On December 2nd China launched a rocket headed to the moon carrying a robotic moon rover called Yutu, or Jade Rabbit. This moon rover will carry out China’s first soft landing on the moon, a landing marked by sufficiently minor damage and exploration after landing. The moon rover will stay on the moon for a few months and keep busy collecting data.
After taking into account the Curiosity rover on mars, this will be the first time in the history of the universe that there has been a human presence on three celestial bodies at the same time!
While China had a satellite playing an ode to Mao Zedong from space in 1970, it wasn’t until 2003 that they really got in on the space game after they put an astronaut into space. In 2009, China crashed the Chang’e 1 craft into the moon in a controlled, hard landing. This marked the first time a human object had landed on the moon since Russia launched the Luna 24 probe in 1976. This may not be too surprising since there really isn’t anything that attractive about the moon. If there was, we would have built hotels on the moon already, or had a reason to advance our need for research-and-development in particle physics and space flight so that we may embrace the whole of the cosmos in an attempt to better understand existence, make contact with other life, and discover ever greater mystery.
Sounds horrible. Instead, let’s just cut NASA’s already pathetic allotment of .5% of the national budget, down from almost 4.5% in the 1960’s.
The issue with space programs is that not everyone is convinced they’re worth it. It’s not easy to see the advantages of exploring infinite space at a tiny fraction of the speed of light in a dinky machine filled with limited atmosphere. The real-estate options in our solar neighborhood are pretty bleak, so why should we care about demanding a Space Age renaissance? What good is going to come of a single moon rover?
Related Article: Ancient Galaxy that Shouldn’t Exist is Found Perfectly Formed
Most Americans think NASA receives funding of around 20% of the national budget. The perceived budget is 40 times more than the actual budget. NASA’s success and failure fall under a great deal of scrutiny, but what most people are quick to forget is that although NASA hasn’t invented portal guns or teleportation technology, they have positively impacted a wide range of scientific discovery, industrial/commercial innovation, and social standards.
First off, NASA’s effect on the U.S. economy is very significant.
The economic benefits of NASA’s programs are greater than generally realized. The main beneficiaries (the American public) may not even realize the source of their good fortune. . .
From 1976 – 1984, 259 non-space applications of NASA technology accounted for
— $21.6 billion in sales and benefits;
— 352,000 (mostly skilled) jobs created or saved,and;
— $355 million in federal corporate income taxes
In 2002 the aerospace industry was worth over $95 billion. That seems like a pretty remarkable investment for something that is given less than a single percent of the total budget. But what have we personally received from NASA besides the loss of Pluto?
Related Article: The Big Bang Wasn’t the Beginning
- LED Lights
- Artificial Limbs
- Anti-icing Systems
- Firefighter Gear
- Freeze Dried Food
- Solar Power
- Refrigerated Internet-Connected Wall Ovens (what?)
- and more…
NASA’s new squad of 8 space cadets have some lofty goals to accomplish in the coming decades, with NASA planning missions to asteroids, travel across the solar system, and working with space spiders all on the same deflated budget. Sounds like NASA might be getting into the business of miracles too. It appears a space age renaissance wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all!
It is pretty remarkable that China was able to accomplish the sending of a moon rover on a budget that is 7.3% of the microscopic U.S. space budget. Then again, I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised. Have you ever seen Chinese builders build a 30 story building in 15 days? They might have strange and alien bathrooms, but do not underestimate China!