Monday, 20 July 2009

Forty years ago today

The first space landing was forty years ago today. "One small step..." What are we celebrating? It was certainly a publicity coup for the Americans who were trailing to the Russians in the space race. Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon said the lunar landing helped to create ''co-operation between former adversaries'' and hastened the end of the space race. It may not be a race now but it remains an expensive expedition.

So what are the benefits? Scratch-resistant lenses for glasses are thanks to space space technology. NASA needed something to protect satellites and the same expertise went into glasses. There are many who benefit from satellite technology by watching TV. Our abilities to predict the weather have also improved due to space know-how.

I am not sure about the benefit of these technologies. Groucho Marx thought that television was very educational because he would leave the room and read a book. I have decided to ignore weather forecasts and just keep an umbrella in the car. Glasses are cheap enough so if you do damage them then get them replaced. I am also not convinced about the progress of associated technologies like computing and robotics because the market can drive progress. I am fairly sure that television has already played a significant role and will continue to do so in the progress of satellite equipment.

It was political and military competition that made Americans land on the moon but think twice about this and you could change the words to 'pride'. Now Americans are calling for missions to Mars. We should be looking to progress our technologies but space travel is an extremely expensive way to do this.

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