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An Anniversary of Space Exploration February 18, 2012

Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture, Uncategorized.
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Monday is the 50th anniversary of the first orbital space flight by the US, conducted by John Glenn, fighter pilot, astronaut, and former United States Senator.  While the events of the day were glamorized in the movie (and book) The Right Stuff, these astronauts were more than simply passengers.  They made real time decisions and acted upon them, at the risk of their lives and the success of their mission.  They are permanently ensconced in history in a way few ever experience.

I had the honor of seeing John Glenn once, circa 2001.  He was giving a filmed talk at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum and I happened to be within about 20 feet of him as he talked about the wonders of space flight.

(Many years ago I also shook hands with Neil Armstrong, who spoke at my Boy Scout Council’s Eagle Scout dinner).

I’ve beat this dead horse on multiple occasions, but I’ll do so again.  Sure, the space program creates jobs, but they are pretty much tax-funded jobs, so it’s difficult to distinguish it from other government programs.

But what the space program really does is create technology.  We have technology that we take for granted today that was developed specifically for use in the space program.  We know things about our planet and our universe that we would never have known otherwise.

As Larry Niven said, curiosity is a survival trait.  Let’s continue to invest in our survival.

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1. Are We Living in an Era of Low Innovation? « Cutting Edge Computing - April 28, 2012

[…] I’m glad someone finally said it, and I’m glad it was a visionary like Neal Stephenson. While it seems like we have great new toys every year, none of these represent breakthroughs in engineering.  Certainly Facebook and its ilk are simply low-hanging fruit that were ripe for the taking.  There is nothing hard or breakthrough about these applications.  And we already know that I lament for our lost and likely unrecoverable space program. […]


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