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Denis Bender, Seffner, USA
"Definitely money well spent"
 real 28k

Louis Massano, Jersey City, USA
"We can't thrive in deep space"
 real 28k

Will Clarkson, Southampton, UK
"Do we need to go into space? - The answer is yes"
 real 28k

Albert Rayan, India
"We should be spending money for the welfare of humanity"
 real 28k

Capt. Mehran Wahid, Dehiwala, Sri Lanka
"Mankind has always been very short sighted"
 real 28k

Walter Gunstrom, Romulus, USA
"I don't think we need such a large space station"
 real 28k

Valerie Brown, Australia
"It would be worthwhile if it could produce a cure for my diabetes"
 real 28k

Friday, 10 November, 2000, 15:17 GMT
Do we need manned space travel?

The first crew of three astronauts has docked with the International Space Station, a sixteen-nation project costing around 60 billion dollars.

Scientists want to use the ISS to study the long-term effects of prolonged space life on the human body. Politically it is hoped that the project will strengthen the relationship between Russia and the West.

Critics say that the ISS is too expensive and that most of the experiments could be conducted more cheaply in remote-controlled, unmanned operations.

Is manned space travel a waste of money? Are the potential scientific benefits too marginal to justify the costs? Or is this a wise investment in the future of mankind?

We took your calls on the subject in our LIVE phone-in programme "Talking Point On Air". Email us if you would like to add to the debate.

Select the link below to watch Talking Point On Air

  • Your comments since the programme
  • Your comments during the programme
  • Your comments before the programme

    Your comments since the programme

    There is every justification for the ISS endeavour

    Joshua Eliason, Raanana, Israel
    There is every justification for the ISS endeavour. Money that would be "saved" if this program didn't exist would not necessarily be funnelled to solving the misery of the world. Today the ISS may seem insignificant, but in a few hundred years it may be viewed as the three pods that brought Columbus to the New World: totally inadequate pods, uneconomical, unseaworthy, but paving the way for better, efficient means. They did the job and humanity has never been the same since.
    Joshua Eliason, Raanana, Israel

    Compare the US budget for defence and that for both manned and unmanned space programmes - the former dwarfs the latter. When we significantly reduce global expenditure on arms we can afford to invest in the environment and space programmes - all very worthy areas in my opinion.
    Matt Shreeve, Cambridge, UK

    Let's ban space travel and exploration. Ban anything that makes people think we can accomplish almost anything. If we start landing men on the Moon, on Mars and in space stations - people may actually start thinking we can achieve great things on earth as well. Now that is dangerous, BAN IT ALL CALL IT OFF!!
    D. McCarthy, Qld, Australia

    Space is worth investing in. So long as it is the US and Russians who pay for it, I have no objections.
    Kevin Archer, London, UK

    It is a shame that mankind cannot give priority to feeding, clothing and educating people on earth first.
    Rodney Lobo, Oslo, Norway

    Exploration will continue because space is there

    Ken Jones, Ottawa, Canada
    My point of view on the matter is that exploration will continue 'because space is there' and we have the technology or the will invent to it. Once the space station is well underway, I hope that the goal of putting a man on Mars 'before the last baby boomer goes out', is announced.
    Ken Jones, Ottawa, Canada

    More money should certainly be spent on alleviating Third World poverty but why on earth take it from the space programme? Why not take it from military spending instead?
    Kevin Elliott, Oxford, UK

    It is ridiculous to say that space research does not contribute to humans' welfare on Earth. With satellite technology, we can monitor natural disasters and save the people they affect. We can predict the productivity of agriculture and thus make strategic decisions on how to feed humanity better. Permanent human presence on the orbit only contributes to all these undertakings. Progress has to go on and the Mir and ISS are its necessary steps, although not immediately profitable. Otherwise, would the hungry population have been better off if we still considered the world to be flat?
    Andrej, Russia

    Sending people into space is a natural progression of evolution

    Dave, Gutersloh, Germany
    Sending people into space is a natural progression of evolution. Pretty soon this oasis of ours will run out of resources to sustain us. Therefore, we may have to look elsewhere to expand our population so that future generations can thrive.
    Dave, Gutersloh, Germany

    There are two important aspects of scientific exploration:

    1) collection of data;
    2) interpretation of data.

