ‘giant impact’ theory, told us a lot about the evolution and geological change of the Moon and our own Earth, and are still being studied today.


[Add New]

No

  • Some spin-off technology will come from unmanned space travel as easily as from manned space travel (e.g. rocket technology, robotics, computing power etc.), and one should bear in mind that most manned space programmes are centred on under-funded programmes using old technology due to budgetary constraints (Russia), low technological development (China) or focused on repetitive operations (USA) which do not involve significant funding into new technologies. As a result of space programmes often being closely linked to the military (in China it is a division of the military), the spin-offs that are sought are usually for military rather than consumer products, and more likely to be kept secret for exactly that reason. However, the problem with the spin-off argument in principle is that investing in developing a non-stick frying pan would surely be cheaper than investing in a manned space programme which produces Teflon as a side-effect. Where there are truly significant problems and areas in need of technological advances either the state should fund research (as it does in many ways through research grants, support for universities etc.) or the free market will step in and exploit a market for a new technological solution to a problem.
[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

International relations: Is sending humans to space good for international relations?

[Add New]

Yes

  • Multinational space programs are good for international diplomacy. Since the “historic handshake in space” when a US Apollo and Soviet Soyuz capsules docked in 1975, the two countries have grown increasingly close. This relationship involves sharing technology (which is almost all ‘dual use’ i.e. it could be used for military purposes as well as civilian, thus requiring a high degree of trust), scientific knowledge and working side-by-side to build and support the ISS. With the involvement of the 11 member states of the European Space Agency as well as Canada, Japan and Brazil in the project, space is one of the few spheres where governments have been able to put aside their differences in pursuit of something more fundamentally important to humanity – surely something that we should continue.


[Add New]

No

  • Flag-staking is occurring in space and spread nationalistic sentiments. Sending humans into space or to other planets so that they can erect the flag of a particular nation is a distinctly nationalistic act and one that is likely to create aggressive 'races' in the future just as it has before. China’s manned programme is openly intended to challenge the US dominance of space for the Communist regime’s huge propaganda benefit. George W. Bush’s pledge to boost spending on NASA and to restart the manned mission to Mars programme was a direct response. This is damaging not only because of the potential for space race conflicts to escalate into greater international hostility, but also because of the way such races could result in the militarization of space (as several Chinese hawks have called on the leadership to do), thereby turning something which should be preserved for the common good of humankind into a neo-colonial battlefield.


[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Taxpayers: Should opponents of space exploration still be required to contribute?

[Add New]

Yes

  • Individuals are not always good at judging what is beneficial in the long term. If people are told they do not have to pay, they will probably choose not to pay. This is despite the fact that space travel has many benefits which should be supported with public money.


[Add New]

No

  • People should not be forced to contribute towards something they oppose. Even when people do not want to fund space travel, they are currently forced to do so. This is unfair as people should have a choice on issues like this, as not paying will not harm anyone.
  • People can be trusted to make the right choices. When people are given the choice of whether they want contribute towards space travel, they are likely to choose the one that is best for themselves and society, whether space exploration or no space exploration is a better choice.
[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section up]

Pro/con resources

[Add New]

Yes


[Add New]

No

See also

External links

Books

Problem with the site? 

Tweet a bug on bugtwits
.