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Benefits of Space Exploration

This research will examine whether space exploration has provided significant benefits to human beings. The plan of the research will be to set forth the scientific and historical context in which the American space-exploration program emerged, and then to discuss the scientific and technical issues relevant to it, as well as social, political, and economic issues. Controversy surrounds evaluation of the wisdom of the space program, and for that reason arguments both in favor of and against the concept and/or execution of the program will be identified. The evidence will be analyzed with a view toward assessing which judgment of the space program appears to be most valid.

The United States space program was born, for all practical purposes, in 1957, in an environment of fear and dread. Why that was so could not have been predicted from a technical standpoint because government scientists had long been contemplating the development of rocket technology that could drive a program of space exploration for decades. Dr. Robert Goddard, a physicist, experimented with small rockets from the 1920s until his death in 1945, and he created a liquid-propellant theory of powering rockets to travel beyond Earth atmosphere. In 1926, he launched the first liquid-fueled rocket, although the rocket was small-scale and its flight path terrestrial and not orbital (Watson & Barry, 1997; Crouch, 1999).

During the 1930s, rocketry was also a project at the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, Calif. At the time, rocket-assisted airplane travel was being considered to boost military air power, and rocket-powered missile technology was being tested for artillery use. There was limited contact, professional rivalry, and, as it turned out, no cooperation between Goddard's and Cal Tech's researchers, who proceeded to investigate the technology independently (Crouch, 1999).

It fell to Nazi V-2 rockets captured by the Allies in World War II to d...

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