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Space: Not the Frontier to Forget

Last week the ExploraDome came to visit the Humphrey. Reaching the second floor of the atrium this portable planetarium has been offering student and adults the opportunity to view the cosmos. Its primary mission is to act as a temporary planetarium as the Minneapolis Public Library works to build a new one but it also acts a great tool to extend STEM (science, technology engineering and math education) to rural regions of the state.

The half and hour presentation is enjoyable even to the most session cosmonaut. The computer can show the orbits of different kinds of satellites and the International Space Station in real time. It is also an excellent way to bring perspective to how vast the solar system is. One really walks away from the program with a renewed awe about space and much more.

Those satellites that the planetarium can track and project upon the wall have increased our standard of living. They have given us more precise weather tracking, vast amounts of information about the planet's climate, cell phones, satellite TV, spy surveillance, etc. etc. In terms of technology and potential, satellites are the tip of the iceberg. We have explored less then a nano-particle of our solar system, let alone the galaxy or beyond. But with the current trajectory of the US space program, that may be as far as we get for a long, long time.

NASA is decommissioning the shuttle in 2010 and American cosmonauts will have to get rides from other countries to visit the International Space Station (ISS). But NASA is considering de-orbiting the space station in 2016 i.e. in a controlled manner sending the space station burning back to earth. After spending $100 billion dollars the ISS would have only been operational for seven years! That does not have to be the case. With NASA receives proper funding the ISS could circle the earth for at least another decade if not more.

The research that can be done at ISS would have a profound impact on the economy and our standard of living. It would be not be prudent to give up on space now. Its time to get policy inline - Space is innovation.

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Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs
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