Space Exploration This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     "I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space, and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish." This statement by President John F. Kennedy sparked excitement in the hearts of Americans and drove us to explore the heavens and travel to the moon. On July 20, 1969, this dream was realized when Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon. Despite the pride and several fringe benefits space travel has brought to the world, the public (as well as the federal government) has since lost interest in it. It is our obligation to rekindle this dream.

Since earliest times, it has been human nature to explore new frontiers. In our day, the frontier to explore has changed from the earth to the entire universe. Space is infinitely large, and possesses infinite possibilities for exploration. Space may contain new materials which we might find useful. This new frontier offers unlimited land to colonize, mine, farm and even deposit waste. The most exciting prospect is the possibility of finding life beyond earth, which would question the essence of our being.

Many argue that the cost of exploring space is too high. With slightly more than 41 percent of our government’s funding drawn from income tax, the public is right to consider that cost. To put a man on the moon during the Apollo program cost $100 billion (adjusted for current inflation). This is a lot of money, but when discussing government funding, the amount of money is always enormous. This $100 billion is only six percent of the $1.65 trillion our government collects annually. This amount is a relatively small investment of one year’s funding to support such an important and beneficial endeavor.

Besides the apparent accomplishments of space travel, there are many other benefits. Artificial satellites are a product of space exploration that now provide us with cell phone communications, defense reconnaissance, weather reports and many other useful advances. By May 1997 there were 2,300 functional satellites orbiting the earth.

Many other technologies have their origin in space exploration. Water recycling was a result of conserving water on spacecrafts. Energy is another precious commodity during space flight, therefore hydrogen fuel cells and solar cells have been developed. Besides powering space exploration, these technologies are now producing enormous amounts of clean energy here on earth. During space flights, astronauts are subject to weightlessness. Scientists and doctors are now studying the effects and benefits of weightlessness on the human body.

The future of human space exploration may lie in the hands of private individuals. In 1996 the X-Prize Foundation said that it would pay a $10 million prize to the private team that could build a reusable spacecraft that could take a person to the threshold of space at 62 miles high. This contest spurred lots of public interest and many attempts, and now the goal has actually been achieved.

Whether it is private enterprise or government agencies that bring us to space is not the issue. All that is important is that we do not ignore the human desire to explore new frontiers.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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