F - Hello internet, and welcome to this episode of The Big Questions, the podcast where I try to tackle the biggest questions facing our time. The big question of the day today is: “Is space travel worth the cost?”, and joining me are NASA enthusiast @jazzed_iceberg, and environmental activist honorable_currant.
I- Hi @rational_fish!
C - Yeah, hi rational_fish and thanks for having me on!
F - So, let’s get right into today’s topic. From my research on the subject, I found that a lot of people’s reasons for disliking space travel are the economics of it all. What’s your opinion on this, jazzed_iceberg?
I - Well, I think that it’s just about balance, because yeah, the price is high, but we’re dealing with world changing rewards here, so yeah, it is a risk, but in the end, I reckon our future generations will look back at the choices we made and go, “My god I’m glad they did! Imagine if we couldn’t go to other planets!”.
C - You may say that future generations will be pleased about us putting research into space travel but we shouldn’t be needing a ‘Planet B’ anyway. It’s our own fault that we destroyed our planet and, personally, I think that we need to solve the problem instead of avoiding it and definitely not try to fix it by throwing money at it in the form of an environmentally unfriendly gas guzzler!
F - Well, yeah, I guess that is a valid point.The environmental thing does seem to be more of an issue than the pricing problem from earlier on in this episode. What do you think about this, jazzed_iceberg?
I - The environmental impacts are pretty big, but if we’re careful it shouldn’t have that much of an impact, but having somewhere to go could literally mean the survival of our species, and that’s worth a lot.
C-Yes but we wouldn’t need that other option if we would deal with the climate crisis.
I - But we’re not.
C - That doesn’t mean we can’t, and the fact that saving our planet will be difficult doesn’t mean we shouldn’t, and it certainly doesn’t give an excuse to stop trying.
I - The problem is that there are still people out there who believe that the whole thing is a hoax and people who are benefiting economically from turning a blind eye. While they’re the ones in charge, to try and solve the climate crisis is like trying to put out a fire in your house with water pistols while there are still people directing their flamethrowers at it.
C - But if six billion people (excluding the flamethrower throwers) all pull out their water pistols, there ends up being a hell of a lot of water!
F - Woah! Let’s just pause that right there, that got WAY too heated, and anyway, this is a space travel debate, not a climate change one. Let’s try and talk about the economic side of things. Currently, NASA’s total budget is about $21.5 billion, which is about £16.4 billion! Do you guys think that it’s worth it?
C - This is the biggest reason that I don’t think space exploration should be happening. That much money could pay to improve an incredible amount of people’s lives! That amount of money in a year could pay to fix Flint’s water crisis more than 390 times over! It could pay to feed nearly 60,000 people in need for a year! It could help us fix CLIMATE CHANGE! Why would we give that up? For a chance to potentially find some unspecified great thing?
I - I think that you’re right in principle. Yes, the immediate benefits of having that kind of money would be huge, but finding intelligent life on other planets, or a habitable planet to fall back on if all else fails could save the human race! If and when we find a planet we can live on and a way to get to it, I will whole-heartedly campaign for NASA to keep only a fraction of its current budget, but until then we need that security, and as horrible as it sounds, that security is just worth more.
C - Really? You think that the possibility of having a way to survive a situation that will be a lot more likely to happen if we try to get the security of being able to survive it is more important than solving the problem you want security in surviving?
I - What?
F - Yeah, what did you just say? [laughs]
C - What I mean is that you want to know that the human race will survive through the climate crisis, right?
I - Right.
C - But trying to get that security will very likely mean that the effects of climate change are sped up and are made more problematic
I - Yes, but it also means that we are doing more research and probably getting closer to finding another inhabitable planet to live on if we can’t solve the climate issue.
F - OK, once again we are back on the subject of climate change. Can you two not talk at all without relating it back to climate change?
C - Well let’s go back to the economic cost then. The ISS cost 150 BILLION dollars to build, and that’s just one branch of where NASA (and other space-related organisations) are putting their money! That kind of money could change the world!
I - But realistically, that’s only $61 per American, and for context, $2,200 is spent on national defence per person, and $3,939 per person on health! $61 is NOTHING in comparison!
C - $61 on its own to them is tiny, you’re right, but multiplied by the 327 million people living in the USA, it’s enormous!
I - That money means that all the brightest minds from all around the US can be funded enough to make a real difference, rather than just letting all their intelligence go to waste!
C - But why should those people be forced to go into the field of space? With all those intelligent people working on something like new technology or neuroscience or cancer research, come to think of it, we might have found cures for all the diseases that we face, and we might be so advanced technologically that we have the strongest economy in the world!
I - But funding space is a much easier task than funding all the scientists in America! How would we be able to tell the difference between genuine scientists and the secondary school students looking to make a bit of money because they’ve taken science for A-Level?
C - There’s always a way! We just have to find it!
I - But what if there isn’t a way, you say there definitely is but where is your proof!
F - OK, OK guys. Calm down. Actually, I don't think we have any time left so I guess we have to end this debate here. Bye!
I - Bye
C - Bye