Space Exploration is the Worst: Emily Calandrelli at TEDxIndianaUniversity (Transcript)

Emily Calandrelli at TEDxIndianaUniversity

Emily Calandrelli – TV show host

Space exploration is the worst; I should know!

I’m the host of an outer space TV show on Fox called ‘Xploration Outer Space’ and I got my degree from MIT in aeronautics and astronomics, and I’ve learned that space exploration and technology are a waste of time and money, and everybody knows it.

Why are we spending billions of dollars to send things into outer space when we have so many problems down here on the ground? Extreme drought along the west coast, heat waves that are getting worse around the world, three billion people, nearly half of all humans on the planet, living in poverty, 62 million of those are little girls without access to an education, and Justin Bieber just can’t seem to get his life together!

So many problems to be focusing on, and at the same time, we have NASA over here spending over $18 billion a year on space exploration and research. Now, sure that’s only half the percentage of the total US federal budget, which is over $3 trillion, and OK, fine, with that budget they conduct intense research which leads to breakthrough discoveries and technologies that expand out across many commercial sectors, but still, many people think space exploration is a waste of money, and I for one, agree with them.

And NASA is not the only one spending money on this worthless venture; we have billionaire entrepreneurs doing it too. Elon Musk, the billionaire genius behind Paypal and Tesla is now dedicating both his brain and his bank to space exploration. And then Richard Branson, the man behind the Virgin empire, now has his own space tourism company, Virgin Galactic, which is selling rides into outer space. And the guy who created Amazon, Jeff Bezos, has his own rocket company. All of these billionaire entrepreneurs and NASA are wasting their time and money because space exploration is the worst. And today I’m going to give you three reasons why that is. Those three reasons have to do with snowballs, Facebook, and dinosaurs.

First and foremost, space exploration is just plain annoying. Why is that? Well, it has to do with something you may have heard of called Climate Change. Specifically human-caused climate change. This crazy idea that little humans could create enough dirty technology to change the entire climate of our planet…? Ridiculous, right? Half of Americans think so too. They go outside, and they look up at the sky and they think, ‘Look how much atmosphere we have!’ ‘There’s no way we could do anything to screw that up.’

Well, space exploration wants to ruin that perspective by first bringing us back annoyingly beautiful images like this and this, and this, that show us that thin blue line. Now that line, well, that’s actually our atmosphere. And from these images we can tell that, OK, fine, it’s kind of thin, we don’t actually have that much of it, but that’s frustrating to see, right? Because it makes it a little bit easier to believe that, well, maybe we could change our climate with the activities that we are doing on the surface.

But NASA doesn’t just want to make you believe that we could change our climate, they want to give us data, to prove it. Now we all know that NASA likes collecting data on other planets. Like Mars, the red planet. We love Mars, we love hearing about Mars, we love movies about Mars, especially when they have Matt Damon in them. But you know what we hate? Being lectured with absolutely any data about the Earth, about our own planet. And all that data, well, that’s NASA’s fault.

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NASA spends nearly $2 billion a year specifically on Earth science. They own and operate 16 different key Earth-observing Satellites, each giving us different data about how our own planet is changing. And believe me, nobody likes these annoying data less than Congress. This year Congress passed a bill to de fund NASA’s Earth science program, by $300 million. This is a brilliant idea! Because this way, if this trend continues, we won’t have to ignore the consensus from climate scientists that human-caused climate change is real, we can eventually just not have any climate data at all! So much easier, right? This guy thinks so too.

This is Senator Jim Inhofe, the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee at the Senate. This guy hates that annoying data, but you know what he loves? Snowballs. This year the Senate had a hearing about climate change, and Senator Jim Inhofe bravely went down to the Senate floor with a snowball. And he said, ‘you know what this is? It’s a snowball. So, it’s very very cold out.’ See, Senator Inhofe was smart. He didn’t tell them that 2014 was the hottest year in recorded history. He didn’t mention that increased snowfall is actually an indicator of global warming. Global warming warms our oceans, warmer oceans evaporate more quickly, creating more moisture in our atmosphere, which they can measure with satellites, and that increased moisture can make precipitation events, like snowfall, more extreme.

So while we are having shorter, warmer winters, they can actually measure increased snowfall in many places. But no, he didn’t say that, because all of that is not as fun as ‘global warming bad, snowball good.’ Because all of that, that would involve annoying data, data from satellites, data from space exploration. Proof that global warming was happening. And isn’t it just easier to ignore all and build a snowman? Space exploration wants to take the fun out of everything. Because space exploration is the worst.

Now space exploration isn’t just annoying, it’s also very dangerous. And I’m not talking about the fact that in order to send someone into space we put humans on what is essentially a controlled bomb built by the lowest bidder. No that, that’s definitely dangerous. Had to think about it for a little bit, didn’t you? But I’m talking about something else entirely. I’m talking about the fact that space programs are going to enable technology to advance at an exponential pace. And they’re going to do this by bringing something that we have to the entire planet.

