No government agency, corporation, or private business funded, sponsored, or endorsed the “Here on Earth” site. I’m Bill Dunford, and I made this.
I built these pages, and another space-related project called Riding with Robots on the High Frontier, because I think nature is inspiring, the people who explore it are interesting, and I don’t think basic research gets the credit it deserves.
It all started with this: every time we accomplish something amazing in space, it’s as predicable as sunrise that someone will make the comment ‘why spend so much money/time/effort in space/on Mars/in orbit when there is poverty/disease/famine here on Earth?’
It’s a fair question. I admire the prudent impulse behind it. The trouble is, to be blunt, it’s a question based on ignorance. In most cases, it’s an innocent ignorance, coming from smart and fair-minded people. But the question belies a lack of understanding about why we explore space (or do any kind of science for that matter) how much money is spent and where it goes, and how much we all rely on the results of space exploration and other scientific research every day.
That’s what this site is all about. I’m not exactly the first person to think about this stuff—check out the Get Involved page for a fairly comprehensive listing of other space advocacy efforts.
There are many answers; here are mine: First, we don’t spend much as a percentage of the total economy. In the United States, for example, the entire NASA budget—everything from the space station, to climate monitoring, to aircraft efficiency research, to Mars rovers—takes up less than one percent of the federal pie.
Second, the money we do use on space doesn’t go into a black hole (thank you, thank you). Not one penny spent on space is spent in space. It's all spent on Earth-bound people and businesses. It creates jobs directly. Much more importantly, it creates technology and industries that lead to many more jobs. And it creates knowledge and know-how that benefit us all. It’s called R&D, and any smart company or forward-looking nation does it.
Are you interested in the environment, transportation, emergency response, communication, medicine? All of those fields rely day in and day out on satellites and other tools that resulted directly or indirectly from space exploration. Bottom line: going into space is about the problems here on Earth.
Finally, although it’s hard to quantify I believe everyone benefits when we understand, appreciate and enjoy nature. After all, the Earth is a planet, so knowing the planets is one way to better know our own home.
Given all this, I think it’s crazy to suggest that we should eliminate space exploration and other kinds of fundamental research, even in tough economic times, even when we have other problems (as we always will).
Unlike some space advocates, I’m not suggesting that space projects should lie beyond careful fiscal management, tough choices, or even cuts when they can’t be avoided. I realize we can’t realistically pay for everything we can imagine. Nor am I necessarily defending any and all space projects, taken individually, as the best possible use of funds. Honest people can and do disagree about the exact numbers and priorities.
I’m just saying it’s a copout—a short-sighted, ironically self-defeating copout—to point to problems on Earth as a reason to wield the axe against science and education.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. I purposely included no comment section or forum because as much as I love trolls, conspiracy theorists, and hardcore political partisans, they have plenty of other places to gift us with their insight. But please do use the Contact page if there’s something you’d like to add.
Meanwhile, keep looking up!
The text on this site is copyrighted by Bill Dunford. It is available under a Creative Commons License, which in this case means that you are free to use and copy the text, except for commercial purposes, as long as you provide attribution. Most of the pictures come taxpayer-funded public sources (for example, see JPL’s image use policy).
The opinions expressed on these pages are the sole responsibility of its author. This site is not officially endorsed by any space agency. While every effort is made to verify information against original sources, there is no warranty regarding the accuracy or usefulness of this material. Downloads are provided “as-is” with no guarantees.
No personal information that may be collected on this site will be sold or intentionally redistributed.
Here on Earth is built on the Twitter Bootstrap framework. The type is set in Merriweather. It relies on a mixture of open source and proprietary technologies, running primarily on the Mac OS X and SUSE Linux platforms. The toolset includes The GIMP, Cyberduck, BBEdit, and Novell information management products. Some HTML 5 content is created using Hype.