Comments on CNN Light Years consistently flood in about how the money spent on the space program isn't worth it. We often see the word "waste" in connection to the tax dollars that go toward exploring the rest of the universe beyond our planet.
So, we ran a story this weekend about what innovations space exploration has delivered. Examples included digital image processing used in medical scanning, GPS and state-of-the-art tires.
As expected, readers expressed a variety of opinions upon reading this story. Some were sympathetic with the viewpoint of the middle-class mother interviewed for the article, who cringes when she thinks about tax dollars going to NASA, and wishes she had more funding for her daughter's college tuition.
User 2/8 wrote:
The money would be better spent investing the future of our OWN planet, instead of floating around space, touching rocks and reporting shiny dirt.
User Whom agreed, adding:
Space exploration is a waste of time and money that should be spent on the needs of mankind here on earth, lets cure cancer first.
But others clamor for more space exploration. Tim Jackson supports the space program because he believes that our species should expand beyond our planet.
We must go into space, and soon. We need to gather more resources. We need scientific research based on the idea of getting to Luna [the moon] or Mars in a short period of time. We need all those discoveries from space age research to live better lives. We need to expand our population to live in the moon and to live on Mars.
Bill Osler expanded on this point, arguing that humans may become extinct if we restrict ourselves to Earth:
Ultimately, man must learn to live in space. At any time in the future, perhaps tomorrow, the Earth could become uninhabitable for man and every other organism on the planet. We think we have eons ahead of us, but there is also a theory that the conditions that make life possible may only exist in a tiny window of time. I cringe a little when I hear about 'space exploration'.
Exploration is important, but the primary goal needs to be survival of life itself. We need to establish self-sufficient colonies in space as soon as possible. We are the first generation to possess the technology to make it possible. If we fail to do so, we may be condemning life on Earth to extinction.
Space exploration doesn't have to involve putting human lives out there, says Sparky:
Space exploration is important. *Manned* space exploration is a waste of money.
We have had robots surveying Mars continuously for years now. More work has been done by these robots than all the astronauts who landed on the Moon.
With a manned mission, the whole point is to bring them back alive. Little or no room left for science. Robots are cheap and expendable.
Of course, there are a lot of people involved in the space program who disagree, including University of Southern California scientist Madhu Thangavelu, who wrote this commentary on the issue last year.
Reader Smartguy wrote:
Manned exploration isn't a waste. There would be a wealth of knowledge gained from health, medical, and life support. If we just ... skipped research in manned missions, we will never leave this planet.
Eventually the population and environment will get out of hand on earth will bring the need to spread out in the galaxy. Colonization is an inevitable need given enough time. Not to mention that probes and robots will be less effective at research given enough distance. The vast distances will make it difficult to control and communicate with these unmanned probes due to the limitation of the speed of light.
Several commenters voiced harsh criticisms of the mother in the article because she doesn't see the use of space exploration. RUDY respectfully responded:
She is a mom trying to keep her head above water that doesn't see the direct impact that NASA has had on her life. It is hard to see this when money is tight and you (hear) a number like $18 Billion. So while I disagree with her I understand her perspective. Let's cut her a break.
And to give us perhaps a little more perspective on the "invest at home vs. elsewhere" issue, Jim chimed in:
Way back in 1492, the average Spaniard probably argued why is King Ferdinand wasting money on Columbus sailing out over the endless sea when he/she is living in squalor and misery...
CNN's Zaina Adamu contributed to this report
What do you think about space exploration? Share your thoughts in the comments below.