    The first can be done remotely, in part. But the second is much more effective if the larger context is seen. Remote sampling cannot determine context beyond the data that is actually collected. People, on the other hand, seem to have trouble confining themselves to just the question being addressed. This, I believe, is why the scientific method is so successful.
    Alex Benedict, Richmond, CA, USA

    If mankind has messed up earth, and many would say he has, what right has he to go and mess up another planet?
    Colin, Lincoln, UK

    Any exploration will be extremely enhanced by having a platform in space, as the ISS will be. Rescue missions to Mars will be quicker and more effective with the ISS there, not to mention the technological benefits mankind will receive, i.e. think of how meteorology and communications would be without the space race.
    Tahir Batur, Melbourne

    If man doesn't look to new horizons humankind one day will come to an end

    Fraser Simpson, Scarborough, UK
    Life on earth can only go on so long. If man doesn't look to new horizons (just as he has always done in the past) humankind one day will come to an end. Space exploration is no more extravagant than Magellan, Cook and Columbus's expeditions were in the middle ages.
    Fraser Simpson, Scarborough, UK

    I believe that the Space Programmes should be reduced to only about 50% for the next 10 years. I am suggesting this, because, like the Berlin Wall, which collapsed after 40 years, these programmes will die a natural death 10 years from now. As a solution, I propose that the other 50% be spent in the Third World on aid programmes. This I am sure will make this World a better place to live in.
    Patrick Yoa Bulenzi, Kampala, Uganda

    Whilst I was in the U.K. in August, I saw the Space Station. It looked like Saturn, but travelling at a considerable speed. Very impressive, however, for the amount of money spent on it, I don't think it was worth it. Surely the money could be better spent exploring our own planet. There are many places which we know very little about. How about using some money to fund exploration of the ocean depths, the forests in Zaire or Brazil. There are many areas where funding could prove beneficial and, until funds are spent there, how do we know what benefits we may obtain. What about African medicines, herbal remedies etc. The list is unending!
    Barry Thorley, Chingola, Zambia.

    It is clear that had the money spent so far on the I.S.S. had been spent on finding less costly access to space, we could probably have built the I.S.S. in the near future for far less money and would have far cheaper access to space for other reasons to boot.
    Scott Bidstrup Phoenix, USA

    I agree that the monstrous sum of money spent on the ISS could be used to...perhaps feed hungry people in developing countries and saving the environment. But there have been many reports from astrophysicists have predicted that the sun will end, when all of the hydrogen supply the Sun has is exhausted, it will swell outward as a monstrous, planet-engulfing red giant and spell the end of the solar about 5 billion years. Sure this may be an extremely long time and we would not have the slightest of worry about it but as we know, space travel and any of such activities are brought about in a matter of light years, its not really too early to start now is it. Or wait till its a bit too late and have our future generation to be looking back saying things like, "If only we started preparing earlier then we would not be exposed to this threat to our kind". It is a large sum but its a investment into the future survival of the man kind.
    Julian, Singapore

    Your comments during the programme

    Ever since new years', the fact that we're now living in the 21st century seemed of little significance to me, it never really sunk in. Until the other week, when 'Zvezda' blasted off to the ISS, with a Pizza hut slogan plastered all over the rocket. (I wonder if they'll deliver to station?) Perhaps even more amazingly, it was a Russian vehicle; Americanisation (woops, sorry, globalisation) really is spreading to all frontiers these days, even to the final one. The point is that the next few decades will see space exploration shift from being politically to commercially based. Which is a good thing, because there are enough problems on our own planet for governments to focus their expenditure on at the moment. Corporate sponsorship is the way to go - that way scientists can bring back exciting space rocks without diverting money from, say, a nation's healthcare or emergency services. Exploring the universe is no different in principle from those activities that private individuals do for kicks; diving to the ocean floor perhaps, or climbing Everest. It just costs a lot more.
    Jon, Singapore

