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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Case for Space*

Photo from Apollo 8, NASA

"The Case for Space"
A plea for freeing the human spirit
By Ralph F. Couey
Somerset, PA

*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, March 30, 2010
as "Unshackle Human Spirit From Earthbound Cage"

Copyright © 2008 by Ralph Couey

For uncounted generations, humans have looked to the night sky, pondering what lies beyond our planetary cradle. That stubborn curiosity has forever marked the human species. Even today we remain fascinated by what lies Out There. Such contemplation is profound, especially when one considers that humanity is the only intelligent technological species known to exist within the 154 billion light years that defines the known universe.

And that Earth is the only known cradle of life.

The universe calls to the explorer inside all of us. That desire defines our natures; to explore; to touch the unknown and make it known.

During the 1960’s, the drive to the moon was undertaken in a blizzard of emotion and wartime urgency. However, that frenetic momentum faded after Project Apollo. We still launch shuttles and send robot probes to the planets with spectacular results.

But no one can ignore the fact that humans haven’t left earth orbit in 40 years.
The recent decision to cancel plans to establish a human habitat on the moon, and a manned exploration of Mars has chained us once again within our earth-bound cage.

Naysayers criticize space exploration as a waste of money, claiming that the poor suffer when we launch rockets. However, from 1966 through 1969 during the Space Program’s most active years, U.S. unemployment was consistently 3.7 percent, a far cry from today. According to published government numbers, over those same 4 years, the economy grew at a rate of 6.75%. In 1967 and 1968, it grew at a phenomenal 8% and 9%.

A sustained manned space program would generate many long-term jobs. Remember that this would not be an explorational drive-by, but decades-long support for permanent habitats on the moon and Mars. We’ll need not only scientists and technologists, but managers, secretaries, manufacturers, plumbers, carpenters, and laborers in large numbers.

And does anyone want to guess what tax revenues would be with 97% employment and the economy expanding at 7% to 8% annually?

Kids are riveted by space, and a space program would provide a thrilling context to education, especially in math and science. A person set on that path should never know poverty.

And maybe, just maybe, motivate kids to turn away from the bottomless pit of substance abuse.

Space exploration also improves life on earth. 1,500 patented devices and processes have arisen out of the space program, such as kidney dialysis, CAT scans, water purification, as well as huge advances in computer technology.

President John F. Kennedy said that humans need challenges, “…not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Facing challenges, instead of retreating from them, makes us better, both as individuals and as a species.

But it’s not just the look up; it’s the look down which has proven compelling.

Every human who has seen earth from orbit reports the same profound perspective. From space, there are no countries. No borders, no lines of demarcation. No politics. They see earth and her teeming billions as one organism, sharing a fragile outpost on the edge of the loneliest frontier.

Looking to the stars expands our vision. There, amongst the planets and stars, we will find hope and the will to fulfill the promise of our gifts and talents. The future of the human race depends upon our willingness to face frontiers.

And the courage to conquer them.
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