I do not pretend to be a space expert. I’m a scientist as much as I am a fighter pilot. What I am is a person who enjoys learning, discovering, and sharing the stories that are, I think, important in how they touch us and make our lives better. That’s why I write, why I create, why I love travel. Within travel we have the chance to discover something greater than ourselves and that help us understand that the world is large and unique, while growing smaller and more personal every day.
I’ve covered Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, the facility that you and I use to explore our U.S. Space program at its earth-bound space port, with great pleasure. The people I’ve met and worked with there are as happy and filled with passion about KSC and what they do there as any people I’ve met who are proud of their jobs.
Yet unlike many of our jobs, what we do isn’t something that very literally changes the world, and while not everyone at KSC or KSCVC actually do the work that changes our lives, they are the support people, the many – literally – thousands that make the work done by those most visible few – astronauts – possible.
Living in Illinois most of my life, it was easy to overlook KSC/KSCVC as “just the place they launch” and that space exploration had little to do with me. My ignorance was not alone; its something most Americans – most people – seem to think.
“Cool, we went into space, then the moon. Now, who cares?” This seems to be something we’ve all come to think.
We lost astronauts who were chasing a dream, but they were also chasing our today and our future. I never knew beyond their dangerous and somewhat cool job, exactly the extent of what really goes on with each space flight.
Certainly the people at KSCVC put on a good show and sell a great product. But its hard to argue when that sales pitch is put into writing and set before your eyes. Hard to say, “we’re spending too much” and “why do we keep going back” when you see exactly where their accomplishments have landed us.
How Space Travel Touches Your Life
You want to know how space travel and our going back touches your life? Understandable. Fair enough.
In Apollo 13, Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) is told that people in one Senator’s district are asking why we keep sending people to the moon. Been there, done that.
Lovell responds by saying something to the effect of, think if Christopher Columbius never returned to the new world.
Yes, we need to go back. Sure ole Chris went back to make some more bucks and achieve new information on this unknown new world.
In reality, it was his going back and the journeys of many others who added to our cumulative knowledge, who let us found a nation, and who brought to this earth the future.
Our every day.
Exploration isn’t just about a single event. Its about all the ways that event reaches, like the arms of an octopus or branches of a giant tree, into the present and the future we all share.
The Guided Tours offered at KSCVC include a program that tells you the various aspects of what you’re seeing. There is also a two-page spread dedicated to why we go back and what we’ve learned and accomplished from our continued efforts.
During the tour, as they try to impart our need to return to space again and again, they say something that has stuck with me since the first time I heard it. When addressing the money-cost issue, the guide tells you, “the money we spend on space exploration isn’t thrown out into space, its spent right here on earth in all the many jobs it creates.”
Want to know about those jobs and the those ways I mentioned it touches you? From their list:
Long range weather forecasting
Solar power electricity gernation
International TV broadcasts
Satellite imagery for crop management & resource mapping
Energy-saving air conditioning
Research on cures for Osteoporosis, Diabetes, AIDS, etc.
Robot-guided wheel chair
Flat panel TV
Water purification systems
Advanced design of bridges, buildings, trains, shops, turbines, etc.
Automatic insulin pump
Radiation blocking sunglasses
Firefighter breathing apparatus
Still wondering why we go back and how space exploration touches you and your life? Why we spend the money – here on earth to pay for jobs that disseminate the information, invent these items, and make them, distribute them, and sell them?
I can personally look at that small list of items and see plenty of ways space travel has touched my life, from the sunglasses I wear all the time to the pacemaker that helped keep my dad alive 12 years past when doctors saved his life. Yea, I am a strong supporter of what we’re doing in going back.
And looking at this list, you should be too.
Next time your in Florida and visiting Central Florida, include Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in your trip, see the place where astronauts leave earth into a vast new world of discovery, and see for yourself why space exploration is so important to you and your life.