I believe in space exploration. I believe in exploring the unknown, learning for its own sake, and doing something that seems impossible, simply to find out if we can. I believe that our space program is a priceless expression of the human need to learn and discover.
Growing up in Orlando, Florida a space shuttle launch has always been a special event. For five minutes everyone stops, steps outside, and looks east. Even though watching a launch from Orlando just means seeing a bright light and a trail of smoke, it’s still important enough that life pauses to commemorate the moment. It’s hard to resist the lure of standing on your own front lawn and watching humanity transcend its natural boundaries.
When I watch a launch I understand why people have worked for so long to understand the universe beyond our own planet and why they have sacrificed so much to go there. It’s because the sky has always been there challenging us to understand it and ultimately to travel through it. I feel so lucky to live in a time when we have come so far in meeting this challenge.
I have heard many people say that space exploration is a waste of money, and that NASA’s budget could be better used to help the poor and the needy. As a social worker I am in favor of programs benefiting those in need, but I also believe that space exploration also meets a need. It is the need to fulfill our potential as humans and to become more than we currently are. Psychologist Abraham Maslow called it self-actualization and placed it at the top of his hierarchy of needs. He said that when our other more basic needs are met then the desire for self-actualization is created within us, driving us to create, discover, and explore. We spend most government money on our basic needs of health and safety. It believe it’s right to devote a small percent to fulfilling our ultimate need to be self-actualized and fulfill our potential, not simply as individuals, but also as a group.
I would like the future to look back and see that we as a county looked beyond the problems that we face, as real as those problems are. I would like them to see that we used the vast amounts of wealth, resources, and intellect that we have at our disposal to take a step forward, so that the people who come after us are free to enjoy the benefits of our discoveries, and hopefully make progress of their own.
I believe in space exploration. I want to see a person land on Mars in my lifetime so that I know that my generation did not let the spirit of discovery and progress stagnate, but instead drove it forward. I want my chance to be part of the adventure of space travel, even if that just means watching it from my front lawn.
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