    Exploration is always costly

    Cameron Gray, Sydney, Australia
    Its not a waste of money. Exploration is always costly. It is the next step towards humans living outside earth. Similar to when the USA was colonised from Europe. To say it is too expensive is to ignore humans need to explore and find new habitable places for survival.
    Cameron Gray, Sydney, Australia

    As far as the advantages of exploring space, we wouldn't know those until we do it. After all, it is only a 100 years since man first took wings and today we know how much it has contributed our development. We spend a lot of dollars for science being done on our own planet, so spending $60 billion for the ISS is pretty much acceptable. I'm sure it will go a long way in contributing to our knowledge of medicine and life itself.
    Dinesh Sanikere, Singapore

    Space exploration and habitation is vital for the safety of the human race. The possibility that Earth could be made hostile to human life due to a natural or man made disaster make it essential that we expand, lest all mankind die in one foul swoop.
    James Andrews, Adelaide, Australia

    The money spent on the space station project should be diverted to research into the major pressing problems facing the survival of the human race. Namely, maintaining the environment, finding energy replacements, third world education, population control, water resources (etc, etc). The benefits derived by continuing the space station are tenuous and affect only a few already wealthy countries, companies and individuals. The fairy tale of migration to space of large populations must be exposed as the arrogant nonsense it is. At this point in history we need above all to keep our feet on the ground, not planted firmly in mid-air.
    Maggie Lee, Kuala Lumpur

    The common man will get little or no benefit at all

    Glenn Hampson, Melbourne, Australia
    As a common man, I know that the conquering of space is comparable to the conquering of countries: the rich and affluent will invest and gain from it but the common man will get little or no benefit at all.
    Glenn Hampson, Melbourne, Australia

    While it's clear that the funding for space travel could be put to better, immediate use on earth at the moment, man being in space is about more than simple experiments or orbiting space stations; it is about understanding our existence in the universe and our future in it.
    Alan Collins, Tokyo, Japan

    Your comments before we went ON AIR

    Sending more and more people into space is MAD. The scientific benefits are minimal and the costs astronomical. At the same time as we will spend about US$100 billion on the space station, we have so many under-funded scientists (myself included) attempting to do essential and inspiring work on earth. At the same time people are dying due to lack of clean water and mosquito born disease such as malaria and we are also destroying our life-sustaining environment. Let's direct our scientific effort to bring benefits for all rather than blowing it on ill-conceived expensive PR exercise.
    Ben Kefford, Melbourne, Australia

    The poorest and weakest will always benefit from space technology that monitors crops, warns of floods and bring education to all.
    Paul Stanyer, Milton Keynes, England

    Research into space travel is critical to the survival of mankind

    A. Blake, Leeds, UK
    Some degree of research into space travel is critical to the survival of mankind and the other wildlife of this planet! With all the recent talk of asteroids and comets colliding with the planet, there should be some way of getting people and animals off here to safety elsewhere. Otherwise, mankind goes out with a bang, along with other life on this planet!
    A. Blake, Leeds, UK

    It would seem to be very short sighted to quibble about sending mankind out into space. This world of ours is a dynamic one and prone to constant mass extinctions. Unless our politicians put short-term considerations to the back of their minds we will have a very uncertain future indeed. We are NOT masters of our planet - rather it is the other way around. I'm sure that volcanologists and palaeontologists would agree. Historians, too, would do well to look at the events of AD 535!
    Dr Tony Shuttleworth, London, UK

    Quite apart from all the other issues raised I think the cost is the biggest scandal. Over $60 billion will be spent on the space station. I work in overseas development work and even the smallest proportion of that money could be used to good effect by so many development agencies all over the world. I regularly hear on the news how the World Food Programme or Oxfam or some other charity are making an appeal for may be $2m for disaster relief and have been unable to reach their target. Surely we would be better spending the money on solving our problems here on this planet rather than finding or creating problems in other places in the universe. Once we have got our act together on this planet we will be ready to visit others.
    Duncan Barker, Kathmandu, Nepal

