This post originally written at medium.com for astronomical community.
The term ‘Rocket Science’ has long been used to express something which is difficult to understand, to make things that aren’t rocket science seem easier. But it’s getting less accurate as the years go by — it’s been nearly half a century since Apollo 11 landed on the surface of the Moon, and Neil Armstrong said “One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind”. That was 1969. People were inspired, and the United States of America rose to become the top global power, rather than the Soviet Union.
Since then, only three countries have been able to send an astronaut into space. Humans still haven’t been able to expand further into our solar system. The capital needed to top the Apollo program is still so high that only governments can fund such a project, and most countries only operate a very basic space program to court public opinion. When a country’s immediate economic concerns are focused on matters such as healthcare and education, it seems unreasonable to spend so much money just to get few people up into space.
But a few countries are still contributing significant sums. The United States for example — despite its healthcare woes, NASA is reasonably well-funded. One reason is that its operations employ around 18,000 people. The money spent employing those people doesn’t just vanish into outer space — all the accumulated knowledge and resource are dispersed to the public in a form that benefits many areas, such as the military, software development and even food. We’re actually surrounded by many technologies that were invented for space exploration. As a result of its investments in space, the United States can make money — not from oil or gas, but from one of the best renewable resources the human race has — ideas!
The end of the global deadlock in space funding and knowledge may be in sight. Mankind is finally planning to make another breakthrough, or as Armstrong would have called it: a giant leap for mankind. In 2018, a mission named ‘Mars One’ will send a lander and communications satellite to Mars from Earth. This will pave the way for a human mission in 2025, gathering essential info and knowledge for us to ready the necessary technologies for the journey.
Although most of us won’t probably set foot on Mars in our lifetime, we’ll still benefit from the rapid growth of technology to make this mission possible — technologies that will alter the course of our lives. Most of us won’t contribute a direct effort to the mission either, but this quantum leap in human achievement may spark new inspiration in our lives — showing us how to use available technology to change our fates, allowing us to see all the possibilities that the future brings.
Remember — nothing is as hard as rocket science.