In the years to come we can expect an increase of space missions. Between 2020 and 2024, a 14.4 billion euros budget has been allocated to the ESA (European Space Agency).
Given the current health and economic situation, one may wonder: why?
Why invest so much money in space programmes?
Shouldn’t we use that money to solve problems down here on Earth?
Without being illegitimate, this question is often raised by people who don’t know why money is invested in space research in the first place.
Beyond fulfilling the need of satisfying people’s curiosity, the space sector has a significant impact on our everyday life.
According to the American agency (NASA), technologies developed in space have allowed to save billions of euros and tens of thousands of jobs around the world.
Space industry and the use of services related to space would have generated up to 300 billion euros in 2019.
30 euros/per capita/per year
The budget of French space research (CNES and contribution to the ESA) in 2020
In order to better understand the impact of the space industry on our everyday life, we will present you some everyday objects which couldn’t exist without aerospace research.
Satellites and GPS
According to the UCS association (Union of Concerned Scientists), on April 1st, 2019, 2 063 operational satellites were in orbit around the Earth.
A number which will increase significantly with the new satellite constellations such as Starlink from SpaceX or Kuiper from Amazon.
We encourage you to go watch the video we filmed at the CNES (French National Centre for Space Studies), where we talk about issues related to the satellites overcrowding our atmosphere and the debris generated by this activity.
The usefulness of satellites is longer questioned.
The satellites are used for geo-tracking, when you use your GPS, or by the mobile phone network, which allows you to get in contact with people on the other side of the world. Monitoring climate change, predicting fires, floods, or simply be able to get the weather forecast on our screens in the morning is made possible by satellites.
All of these technologies depend on the data collected from the different satellites in orbit around the Earth.
To remain in the field of technology, we can speak of laptops. Indeed, since Apollo missions aimed at landing humans on the moon, miniaturisation of material was an important factor.
To put things into context:
Send 1kg of material in orbit costs between 4 700 and 12 600 dollars with SpaceX, between 8 300 and 18 700 dollars with Arianespace.
Prices which can seem impressive to simply send a kilo in orbit and not even on the Moon… (2018)
Miniaturising material is a huge challenge.
In that purpose, as of 1966, Apollo rockets were equipped with the first integrated circuits, the ancestor of the laptop…
We can also mention the more and more powerful photo sensors of our devices and smartphones converting the electromagnetic radiation into a digital value, a technology developed originally for astronomy.
The ear thermometer
You can thank the space industry for not having to use rectal thermometers anymore.
Indeed, the ear thermometer was invented by Diatek Corporation, which was part of a technology affiliate programme at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The thermometer measures the infrared radiation emitted by the eardrum.
An object derived from a technology developed by JPL for its Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), capable of analysing the temperature of a star from the radiation it emitted.
Video Game Controllers, phones, drills, or even headphones.
Many products are based on wireless technology, allowing us to free ourselves from the physical restraint of having to connect cables to a power supply.
If we take the example of headphones, NASA developed a wireless telecommunication system during Apollo missions (yes, these missions once again). Thanks to this advance, we were able to hear the famous words said by Neil Armstrong from the Moon.
Throughout the years, this technology was improved and miniaturised so it could be used by airline pilots in the 1970s, to eventually be used to replace wired headphones in our daily life.
We could have mentioned many more everyday objects, such as the memory foam mattress, the survival blanket, kitchen utensils, the insulin pump, MRI etc…
What is important to understand here is that the significant progress made in space industry has had a direct impact on our everyday life and changed our habits.
Technology is so advanced now, that we tend to get used to it very quickly and we wonder less why and how it came into our lives.
We have given you a few information to understand why it is important to invest in space industry for the future of mankind.
In case someone asks you about this subject, you can always send them this article.