The Social Implications of Space Travel
By Gian Ellis-Gannell
They tell us that to achieve our dreams, we have to reach for the sky.
Shoot for the moon, land among the stars, right?
It’s a pretty picture, and one that has long inspired people to accomplish amazing feats of innovation, ingenuity and teamwork.
Our dreams and our curiosity of what is really ‘up there’ has inspired the race to space, man’s landing on the moon, and rovers touch down on mars- making history time and time again.
But at what cost?
In September 2019, during Scott Morrison's official visit to the United States of America, Australia pledged $150 million dollars to NASA -The American Space Agency- in order to send astronauts to the moon again on Project Artemis by 2024. The plan is to then use the moon as a stepping-stone for the first manned mission to Mars.
It’s an ambitious plan that notable aerospace engineers such as Ex-NASA Director George Abbey doubt will run to schedule, for there are countless political and diplomatic bodies that restrict the agency's actions. But, it holds great promise for industry and technological advancements, and our contribution of funds could mean that an Australian astronaut lands on the moon that year.
As a young woman who cannot wait to enter the realm of STEM as a doctor, a half of me is absolutely thrilled at this prospect.
The other half of me though, is a young Australia who is scared, and undeniably looking to this future with caution. I have always been a realist, and at best, we kickstart Australia’s push to become an international space powerhouse.
But at worst … the Project could fail.
It could flop. And then what? How many people went without to make that happen?
We already neglect our vulnerable citizens and sweep our less exciting issues under the rug- I fear that Australia's goal to become a nation of universal citizens may be at a detriment to our local communities. Truthfully, we have gambled $150 million dollars on NASA…
$150 million dollars that could go an awfully long way, and though some might say that the contribution is just a drop in the bucket (after all, by 2030 it is supposedly expected to generate 20,000 new jobs), unfortunately Australia’s most recent budget reveals that that $150 million dollar drop is more like a downpour when compared to other aspects of our budget…
Here’s a list actually, of just a few areas that are receiving less funding than Australia’s contribution to NASA this year:
· Drought relief per year- $100 million
· Rural community mental health support- $30.4 million
· Local School Community Fund- $30.2 million
· Reducing the Risk and Impact of Natural Disasters (including
bushfires)- $26.1 million
So I pose the question,
Is it the big picture, or our picture that we need to be focusing on?
Should we really be shooting for the moon and dreaming about whats ‘up there’ if we can’t equally take care of what’s ‘down here’?
It cannot be denied that we would not exist as we do today if nations hadn’t made risks and supported space travel. And, looking at it from afar, it seems that the technological advancements from space travel should be incentive enough to continue our contributions... Air filters, CAT scans and even firefighting equipment all stem from space research. Thus, it will be a large part of our future that hopefully the Australian Space Agency will pioneer.
As a small country, it is vital to our future that we keep up in the space race and participate on the world stage. No one gets innovation from isolation- 15 countries contributed to the building of the International Space Station.
- More than 3 million Australians are currently living below the poverty line, and of those, more than 750,000 are children. For a single adult living in poverty, they live on average on only $298 a week.
- The recent bush fires destroyed 46 million acres of land. This number is nearly double the amount that’s spent on ‘minimising risk’ according to our budget right now. A great deal of the funding for disaster relief is being donated out of our own pockets, and it’s not that we mind- it’s just that our government should be doing better. After all, families still aren’t even able to access the heralded $70,000 grants for farmers affected by disaster because of red tape.
We cannot forget our roots and our history and our families. Now more than ever our communities need our support. This fire season with have lost 1000 more properties than there are days in a year. 1,365 properties gone.
$150 million dollars seems like a much bigger drop now, doesn’t it? That’s money not even assisting our own space agency. That’s money to another country trying to reach another planet. Mars.
At this stage in our economy, I question if this contribution is appropriate. Those funds could have been helping our farmers, our local children, or our animals. They may go to good use overseas, but frankly there is so much to be done here. We need to band together.
Its mateship that’s at the core of what it means to be Australian. Looking out for one another. Taking your neighbours bins in when it's lucky enough to be raining, collecting their mail when they go away. Its that bond that can only be formed by our common home.
My intention is not to shame anyone or any governments actions, because as a student I acknowledge that there are wide gaps in my knowledge, however silence is not the answer to our concerns either. There needs to be greater dialogue. We have such a global world that it’s easy to get lost in whats happening internationally, but we have to consider a better balance as we continue making history.
We need a renewed national focus in which we work from the ground up so that when we reach for the stars…
it’s on much more level earth.