Normally I tweet in relation to blog posts. This is my first blog post in relation to a tweet.
I put a tweet up earlier about which of these 3 proposals for the next big European space mission you would like to see followed through.
I know that what with everything happening in Haiti it may seem insensitive to talk about this at the moment but there have always been natural disasters and the argument still holds.
I have had a real change of opinion about this kind of thing over the years. For a long time I couldn't see how this kind of expenditure could be justified when there are natural disasters, people starving and all the other social problems we know about.
However there were 2 people, saying roughly the same thing, that changed my mind about it all.
The first was Bill Hicks in a little speech that he used countless times.I have just reproduced the end of it here but this link is for the full thing"
"A choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourselves off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one. Here's what you can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money that we spend on weapons and defence each year, and instead spend it feeding, clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, for ever, in peace."
This is beautifully put and eminently sensible from Hicks but I also found Carl Sagan's argument, which was basically the same, to be put in such a way as to make it almost impossible to disagree with.
In one section of his wonderful program Cosmos he points out that the Voyager missions, which gave us the majority of knowledge we have about our solar system and plenty other things besides, cost less than a penny/cent per person for everyone on the planet.
I think that it becomes almost ridiculous to suggest that this is money wasted when you consider how much we get in return for this money"namely the best information we have about who we are and where we came from (at least for some places the Cassini-Huygens mission and others have updated our knowledge about other places). All of this is doubly important when we consider that there is a huge movement backed by huge amounts of money attempting to convince us all again that the earth is in fact 6000 years old etc etc. If these people get full control (again) we will be back to burning witches before we can say "dark ages".
When you consider that the amount of money wasted on weapons and armies every year is probably more than a thousand times more than is spent on exploration, observation and conservation of the natural world (and universe) "In which of these things should we be cutting budgets?" , "Which of these things should we be attacking?" are the simple questions that should present themselves to thinking people.
Here is a short video of Carl Sagan explaining only some of the things that we got for that one penny or cent each.