    Space research may be the only hope for future generations

    Jorge Almeida-Chiriboga, Queensland, Australia
    Yes, the ISS is quite expensive but considering all the trouble we have on this planet, investing in space research may be the only hope for future generations.
    Jorge Almeida-Chiriboga, Queensland, Australia

    Man was allocated this planet to live on. He will not be able to adapt to any other outer space environment. His vanity and presumption make him waste billions with an impossible dream. He can go to Mars, but that'll be all, apart from the huge amounts of money wasted for nothing. It seems that we want to run away from the hostile surroundings in which we live. We should instead apply our energy and resources to help each other to live peacefully on this beautiful earth.
    Julio, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Shame on the so-called developed world. The huge resources wasted on the manned space station do not belong to America, Russia and Britain alone. The pollution and repercussions will affect everybody. You do not understand what poverty and deprivation mean. People starve on Earth because of the resources you waste!
    Charles, Kuwait

    It is impossible to know what we will find but we must press ahead

    Thom Goddard, London, UK
    The world today is like Europe of the 1490s. We are on the verge of discovering something incredible, taking ourselves to new heights that can only improve our civilisation. We need to spend the money on discoveries, like Ferdinand and Isabella. It is impossible to know what we will find, but we must press ahead. And who knows which of us may discover a 'New World'?
    Thom Goddard, London, UK

    All research is worthwhile since by definition we do not know what the result will be. There is a tendency today to assume that research is like any other occupation, where you put in resources at one end and the desired result comes out of the other. This is not how research works. Some advances are made in this way but the really important discoveries have usually been made either by accident (penicillin is a good example of this) or by researchers being permitted to do their own thing. By putting men into space there are huge numbers of problems which have to be solved and the solutions to them can benefit us all.
    Timothy Benham, Gothenburg, Sweden

    We need to go to space for survival

    Dmitri V. Borodinov, Kiev, Former Soviet Union
    We in the former Soviet Union have grown up knowing that the Earth is only a cradle for the human race. We need to go to space for survival and reproduction purposes, but also in search of a challenge for our capacities, a goal for us, as profit and money making cannot be measure of success forever. Now the human race has become very powerful from the technical point of view, but is still weak in moral sense. The conquest of the space can save many lives otherwise taken by drugs. This would make also a common purpose for all races and religions, a unifying factor for human race.
    Dmitri V. Borodinov, Kiev, Former Soviet Union

    Exploration can never be bad in itself. But its worthiness depends upon the good it does for human kind.
    Govinda Poudel, Kathmandu, Nepal

    The International Space Station and space exploration per se are not a waste of money because, in the long run, research always pays off. Those who would say the money could be better spent aiding flood and drought victims or eradicating diseases such as polio should remember that earlier research has allowed us to develop the vaccines and predict long-range weather phenomena such as El Niño, thus allowing us to prepare for such natural catastrophes and limit their effects.
    Donnamarie Leemann Coffrane, Switzerland

    We had better develop the technology to leave this planet, because it will not be habitable too much longer.
    McBass, Belgrade, USA

    We need to feed people not send a few geeks into earth orbit

    Glenn Ashton, Cape Town, South Africa
    We have enough challenges to meet on earth and the waste of money involved in placing a space station in orbit shows how policymakers in the developed world have fooled people into believing that we need to follow this route. We need to feed people not send a few geeks into earth orbit. What people accomplish in space could be accomplished by machines without the expensive infrastructure. Space exploration has resulted in extremely limited advantages to only the most privileged of global residents. Don't forget that around 20 percent of the globe goes to bed hungry. They are not interested in seeing the space station shining like a star in the evening sky; they want a meal.
    Glenn Ashton, Cape Town, South Africa

    Progress is what the human race is all about

    Gordon White, London, UK
    Of course we need space travel. Pioneering and exploration has been a human instinct as far back in history as we know and space is the modern unexplored. We would be unwise to suppress progress. Progress is what the human race is all about.
    Gordon White, London, UK

    It is one small step to independence. Independence from the Earth and its biosphere. This has to be the future for the human race. Of course investing in the long term has never been something easy to do. But it is the right thing to do.
    Julian Onions, Nottingham, UK

