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Monday, June 8, 2009

A Good Investment

NASA will be spending over $600 million dollars on the Kepler Mission to find extra-solar, possibly habitable planets. The mission web-page can be found here.

Now I can see some arguing that this is not the time or the place to be spending money on something like this. I could not disagree more. In fact, this is precisely the time to be investing resources in basic science such as this. Why?
  • This Is About "The Big" Question - I'm a fan of all the sciences, but this is truly "the big one" in terms of scientific questions: just how likely is it that there is other life in the universe?
  • This Is About About Inspiration - I think that one of the goals of truly good science is to inspire others, not just with answers to big questions, but with projects that get people to think more broadly than they ever thought they ever thought they could. I often wonder if some 13 year old girl out there, reading about the Kepler Mission, will end up one day piloting a ship to Mars or better yet, discovering a communications signal from another planet.
  • It Defines Us As Americans - Americans have never been afraid of big challenges, and as noted above, this is about the biggest challenge of them all.
  • This One Is For The Long Term - This might sound incredibly strange and weird, but if our species is to exist for truly the long-term (as in hundreds of millions of years or more), we will need to find other homes. The Earth simply will not be able to sustain life forever. Now at this stage in our development it's not possible to go to any other extra-solar planets, but this kind of endeavor has to start somewhere; why not start with "is there any other place to go"?
So here's to answering big questions, dreaming big dreams and expanding our horizons.

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