Why do we go to space? In the beginning of our space program, the answer had a lot to do with war and paranoia. But with the dawn of the space shuttle, that all changed. Where do we go from here?

Special thanks to the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center for letting us hang out with the shuttle Discovery.

Link to the interactive Mars panorama as seen on my phone: http://bit.ly/16ttUwr

Historical footage via NASA.

Music: “Divider” by Chris Zabriskie


Galileo would have made a great astronaut.

Category: Science, Weekend

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

10 Responses to “Why Do We Go to Space?”

  1. normal1 says:

    Thanks for that reminder of what we, as a nation, were able to accomplish when we accepted the enormous costs associated with space flight as investments worthy of our tax dollars. It always brings out the romantic in me to see such images, even though I know it wasn’t all cake and ice cream, if you know what I mean.

    Today, the “we” who embraced the space program with national pride is too preoccupied with infighting thanks to political maneuverings turning us against each other for maximum votes.

    If the leaders of today were in charge back when such ambitious and costly investments like the space program or national highway system was proposed, I can’t see them ever coming to fruition. I can imagine the barrage of talking heads shouting about a “big government takeover” and abuse of our tax dollars. Something along those lines, taken from the canon that says government-related bad, business-related good.

  2. louis says:


    It is our destiny. Please keep the bond traders away from space.

  3. dream-king says:

    Mallory: I spoke to my Dad, I’m sorry about Galileo
    Sam: We’ve got a lot of tests, they’re still trying.
    Mallory: How much money is it going to cost trying?
    Sam: Don’t start with me
    Mallory: I’m asking as a taxpayer. It cost 165 million to lose the thing, how much more money is it going to cost to make sure you never find it again?
    Sam: I don’t know Mallory, but we certainly won’t divert any municipal tax dollars which are always better spent on new hockey arenas.
    Mallory: No it’s better spent feeding, housing, educating people.
    Sam: There’s a lot of hungry people in the world, Mal, and none of them are hungry because we went to the moon. None of them are colder and certainly none of them are dumber because we went to the moon.
    Mallory: And we went to the moon. Do we really have to go to Mars?
    Sam: Yes!
    Mallory: Why?
    Sam: Because it’s next. Because we came out of the cave and we looked over the hill and we saw fire and we crossed the ocean and we pioneered the West and we took to the sky. The history of man is a timeline of exploration and this is what’s next.
    Mallory: I know
    Sam: People like you, who say – what?
    Mallory: I said, I know. We’re supposed to be explorers.
    Sam: Then what the hell ?
    Mallory: I just like hearing you talk about it. You get all puffed up.


  4. Clif Brown says:

    No, no a thousand times no to human missions to space. The narrator tells us that astronauts are heroes, but it is the scientists and technicians who make the missions possible who are the heroes, exactly as was shown with the Apollo 13 mission as essentially helpless astronauts constrained in a extremely limited environment depended on those on earth to get them out of a jam.

    Space and our curiosity are well matched in their boundlessness. Our bodies and our budget are constrained and fragile. The Mars missions well illustrate the incredible can-do application of technology to hostile environments without the crippling need to provide for warm bags of meat, expensively trained to do what robots can do, yet burdened with the need to return to earth. Only a mission like human-free Voyager can be outbound from the solar system, over 19 hours at light-speed from earth, yet still hardly beyond our solar home.

    The energy required to simply lift a pound of weight into space is huge. Each pound must justify the cost by what it can do for the mission. Why waste it on lofting warm bodies with the elaborate supporting environment they need, when an equal weight of equipment could do wonders by comparison? Let’s leave human space travel to the movie makers and science fiction writers while freeing space projects from the burden of taking environmentally demanding life beyond the atmosphere. We should all feel great pride in the robotics we produce – it is a much “us” as our bodies and will work tirelessly and potentially longer than a human lifetime without air, food, water, psychological problems or the need to get along with others!

  5. willid3 says:

    many dont even know what came out of the space program that we all depend on today. your cell phone, you PC or tablet or MAC. none of the would have existed without the need for smaller computers. which was driven by the need for smaller computers in the space program (faster ones too) . then there is that at least having a clue what the weather would be. gotten a lot better, but back before the space program, you could only vaguely guess what it would be the next day. then there are lost of materials that make our lives today, which wouldnt exist. many think that they still would. but why would they as business had no need for smaller computers. the military might have driven that, but then it might never have made to the civilian market.

  6. Bob is still unemployed   says:

    > Why Do We Go to Space?

    It is what we do.

    We explore.

    We learn.

    “…In the night when the stars provide a reason for Man to strive,
    He reasons that’s the reason He’s alive….” (Earth Shanty – The Groundhogs)

  7. PrahaPartizan says:

    The one thing which impressed me and my spouse about the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center out in Chantilly was the wonderful display of the technologies required to enable us to advance flight and space exploration in general. The center shows numerous aircraft engines, jets, and rockets as the technologies advanced over the past century of flght and gives the vistor a chance to understand just how we managed to do it. It doesn’t just concentrate on the aircraft, despite their beauty and grace, but tries to draw the visitor into gaining some understanding of the hidden elements which enabled those aircraft and spacecraft to actually fly. Advancing those technologies though really does speak for why we need to go to space and explore it. Even more than using old technologies to visit Mars, we need to prove out newer propulsive, structural, and medical technologies which would enable us to explore more of the Solar System in general.

  8. WKWV says:

    Ninety percent of NASA employees are on furlough without pay today. Among them are many fine scientists and engineers. What part of public good do people not understand now? The image of the bureaucratic, clock watching drone is just as present in private enterprises as in public jobs. What do we have to do to stop this wasteful, on again, off again, irrational budgeting process?

  9. rj chicago says:

    Because it’s there.

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