Saturn V rocket, used for the American manned lunar landing missions The Moon as seen in a digitally processed image from data collected during a spacecraft flyby While the observation of objects in space, known as astronomy, predates reliable recorded history, it was the development of large and relatively efficient rockets during the early 20th century that allowed physical space exploration to become a reality. Common rationales for exploring space include advancing scientific research, uniting different nations, ensuring the future survival of humanity and developing military and strategic advantages against other countries. Space exploration has often been used as a proxy competition for geopolitical rivalries such as the Cold War. After the first 20 years of exploration, focus shifted from one-off flights to renewable hardware, such as the Space Shuttle program, and from competition to cooperation as with the International Space Station (ISS). First flights
In Defense of Space ExplorationMatt Silver While many in the MIT community are likely thrilled by President’s Bush’s newly announced initiative to return men to the moon, others remain more skeptical. Echoing arguments voiced this week by Democratic hopefuls in New Hampshire, some cynically suggest that, among other things, the plan is an election-year gesture, it will cost too much money, our national resources and attention should be focused on other areas (such as health-care), and that, in short, the gains from human space exploration are really not worth the effort. While such rhetoric may sound good on a campaign platform, it ignores the details of the initiative and overlooks both the tangible and intangible benefits that exploration provides. Let’s take a moment to review both the plan and benefits of space exploration in general. First, is this an election-year stunt? Regarding cost, let’s put some things in perspective. First, money spent on space research and development does not disappear into thin air.
Space archaeologyNASA's Phoenix Mars Lander In archaeology, space archaeology is the research-based study of various human-made items found in space, their interpretation as clues to the adventures mankind has experienced in space, and their preservation as cultural heritage. It includes launch complexes on Earth, orbital debris, satellites, and objects and structures on other celestial bodies such as Mars. It also includes the applied field of cultural resource which evaluates the significance of space sites and objects in terms of national and international preservation laws. Cultural heritage Space tourism could affect archaeological artifacts, for example, on the Moon. The notion that cultural heritage is at stake and requires action to prevent deterioration or destruction is gaining ground. Perhaps artifacts (say, antiquated space stations) could be preserved in "museum orbit". Many such artifacts have been lost because they were not recognized and assessed.
The Journal of Technology Transfer, Volume 27, Number 4Since 1958 NASA has invested approximately $3.7 billion in life sciences R&D in the support of the successful human space flight program. There are numerous studies documenting the spin-off technologies that can be traced to NASA research and development activities. Most of these studies describe the technologies and their uses; however only a few measure the economic impact of the spin-offs and most of these are benefit/cost studies that tend to overstate benefits or underestimate costs. This study takes a different approach, measuring only economic impacts to the companies that developed successful spin-off products from NASA life sciences investments. A personal interview was conducted with each company and the benefits are conservatively estimated as the value-added by the NASA technology to the company's output and the amount of additional private R&D stimulated by the NASA R&D.
AstrochemistryAstrochemistry is the study of the abundance and reactions of chemical elements and molecules in the universe, and their interaction with radiation. The discipline is an overlap of astronomy and chemistry. The word "astrochemistry" may be applied to both the Solar System and the interstellar medium. The study of the abundance of elements and isotope ratios in Solar System objects, such as meteorites, is also called cosmochemistry, while the study of interstellar atoms and molecules and their interaction with radiation is sometimes called molecular astrophysics. Spectroscopy One particularly important experimental tool in astrochemistry is spectroscopy, the use of telescopes to measure the absorption and emission of light from molecules and atoms in various environments. Infrared astronomy has also revealed that the interstellar medium contains a suite of complex gas-phase carbon compounds called polyaromatic hydrocarbons, often abbreviated PAHs or PACs.
Is Space Exploration Worth the Cost? A Freakonomics QuorumWarning: what follows is a long blog post, perhaps better suited for a newspaper or magazine, and it will at times require your close attention. But I believe it is easily one of the best quorums we’ve ever published here. I’d like to thank all the participants for their thoughtful, well-considered, and fascinating answers, and for taking the time to share their very considerable expertise and experience. Pretend that instead of being responsible for your household budget, which means paying for rent or a mortgage, transportation, some schooling costs, groceries, healthcare, vacation, etc., you are instead responsible for a considerably larger budget that provides a variety of services for about 300 million people including the maintenance of an army, protecting the borders, etc. In other words, pretend you are responsible for the U.S. Federal budget. We gathered up a group of space authorities — G. Is manned space exploration worth the cost? Their responses are below. G. Why explore?
Astronomical objectAbove the round domes of La Silla Observatory, three astronomical objects in the Solar System — Jupiter (top), Venus (lower left), and Mercury (lower right). Types of Solar System bodies. Astronomical objects or celestial objects are naturally occurring physical entities, associations or structures that current science has demonstrated to exist in the observable universe. The term astronomical object is sometimes used interchangeably with astronomical body. Typically, an astronomical (celestial) body refers to a single, cohesive structure that is bound together by gravity (and sometimes by electromagnetism). Examples include the asteroids, moons, planets and the stars. Astronomical objects are gravitationally bound structures that are associated with a position in space, but may consist of multiple independent astronomical bodies or objects. The constituents of a galaxy are formed out of gaseous matter that assembles through gravitational self-attraction in a hierarchical manner.
Lithium Battery Power Delivers Electric Vehicles to MarketOriginating Technology/NASA Contribution As increased energy efficiency, and particularly fuel efficiency, becomes a greater concern, hybrid and electric vehicles gain greater prominence in the market. Electric vehicles (EVs), in particular, provide an attractive option as they produce no emissions during operation, isolating any potential emissions and effluents in the manufacturing and energy-generation streams. The necessary energy stores to support a shift to EVs already exist, as utilities constructed to address peak demands have off-peak surpluses sufficient to charge about 180 million plug-in hybrid or all-electric cars. According to a report from the U.S. Historically, the primary obstacles to the widespread application of EVs were lack of infrastructure development and a lack of sufficiently robust battery technologies to consistently power vehicles for an extended duration and at performance levels suitable to a modern urban environment. Partnership Product Outcome
Space colonizationSpace colonization (also called space settlement, or extraterrestrial colonization) is permanent human habitation that is not on Earth. Many arguments have been made for space colonization. The two most common ones are survival of human civilization and the biosphere from possible disasters (natural or man-made), and the huge resources in space for expansion of human society. However right now the challenges, both technological and economic, involved in building a space colony are as great as the potential payoff. Space settlements would have to provide for all the material needs of hundreds or thousands of humans in an environment out in space that is very hostile to human life. There have been no space colonies built so far, nor are there any governments or large-scale private organizations with a timetable for building any. Reasons Survival of human civilization J. Survival of the biosphere Vast resources in space Expansion with fewer negative consequences