As politicians take the knife to NASA's budget with the sun setting on the decades old Space Shuttle Program that has been the cornerstone of America's manned space program, one scientist is less concerned about the loss of the jobs, the space missions or even the publicity. Instead, he's worried about the one commodity upon which the nation has routinely counted upon from NASA - The Spirit of Discovery which has improved the lives of countless people across our nation.
"As our nation struggles to get out of a prolonged economic downturn that has cost American families dearly, it's important for us to remember the importance of discovery as the fuel that propels our economy," said Scott M. Tyson, author of The Unobservable Universe: A Paradox-Free Framework for Understanding the Universe (Galaxia Way, 2011; www.theunobservableuniverse.com). "While politicians debate the continued funding of NASA during the new lull in manned space missions, they need to remember that discovery was, and remains, the most important product generated by the space agency and its contractors and contributors."
Tyson's point is that many of the innovations created by NASA scientists to overcome the challenges in exposing humans to the harsh environment of space, have provided countless everyday products and technologies that make our lives easier, healthier, safer, or better.
"As of June 2010, NASA is listed as the assignee on 57 patents and 176 published patent applications," added Tyson, who himself has worked as an advisor to the Office of the Secretary of Defense on space computing technology development and planning. He has also been an advisor for congressional delegations to accelerate the advancement of meaningful and effective space electronic solutions. "Now those numbers don't include the thousands of innovations that have been adapted by American industry and introduced into so many of today's products upon which we increasingly rely. These items include technologies that routinely improve health and save lives, as well as common conveniences, such as memory foam beds, aural thermometers, smoke alarms, water purifiers, scratch resistant lenses, telecommunications, and even cordless tools."
Tyson's argument is that there is a link between scientific discovery and both the prosperity of America and the quality of life its families, and that cutting back on NASA and other government funded scientific endeavors is tantamount to shooting ourselves in the foot and congratulating ourselves on our good aim.
"Discovery fuels innovation, and innovation is where American business and ingenuity live and thrive," he said. "Apple, Intel, Microsoft, HP, and GM are just a few of the companies whose products and sales are directly linked to innovations and advancements in technology, engineering and manufacturing. When we turn a cold shoulder to science, we are essentially handing our economic competitiveness on a silver platter to the other nations with whom we compete in today's increasingly competitive global markets. We're placing our economy in further harm's way, and it may take years for that realization to become clear. Innovation and discovery ensure America's continuing greatness and strength, and we are doing a disservice to every American by turning our backs on one of the country's most prolific sources of both those commodities."
Tyson, graduated from Johns Hopkins University with an engineering degree. He then embarked on a career that included innovative research and development at IBM's VLSI Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and Westinghouse's Advanced Technology Laboratory. Responsible for the implementation of new microelectronics approaches for space, Tyson also served as an advisor to the Office of the Secretary of Defense on space computing technology development and planning, as well as for congressional delegations to accelerate the advancement of meaningful and effective space electronic solutions.