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Given the rates of poverty and despair in even our most "advanced" nations and the onset of global warming, is space exploration prudent?

Is it really important to spend our limited resources on space programs while ecosystems are failing here and those same resources could be used to improve the lives of those we share the globe with? Is the carbon cost of space exploration worth the loss of ecosystems and resources it produces? Should developing nations follow more industrialized nations' examples by forsaking their disadvantaged for the amusement and luxury of their affluent?

Some miscellaneous reference:
http://blog.ted.com/2006/09/28/virgin_galactic/
http://blog.ted.com/2009/02/24/capt_charles_mo/
http://www.ted.com/playlists/67/the_quest_to_end_poverty.html

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  • May 23 2013: If you eat your seed corn, you can save lives in the short term, but more will die later.

    Research and development investments are the seed corn of modern economies. The economic benefits of the USA space program have been many times the amounts spent. Those benefits include more jobs for the poor.

    From a strictly economic point of view, the space program reduces poverty.

    Some of the inventions that were developed by NASA have created whole new industries. Can you even imagine the modern world without communication satellites?

    This question really should not be stated in the form of either space or poverty reduction. It would make more sense to ask, how much should be invested in the future? And, what is the best way to make those investments?

    Another part of this issue is competition. If the USA reduces our investments in space, we could lose out to other countries that are willing to invest more. That loss might be merely economic, but it could also be catastrophic if our enemies develop space based weapons that we cannot defend against.

    Space exploration is prudent and necessary.
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      May 23 2013: Interesting arguments Barry.

      I'll address your points in reverse order, for clarity.

      The idea that reducing American space exploration is a loss resulting in a win for enemies of the US would seem to put nationalism above the providence of terrestrial life in general and push human life to a supreme position outside of terrestrial life. Such competition seems petty in face of nature, which knows no national, religious or ethnic boundaries. This is particularly odd when put into the perspective that much of the resources needed to support any single nation's space program must be sourced globally rather than nationally. Surely, the greatness of a nation is not in how well it can bully its rival, yes?

      As to the form of my question, I meant to state it exactly as I did, to frame a topic of query. If your interest in some other topic, so be it. That really has nothing to do with the topic I've proposed and there's really no reason we should quibble over whose topic is most valid. Still, just for the sake of the silliness of it, I have to say, "this is my party and I'll cry if I want to" or at the least ignore tangents that don't fit my interests.

      While it may be true that entire industries have grown from the NASA project, it, by nature, must also be said that the resources and funds supporting that development may have served society equally well elsewhere. As a simple example, I personally would rather the US government have spent the monies used to research and develop freeze-dried rations on feeding K-12 students or developing more efficient farming technologies. Either of those alternatives could potentially have created jobs and new industries while serving practical, social needs. A world without communication satellites would have no internet, no cell phones, no satellite broadcasters; but, it might also have less homogenization of information and afford for personal interaction than social networks like twitter.

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