The Next Fifty Years in Space

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The first fifty years in space saw its start when Russia launched Sputnik, the first man made satellite in 1957. This ignited the “Space Race” and spawned a generation of enthusiasm in space travel and the scientific studies that was mainly fueled by the West versus East mentality. It seemed like every kid wanted to be Neil Armstrong during that era and that kept the following generation interested in manned space flight. But, how relevant is manned space flight going to be in the next fifty years with all these world and national issues happening around us that need to be given serious attention and funding? Is there a future in space or should the United States direct their efforts elsewhere?

One argument against the continuation of the space program is why should the United States continue to spend billions of dollars every year to send man into space when there are immediate issues here on earth like national security, the continued war on terrorism, the environment, poverty, and the biggest being the national debt? A typical shuttle mission cost approximately 400 to 500 million dollars, and the completion and launch of a satellite is estimated to have a price tag of around 20 million dollars. The feeling by many is that money like that is better off being spent here on earth helping solve problems in the moment, and that space can wait till later.

According to poll data, Americans do not rank space exploration as a high priority for federal government spending. For example, in an April 10, 2007 Harris poll, respondents were given a list of twelve federal government programs and asked to pick two which should be cut “if spending had to be cut.” Space programs led the list (51%), followed by w...

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