NASA Plans Earth Day Celebration
Earth Day is this Wednesday and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (known NASA to most) plans to celebrate by inviting members of the public to visit one of its facilities to take part in activities aimed at spreading awareness about the space agency's efforts to protect the planet.
At first glance, NASA seems quite wasteful. The agency has been criticized by some for its use of resources – do we really need to use all the fuel to send men and women in space to conduct those experiments when, perhaps, they could be performed equally well by robots in controlled settings on the earth? However, the truth is that NASA has actually done a lot to improve life on this planet.
NASA has been around for just over 50 years, and it has accomplished a lot more than most people realize in that time. In addition to sending a man to the moon, launching countless satellites, building the International Space Station and all the other stuff that we see on TV, NASA's research and development has been the source of countless advances in science and technology. For instance, did you know that we have NASA to thank for the following things:
- Solar energy. NASA's scientists are responsible for much of the research that has been done with regards to this alternative energy source.
- Accurate mapping. Google Earth wouldn't be possible without satellites.
- Water filters. Do you love your Brita filter? If so, you have NASA to thank. NASA didn't invent water filtering, but the agency discovered a better way to do it.
- Functioning artificial limbs. NASA's research into space robotics has led to tremendous advancements in what prosthetic limbs can do (and what they will be able to do in the future).
- Better road safety. NASA discovered that cutting grooves in concrete landing strips decreased the chances of the space shuttle crashing. This technique is now used on roads throughout the US and has greatly decreased the likelihood of traffic accidents.
- And a whole lot more.
NASA also played a key role in inspiring the environmental movement of the late 1960s and 1970s. The "Earthrise" photograph taken by astronaut William Anders during the Apollo 8 mission in 1968 is considered by many to be the most important environmental image ever. It's the first photograph of the earth taken from deep space and, for many, it fuelled a realization of just how vulnerable the earth is.
Interestingly, the astronauts' mission schedule didn't include taking a picture of the earth, but they simply couldn't resist the opportunity. They scrambled to find color film in time to snap the photo.