According to a leading expert in space exploration and technology, Tom Durkin, the deputy director of the NASA South Dakota Space Grant Consortium, the huge investment being made in space travel today will continue to pay off handsomely in the future. Durkin highlighted some of the many scientific and technical advances related to space travel, in particular noting the dramatic improvements in weather prediction enabled by modern satellite technology.
Statements from Tom Durkin on space travel
“Just think of the amount of lives that have been saved as a result of being able to predict hurricanes, thunderstorms or floods,” Durkin said following a presentation at the Journey Museum in Rapid City on Sunday afternoon. “It’s space technology, but you don’t think of that.”
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He also pointed out that space missions can have a positive social impact. “It was in the midst of all sorts of social strife, political unrest and, here in our country, the race relation issues back in the 1960s, the Vietnam War, but when we went to the moon,” Durkin said. “And we saw the image of the Earth from that far away for the very first time — there was a billion people who were watching on Earth.”
Durkin continued, “We all just realized, you know, we all live together on this one beautiful little blue marble, as the astronauts called it. Maybe if we think about that more from that perspective, we might be able to get along better than we do sometimes, and it’s these kind of major missions that, I think, can really make people stop and think and say ‘how can we work together’.”
Trip to the Red Planet
NASA’s biggest current project, Orion, plans to eventually take human beings to the Red Planet, but there there is no set deadline and it is likely to be a decade or before the goal is realized.
“This mission to Mars is so much more, in terms of other exploration we’ve undertaken, it’s a first for humanity. This truly is the New World, in the sense of being off the Earth,” Durkin enthused.
Moreover, a manned mission to Mars could bring the world together, he said, while we all work toward a common good. Durkin also noted that in terms of historical importance, a successful manned mission to Mars would even exceed the Apollo 8 mission, the first manned mission to orbit the moon and safely return to Earth.