    We should consider applying our minds to saving this world

    Chris Parfitt, Bristol, UK
    Funding of the various space programmes has brought many technological benefits to mankind, and some financial returns. The ISS project will hopefully further improve matters. Manned flight to other planets however, is prohibitively expensive and before we go too far down the road of abandoning this used up world in favour of another, we should consider applying our minds to saving this world - perhaps by using technology developed in the space programme.
    Chris Parfitt, Bristol, UK

    One feature of all astronauts is they are all selected for being above average human beings both physically and intellectually. I think it would be good to do an experiment on how space flight affects the less intelligent. I suggest that the next flight is manned by Posh and Becks.
    Keith Lomax, Chelmsford, UK

    Maybe a permanent platform in space will be the first step in giving everyone (especially politicians) the chance to look down on our planet and see that there are no countries or boundaries to fight over. We all live on this rocky globe together, lets try to get along!
    Karl Johnson, Hull, UK

    Humanity will enjoy the benefits long after the "wasted money" is forgotten

    Winston Waller, Somerset West, South Africa
    There always have been those who oppose the expanding of human frontiers on the grounds that the money should rather be spent on alleviation of human misery. History shows how often they have been wrong. Fundamental to the argument is the difference between money & wealth. Wealth is created from effort and raw materials and satisfies human wants so it is the best antidote for poverty & other misery. Money is only a medium of exchange and is, in itself, useless where there is no wealth. It can, in fact, be an obstacle in solving the problem of poverty. Space exploration can, in time, provide vast amounts of raw materials and employment which are the components of wealth. Humanity will enjoy the benefits long after the "wasted money" is forgotten.
    Winston Waller, Somerset West, South Africa

    Space. . .the final garbage dump. Everything we touch, we destroy. Yes, it is a waste of money. Why not spend it instead, on preserving our own environment, and the poor beasties we're wiping off the face of the Earth?
    Morgan O'Conner, U.S.A.

    The human race's innate curiosity should never be constrained by mere money. We simply do not know what benefits are to be derived from exploration, but exploration is always worth the money.
    Chris Klein, Chandlers Ford, UK

    Why do people go on holiday rather than just looking at pictures of the place. I don't believe that a place can be fully appreciated/understood until it has been seen. Perhaps if more people could see this planet from above and realise how small it is, we would appreciate it all the more.
    Paul Brown, Chelmsford, UK

    Space research has been of great benefit to all people on this planet

    Michael, UK
    There is a distinction to be made between the scientific aims of space activity, and the political, commercial, and pioneering aims that various people have. The ISS will benefit the latter, but will add little to scientific knowledge. Space research has been of great benefit to all people on this planet, not just the rich. We have global satellite communications, improved mapping and weather forecasting, and our view of planet earth has been altered. We are a small island of life in a large lifeless solar system. Better take care of the planet we have before we go around wrecking other inhabitable (and inhabited) planets.
    Michael, UK

    I think exploration is worthwhile, but should be geared towards exploring the other planets that exist in our solar system. These planets may hold chemical elements that could be tested to see if they hold any new properties that could help with medical science. It is possible that the answers to finding the cures for diseases may be contained within the makeup of another planet.
    Alan Price, Teesside, England

    I think the 60 billion dollars spent on the International Space Station should have been spent on scientific research into faster-than-light-speed space travel, medical research or other scientific research. How about feeding the hungry of the Third World and giving them clean water-supplies or housing the homeless throughout the world, health-care etc.
    Anthony, London,UK

    Of course it is important that man stays in space. Unmanned spacecraft can do a lot of useful science, but human scientists are required for flexibility and those leaps of imagination, which move science forward. When NASA finally put a scientist on the Moon, his findings far outstripped in importance all the previous work done by unmanned probes, and that was all in a few short hours. As regards to the expense, blame not manned space but paper pushers in Washington, who have spent a fortune trying to cut costs.
    Nik Kraakenes, Manchester UK

    I think there's no practical purpose for all this space exploration at the moment. Given that the Russians couldn't scrape together the resources necessary to rescue a hundred of their own sailors, I find it disgusting that they can afford the billions necessary to support a space program. We should get our houses in order before we start spreading our problems into space as well.
    Nick Dixon, Nottingham, UK

