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Ross: Why we should be spending money on space travel

Astronaut Scott Kelly works outside of the International Space Station during a spacewalk on November 6, 2015 in space. The spacewalk lasted for seven hours and 48 minutes. (NASA via Getty Images)

One of the questions I’m hearing this week is: “Why did we stop going to the moon?” I remember exactly why. People started questioning sending billions of dollars into space when we had problems right here on earth.

There was poverty. There was Vietnam. And soon, all the kids who were inspired by the space program to immerse themselves in physics – as in my case – were hearing that we’d probably end up making napalm instead of moon landers. So budgets were cut and I switched my major to English.

But of course that money never really went into space. Money goes to people – pretty smart people – who taught us how to do big impossible things. The secret being to break them up into smaller possible things and to work though the setbacks.

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I think nations need impossible goals. Today, sports tend to fill that role. Winning the big game seems to have become the ultimate human achievement. Except sports are governed by artificial man-made rules enforced by fallible referees.

The rules of space are written, and enforced, by the universe. And the stakes are very real.

A space program gives countries a way to compete – and maybe even cooperate – on the greatest stage of all. And to be remembered for what they built instead of what they destroyed.

Plus, when we’re not busy trying to do something impossible, we spend way too much time calling each other racist.

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