We often talk in this space about innovation and advances in technology in this space. So it’s only right that we pause today to honor what remains an unparalleled achievement in the annals of human technological progress, the first moon landing. 4o years ago today, Neal Armstrong took his “One small step” and forever changed our world. The moon landing remains our best ever example of the benefits of research and the remarkable leaps forward in thinking that mankind is capable of.
Hopefully, the media attention around the anniversary will renew interest in NASA’s ongoing mission and fuel our collective urge to begin exploring again. The rewards more than justify the expense and risks of the space program.
Joan Vernikos, former Director of NASA’s Life Sciences division, succinctly explained the benefits of space exploration on the NEW YORK TIMES Freakonomics blog recently. She had this to say about funding NASA, “At what cost? Is there a price to inspiration and creativity? Economic, scientific and technological returns of space exploration have far exceeded the investment. Globally, 43 countries now have their own observing or communication satellites in Earth orbit. Observing Earth has provided G.P.S., meteorological forecasts, predictions and management of hurricanes and other natural disasters, and global monitoring of the environment, as well as surveillance and intelligence. Satellite communications have changed life and business practices with computer operations, cell phones, global banking, and TV. Studying humans living in the microgravity of space has expanded our understanding of osteoporosis and balance disorders, and has led to new treatments. Wealth-generating medical devices and instrumentation such as digital mammography and outpatient breast biopsy procedures and the application of telemedicine to emergency care are but a few of the social and economic benefits of manned exploration that we take for granted.
Space exploration is not a drain on the economy; it generates infinitely more than wealth than it spends. Royalties on NASA patents and licenses currently go directly to the U.S. Treasury, not back to NASA. I firmly believe that the Life Sciences Research Program would be self-supporting if permitted to receive the return on its investment. NASA has done so much with so little that it has generally been assumed to have had a huge budget. In fact, the 2007 NASA budget of $16.3 billion is a minute fraction of the $13 trillion total G.D.P.”
When we think of the $1 trillion cost of our current economic bailout and the theorized similar cost of America’s involvement in the Iraq War, the price of the space program looks like a steal.
Exploration is it’s own reward but innovation is an investment that yields dividends on an almost unlimited basis.
Is there a “space program” in your company? Something that you know you should be paying more attention to and that can yield unexpected benefits? What’s the big goal that’s going to define your business for the next decade?