    Space exploration has great potential, both good and bad

    Jane Krzyzanowski, Toronto,Canada
    Space exploration has great potential, both good and bad. Do we know the implications on space environmentally of putting our inventions into orbit? (Remember what a good idea it seemed to restructure the earth with nuclear explosions?) I believe the whole dynamic should be carefully considered before we put our foreign objects into unknown domains. We cannot proceed blindly, whatever our intentions. Our damage to the Earth should be a warning to us to inform ourselves prior to barging into the unknown.
    Jane Krzyzanowski, Toronto,Canada

    I've read the cost of the ISS could have paid for 5 Moon Bases. Surely bases on the Moon would be a greater foothold in space than this white elephant. With water, metals and many other resources, the Moon is our next great frontier, and yet, 30 years on from those first tentative steps, we have not been back. Why? The lunar craters are just waiting to be transformed into biospheres, where, in low gravity conditions, humans with man-made wings will be able to 'fly' and trees will grow to hundreds of feet in height. It astounds me that they would rather build this 'UN in the sky.'
    David Skelton, UK

    Exploration has always been a driving ambition for humankind, and the combined international effort can only promote better relations between the countries involved. Arguments that such huge sums of money could be better spent on humanitarian efforts tend to fall flat when one compares the cost to other areas of the U.S. budget. For example, the annual military budget of the United States is more than five times the total cost of the ISS.
    Peter Roberts, Cranfield, England

    A price cannot be put on the value of being able to leave this world. Until that time we are hostage to the same fate as the dinosaurs, be it through cosmic accident in the form of a meteor, lunatics with nuclear weaponry or just through simple inaction on environmental issues. There is a very real and dangerous chance that this world of ours could become uninhabitable and humanity would be extinct. All avenues to avoid this fate be they through prevention or be they through avoiding having all our eggs in one basket are worth our time and effort. That's before we even count the scientific benefits.
    Sam Graham, Bristol

    Manned space flight is essential to the survival of the planet. We have seen frequently over the last few years that unmanned space vehicles just can't cut it. You need a human in the loop, on site to fix things when they break. Without exploration of space by manned vehicles, we will never develop, or be able to test properly, the technology for reaching and colonising the other planets of our solar system. We just need to make sure that we spend the vast sums of money that it will take wisely, and that will take strong, determined and single-minded Leadership, which is where I fear we will fail.
    John Gueinn, Hemel Hempstead, England

    Think of how much is spent almost daily on Hollywood extravaganzas

    Halima Brewer, Jaén, Spain
    I don't care if there is no clear scientific advantage gained by space flight now. I want to see this frontier explored, and I think this moaning about the cost of really interesting long term scientific investigation and pushing the boundaries of adventure is mean spirited. $60 billion may seem a lot, and perhaps the means of getting that sum together for the "cause" of space exploration may need some research in itself. That sum is nothing - think of how much is spent almost daily on Hollywood extravaganzas, the arms race, the debt repayment of the third world, money lost in global conflicts, drug dealing, both legal and illegal. Need I go on? If the will is there, the funds will be found. Money, after all is form of communication and exchange of trust symbols, not a limited physical substance like some endangered species. And no computer simulations will ever equal the hands-on experience of real astronauts. My only complaint is that more women aren't involved, more people from other countries and cultures, and that there isn't more cross-global co-operation. But that will come eventually.
    Halima Brewer, Jaén, Spain

    I think it's a total waste of money. There are people DYING in Africa, and instead of helping them, we are spending millions of dollars on useless space missions... i think it will be better if we put that money into something which can help mankind. e.g. medical research for the cure of deadly diseases.
    Shaheer Ahmad, Rawalpindi, Pakistan

    I'm truly pleasantly surprised so many agree. Exploring is what we do. Our past is filled with exploration. First out of Africa, then from Europe to America. Now from Earth to the next beyond. It is a defining characteristic of the human being.
    Sean, Portland, USA

