Occupy Wall Street, economy in the dumpster, needless war in the middle east, Chinese economic superpower – its almost 2012 and America’s outlook is grim. How do we bring home American soliders and get American citizens back to work? How do we get America’s economy back on track and secure secure as the world superpower? Let’s take a lesson from the Space Race of the late 20th century and foster a new erra of green energy technology.
The technologies born from the Space Race have catapulted the world into the Modern Technological Age we now live in. I’m not just talking about neat products like scratch-resistant eyeglasses, freeze-dried food, and Athletic shoes. I’m talking about life changing technologies like MRI Machines in hospitals, cell phones, GPS, computers, and the internet. But perhaps more importantly, the Space Race had an increadablly positive impact on America’s economy. Millions of American jobs were created in the years after the moon landings as a direct or indirect result of NASA technology. In fact, entire new industries were born as a result of NASA’s R&D spending. The Aerospace industry is the most obvious example, but also the computer industry, health care and bio-medical industry, and communications industry to name a few. The government spending on NASA was well worth it and continues to have positive economic reverberations in all 50 states, even today.
So what was it that got Americans all excited about space exploration and the moon in the first place? The Space Race has its origins in the Cold War. At the time, America was in deep competition with the world’s other superpower: the Soviet Union. Each side saw the other as a threat to its own superiority and space was viewed as the next technological domain to be mastered. Indeed, space exploration and moon landings were justified as a matter of national security. In a sense, “If we don’t dominate space, than they will.” But the moon landing goal was packaged and sold to the American people in a much more elegant “We choose to go to the moon” speech given by President Kennedy to the U.S. Congress on May 25, 1961.> “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space, and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”
President John F. Kennedy, speech to U.S. Congress, May 25, 1961.
A charismatic speech given by a charismatic leader. Amazing when you think about it. The President of the United States was purposing that the Nation accept this crazy, outrageous and seemingly impossible goal. At the time, none of the technology to put a man on the moon existed, it all needed to be developed from scratch. In fact, there was still serous doubts among the scientific community that humans could survive zero gravity environment of space, not to mention the dangers of cosmic rays, asteroids, and burning up in the earths atmosphere or getting lost in space. Also, there was no doubt that this was going to be expensive and require serious taxpayer spending.
At the time of the President’s speech, the United States was perceived as falling behind in the race. The Soviets has already beaten the U.S. in launching the first unmanned satellite into space. Just 6 weeks before the speech, the Soviets beat the U.S. again by launched the first human into orbit. But despite being behind and the other enormous technological and financial challenges, the U.S. continued with the space program eventually landing a man on the moon just 7 years later. Now that’s the type of success America is capable of.
The fact is that the new green energy economy will be the world’s next energy provider. Today’s fossil fuel energy providers are by nature non-renewable. Eventually, their resources will run out. Exactly when the world’s fossil fuel will run out is very much up for debate. Some say it will be sooner than others. The point is: economically speaking, it does not matter when fossil fuel will run out. Over time, extracting fossil fuel out of the ground will become more and more expensive as the world’s supply runs low. Every fossil fuel company that does not have plans to completely transfer to renewable energy technology in the future will ultimately be out of business eventually. Energy companies realize this and they do fund their own renewable research projects. Bio-fuels are perhaps the most promising renewable technology being developed because they enable creating fuels that are very similar to fossil fuels. The problem is that today’s energy companies currently do not have much economic intensive to roll out new green technologies because the cost of doing business is still relativity cheep. Especially when America is willing to fight wars to maintain control and stability over fossil fuel rich regions of the world.
The green economy is very real and increasingly powerful force, whether the fossil fuel companies are part of it or not. The cost of retrofitting homes or building with insulation, solar panels, and other energy reducing technologies not only pays for itself, but saves money in the long term. The fact is, it makes great economic sense to adopt green technologies today. Not to mention, its also good for planet earth.
Imagine if tomorrow the president of the United states gave a “We choose to go to the moon” speech, but instead of space exploration, the subject matter was about green energy. I imagine it would go something like this:
“Today, we are drawing a line in the sand. Starting right now, America is no longer going to stand at the back of the line when it comes to energy independence. Over the next decade, the United States of America is establishing a national mission to become energy independent and secure. We will no longer be beholden to foreign sources for our energy. Instead, we choose to adopt a policy of investing heavily in researching and developing new green energy technologies. We believe that by doing so, we will not only secure the future of our planet, but of our national security as well. The green energy government programs rolling out over the course of the next few years will create millions of American jobs in the near future and do doubt have incredible impact on our economy…”
America has a long history of technology and industry. Science, technology, and industry have shaped America’s economic success and instilled cultural values of entrepreneurship, education, and innovation. The Space Race reaffirmed the Nation’s focus on investing science and technology and it achived great success in a short period of time. The initial spending on space exploration turned out to be well worth it for America’s economy.
1: , The Decision to Go to the Moon, , http://www.lpi.usra.edu/expmoon/decision.html
2: Bill Johnson (6th Congressional District in Ohio), , 2011, http://billjohnson.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=268867
3: ROGER H. BEZDEK & ROBERT M. WENDLING, Sharing out NASA’s spoils, 1992, http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v355/n6356/abs/355105a0.html
4: Jerome Schnee, The Economic Impacts of the U.S. Space Program, , http://er.jsc.nasa.gov/seh/economics.html