Why explore space?

The ultimate question facing the Constellation program, which includes Ares, is whether it makes sense to spend any money on space exploration. Why not use the money to help the poor or find a cure for cancer? The panel addressed the question in its press conference last week. Panel members talked about tangible benefits, but said the intangibles were even more important. Those intangibles, they believe, are one reason for increased use of commercial launchers — like the Atlas V and Delta IV — in space exploration.

Dr. Ed Crawley: “The less tangible benefits (include) inspiration of the youth and allowing us to understand our place in the universe. … One of the things we’ve been very conscious about in this exercise is to create options that would, in fact, engage the public, that the inclusion of the commercial providers of various services is not just about saving money or creating jobs in the commercial sector. There’s actually a broad young community that thinks that commercial space is pretty cool, and that they would like to spend their careers in that.”

That may be especially true in the Decatur area. Not only are Decatur youths exposed to activities at Marshall Space Flight Center, they have a unique aptitude in engineering. The best evidence of that may be in the remarkable national success enjoyed by the Decatur-Austin Robotics Coalition, a robotics team consisting of students at Austin and Decatur high schools.

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