    I cannot help but shake my head with disbelief at the number of people that somehow seem to think that spending more money on food and hospitals is the answer to world hunger and sickness. You give someone some food and they will be hungry again next week? You heal someone and who will heal them next time they are sick? You will not solve hunger and sickness by taking money from space ( or other ) research but by addressing the issues that cause the hunger and sickness in the first case. Sometimes this may be caused by war, dictators, or whatever. Almost never will spending money solve these problems. And most of the time the issues in question can only be solved by the people themselves, not by external charity. Very rarely does a country all of a sudden become unable to support it's population without good reason. Projects like the ISS are just a stepping stones to learning to exist in space and on other inhospitable planets. Learning to manage a fragile environment in space will also teach us to manage the environment we have down here. To not spent some money down on earth is to neglect the present, but if we do not invest in the future then we will not have one.
    Shaun Croton, London, UK

    No doubt International space station will cost a lot of money but I think it is worth it. Look at the enormous experience that astronomers will acquire by staying in space and actually doing experiments in zero gravity. No matter what we do, we can never replicate such conditions here on Earth. If we want space travel to be a reality in future, we should have astronomers who have actually lived in space for long intervals. The ISS will go a long way in producing such people
    Ajay Datta, Nagpur, India

    I'd be perfectly happy eating insects and berries for subsistence. Progress is much overrated

    Guy Matthews, London, UK
    Those people who first suggested we stop living in caves and move out onto the plains to cultivate crops and rear animals have got a lot to answer for. Me, I'd be perfectly happy eating insects and berries for subsistence. Progress is much overrated. What good has it ever done us?
    Guy Matthews, London, UK

    Imagine having the same discussion 500 - 600 years ago, in the time when the people like Christopher Columbus went into the unknown. I'm certain you could find then, as well as you can find today, people that will claim that there is no need for such an expensive journey. There are 3 groups of global citizens with 3 different opposing views of space explorations:
    1. People whose job it is to think 20 - 50 years in advance: For them, it's a question of survival and long term "health" of the human race.
    2. People who live just fine ("middle class"): For them this is just another way of entertainment without a clearly defined stand on space exploration.
    3. People who are struggling to survive on a daily basis: For them this is an expensive and unnecessary adventure.
    Srdjan Vujosevic, Bermuda

    Science fiction, it wasn't so long ago that they said that about aeroplanes

    Trevor Liberson, anchored in Trinidad
    Are manned experiments in Space too costly? Yes, if you are an accountant. But reflect a moment, how many times has our history revealed a future that was unimaginable at the time? Consider the dinosaurs, the passengers and crew on the Titanic, the Jewish population of Europe in 1933. There could well come a time when experience of the human body in Space will be urgently needed by the human race. If that should happen, the Space Station experiments would be considered extremely cheap. Science fiction, it wasn't so long ago that they said that about aeroplanes.
    Trevor Liberson Aboard the British sailing vessel 'Boon', currently anchored in Trinidad

    This planet and its inhabitants need a new focus. Throughout history achievements in all fields, technology, health, science, even warfare have been a by-product of the need to adapt to new environments. With this planet largely conquered and explored to the extreme we should be looking towards new challenges. With the continued exploration of space perhaps we can shift our energies to a more productive goal, and it should be a human and not a machine that represents our hopes.
    Mike Waller, London UK (Aussie expat)

    I'm an Indian expatriate living in Rwanda. In many parts of the world, like here in Africa, people starve and die of various diseases for there is no adequate supply of medicine. This is a very tragic plight of the suffering humanity. It is inhuman to spend $60 billion on the International Space Station Programme. Rich countries need to spend their riches on scientific inventions, space explorations and research, but at what cost? It is not wise to close eyes to the reality of the world. Those 16 nations should start investing money on researches on how to alleviate poverty and make the world a better place to live in.
    Albert P'Rayan, India/Rwanda

    If we lose sight of the fact that Humans need to explore, regardless of cost and risk, then we may as well all sit at home in front of the TV and never leave the house. As for wars and famine, these will not be solved by quitting exploration. We should explore space forever - the potential gains outweigh all negative aspects - but we should learn to treat this planet with respect first.
    Paul Messer, Kirkcaldy, Scotland

    If mankind never explored and took risks, we would still be living in caves!

