UC Berkeley Physics Professor Richard Muller argues that the biggest NASA achievements in space in the last two decades did not involve manned missions.
Hubble aside, what would you name as the really glorious achievements of NASA in the last 20 years? My favorite: the discovery that every moon of every planet is significantly different from every other moon, a result completely unanticipated and still not understood. One might also pick the amazing success of weather satellites. Or the remarkable pictures you get from your satellite TV system. Those in the know might pick our space spy systems. Then there’s GPS—the Global Positioning System, used to guide airplanes, boats, hikers, automobiles as well as soldiers and smart weapons. These projects have one thing in common: they were all unmanned.
Note that some of the achievements Muller lists were not done by NASA. GPS was developed by the military. Weather satellites are similarly funded by a different government agency (NOAA? National Weather Service? one of those). For the amount of money that has been spent on manned space trips over the last 20 years we could funded an enormous amount of space science as well as a great deal of technological development of radically more advanced space launch and space travel technologies.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2003 February 10 01:42 PM Space Exploration|