Now, the ‘we’ I’m referring to is very special. We make up less than half of the world, and we’re all very special because we all have this one magical thing. And this magical thing, well, it’s pretty cool. It allows us to be more prosperous and educated than those who do not have it. Countries who have it have a higher GDP. People who have it have more friends on Facebook. You have probably used this magical thing many times since I started talking.

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Now of course, I’m talking about those of us with access to the internet. A tool that can be used to educate, create and share ideas, and of course develop new technology. We have it, they don’t. Space exploration wants to ruin that. You see, the way we get internet today is primarily through ground-based applications. By that I mean physical cables that connect your house and your neighbors to our community’s network. Which is then connected to other communities’ networks. And this happens all over the country. And then, then, there are physical cables that run underneath the ocean that connect our country with other countries.

But really they have to be shark-proof. And when all this happens, we can all talk to each other over the Internet. Well, half of us, that is, right? Because the strategy, it works pretty well, if you live in a populated area, in a rich country, where there’s a really wealthy company, like Comcast, willing to put up the hundreds millions of dollars that it takes to lay down all this cable. Well, consider you live in a remote location, in a poor developing country. There’s no one that’s willing to put up enough money to connect your little home to the rest of the world. Hence, half of the world, not on the Internet. This is where space comes in. A company called OneWeb wants to ruin this imbalance using space technology. Since ground-based strategies are an inefficient way of connecting the entire planet, they want to instead beam all that information from space using satellites.

See, what they’re going to do is launch hundreds of satellites into space creating the largest satellite constellation to ever surround our planet. And once this constellation is launched, they’ll be able to provide internet access to anyone anywhere on Earth. A new type of Internet, one that connects everyone, even those in the poorest and most remote locations. One that provides, say, healthcare information to everyone, even to those without access to hospitals. One that provides educational materials, to everyone, even to those without access to schools.

And what will happen then?! An unprecedented amount of people will now have access to our, OUR magical tool, that they can now use to develop new technologies, that we will all eventually have to adopt and none of us want that, right? Do you remember how hard it was to change from Myspace to Facebook? We don’t want something like that ever happening again!

Imagine how fast technologies would progress if the World Wide Web were truly worldwide. A dangerous idea. And one that space technology could make happen. Because space exploration is the worst. Now space exploration isn’t just annoying, it’s not just dangerous, it’s also pretentious. And if you think about it it’s the most egotistical thing humans have ever done. I’m talking about using space exploration to save all of humankind. Like, literally save us from extinction. Specifically the sixth mass extinction.

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Now, what I find funny is that we often refer to our planet as Mother Earth. Mother Earth, mmm! Like it cares about us or something. But in reality our planet has a history of killing off the creepy crawly pests that roam across its surface. In fact, over 99% of all species that have ever roamed the Earth have gone extinct. Over 99%! Many of them through one of this five major mass extinctions.

Now, you may not have heard of the first four; they’re mostly to do with the CO2 or carbon dioxide imbalance in the atmosphere that built up over millions and millions of years. That last one though, that’s the one that got the dinosaurs, that we think was caused by a huge asteroid impact.

Now, there’s a dad joke in the space industry that goes, ‘Asteroids are nature’s way of asking, “Hey, how’s that space program coming?”‘ You see, to Earth and to the universe, we are a pest. And it’s just a matter of time before the sixth major mass extinction comes along to terminate Mother Earth’s latest infestation. But humans, you see we’re, we’re egotistical. We think we’re better than the 99% of species that went out gracefully, went out naturally. Because we have NASA and SpaceX developing the largest rockets humans have ever seen to bring us to Mars. Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, wants to bring one million humans to Mars, to colonize the red planet. I’m so glad you guys get this joke! It’s like backing up the human race on a Martian hard drive.

So you say space exploration is the human’s way of saying to all the dead species that came before us, ‘Hey, we’re better than you. We’re going to be worth saving.’ Which is frankly really disrespectful to all the extinct species who were too dumb to come up with the space program. If humans were more humble, we’d gracefully go like the dinosaurs.

Now space exploration is the worst. It’s the worst if you hate accurate scientific data about how our planet is changing. It’s the worst if you’d like to stifle technology development for those who still live in digital darkness. And it’s the worst if you’d prefer to gracefully go, like the dinosaurs. Many people question why government agencies and private companies invest billions of dollars each year on space exploration and research. These are the reasons why.

Space exploration and tech is an important tool, and sometimes our only tool to address certain short-term and long-term issues. It’s the only efficient way to understand how our planet is changing. It’s the way we can bring our entire planet into the digital age. And it’s our best strategy for ensuring the survival of the human species.

So no, space exploration is not the worst. In fact it’s helping to solve the greatest challenges humans have ever faced. So I hope when you all leave here, and go outside and look up at the night sky, you realize that the money that’s being spent up there is really one of the greatest investments we could ever make, in the seven billion of us living down here. Thank you.


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