They just keep coming…
I just got yet another letter in the mail from Iowa Senator Charles “Chuck” Grassley. So far every letter I’ve received from his office says about the same thing – “thanks for the input, but I’m going to ignore you.” They’re all two pages long, they all explain the issues from the Republican perspective. I’ve met Mr. Grassley. He’s a nice guy. I can’t help but like him. According to the commercials, he mows his own lawn. But he’s been voting the wrong way lately. That makes me sad.
Someone recently asked why we’re spending so much money for NASA when we have all sorts of woes here on Earth to deal with. To put it simply, the answer is: It’s Good Business. The United States puts about 0.8% of it’s budget into the space program. It’s been estimated that for every dollar the government puts into the space program gets a return of seven dollars in the form of increased growth and taxes. source
Sure, but what does sending a robot to Mars have to do with me? Why do I care? What do I get out of the deal, realistically? Well… It it’s small, lightweight, miniature, or cool, it probably has roots in the space program.
A short list of spinoffs:
- Portable Computers
- Satellite TV
- Bar Coding
- Joystick Controllers
- Smoke Detectors
- Invisible Braces
- Cordless Tools
- Medical Imaging
- Vision Screening
- Ear Thermometers
- Fire Resistant Clothing
- Thermal Gloves & Boots
- Failsafe Flashlights
- Quartz Timing Crystals
Digital cameras? Well, how do you think they get all those neat photos back from Saturn? CAT scans and MRI’s are both space spinoffs, too. Some people put the number of spinoffs at over 30,000. That’s a fairly impressive number…
And something else to think about – governments historically fund exploration which is later taken over by private enterprise. Columbus had to get funding from the queen to get his ships across the Atlantic. (One of the spinoffs of that venture was the United States of America, incidentally.) But private enterprise soon followed, making what was once a perilous voyage not only safe, but commonplace.
Do you realize that the Soviet Union tossed Sputnik up in 1957. That’s less than 50 years ago. In less than fifty years we’ve gone from a beeping orb in LEO to planning missions to Pluto and discovering planets orbiting distant stars. This is way cool stuff! How much have we learned since then? How much more is out there yet to be discovered?
How’s That Again?
My lovely bride is in the other room dictating some notes to be transcribed later. All I can hear is a low mumble-mumble-rumble. Until…
“Honey,” she called out.
“Yes, Snookums?” sez I.
“What’s the English word for ‘kaputt?'”
“Broken. Busticated. Not working,” I hollered back.
I felt smug. I always feel smug when I know the answer. The smugness lasted about five minutes. “Honey-Bee,” I called to my wife.
“Yes, dear?” she replied.
“Where did you put that thing?”
“What thing?” she asked, understandably.
“You know, that thing. That round plastic thing I put popcorn in…”
“The bowl?” she asked.
“That’s it! The bowl…”
I am smug no longer. (In my defense, though, I’m not all that familiar with English. I know American and a smattering of Canadian…)