    Marty Palmer, Michigan, USA
    Yes, man needs to explore space and learn all he can. We need a place for mankind to expand into as well as learn how to harvest the many asteroids and the minerals in them. Here we are fighting for limited resources on a small planet in the middle of nowhere! The knowledge we get from space exploration and development has improved our lives so much it is unbelievable. If mankind never explored and took risks, we would still be living in caves!
    Marty Palmer, Holland, Michigan, USA

    One day, whether it will be a thousand years, a million years or a billion, the temperature of the Sun will change so much so that life on Earth would no longer be sustainable. So, what should mankind do, except its extinction or migrate? Spending $60 billion in building an orbital space station is the first step to achieving the latter.
    Jeremy Hook, England

    I wish people that complain about the small amount the world spends on progressing the human experience would get real and try and do something about the 1,000s of billions spent every year on weapons and killing each other. Of course we need to feed all the world's people and eliminate poverty and spend more on understanding the man-made global disasters destroying our wonderful planet. I believe we still would not begin to understand how delicate life on Earth is without the insights of the Apollo astronauts. The ISS is just a beginning; we should be looking towards using it as a stepping stone for returning to the moon with space tugs connecting to a trans-lunar transport system and understanding how to support a lunar base.
    T. Webb, London UK

    It is patronising and naive of Western countries to believe that throwing money at poverty will make it disappear

    Malcolm Graham, Fremantle, Australia
    It is our very purpose to step off this world, and considering the UK and France spent approximately £15bn ($24bn) on the channel tunnel it is a darn good investment in our future. New and cheaper space launching facilities are in the pipeline. Without great adventures life has little purpose. One day we will reap enormous benefit from this investment. Yes we could spend this money on feeding the world and creating a better environment - but this will be achieved anyway - look at what is happening in India which is now a food exporter and a major player in computer and space technology. It is patronising and naive of Western countries to believe that throwing money at poverty will make it disappear.
    Malcolm Graham, Fremantle, Australia

    There are many reasons not to explore beyond our own planet. Half the population of Earth is starving while half is overeating. Environmental pollution threatens all life regardless of stature or wealth. There are now for the first time over 6 billion people crowded onto four continents. What is being done to solve these universal problems? We spend $60billion on a floating laboratory. This however ignores the most important point: The desire within all of us to explore. Just as Marco Polo broadened our horizons in the east, Columbus broke new frontiers in the west, now we as a collective race, for the first time in history, can claim to be exploring the next great frontier. Don't lay blame for the failings of mankind at the feet of the ISS. Global poverty could be eradicated tomorrow if we all agreed to change our lifestyles. Look up tonight into the night sky and glimpse the evidence of global co-operation, surely the only way to progress.
    George Harrison, Britain

    The future of humanity lies not on this planet alone. Not matter how much we try and control birth rates, the population of this planet will continue to rise. We need new worlds to colonise. It is not just for this reason that must continue and accelerate our manned exploration of space. It is because of the new technologies that will be developed along the way and it is because of the those things we cannot yet know. Human beings need to strive and explore, it's in our nature. And while machines can do so much, they can never replace a human being. To those people who complain about the cost of human space exploration, I say 'How many people die in war each year and how much money does that cost?' It's far more than what we spend on space exploration.
    Rob Williams, Guildford, UK

    I don't believe that it is a waste of money. By going to the Moon and trying to get it right in not ruining that planet, we might learn how we can improve how we live on Earth. Money is better spent in our curiosity with the stars than on our curiosity in cloning and genetic manipulation. This is what wastes money in a destructive way.
    Rachel H, Glasgow, Scotland

    This planet will definitely go down with the Sun and the resources needed to sustain our growth will become exhausted long before then. If humankind is to survive this, then we must expand. Therefore, part of our researches must be dedicated toward the design of off-world human habitats. To do otherwise is suicidal on a global scale.
    Michael Katter, USA

    Leave space development to the private sector

    Pete Morgan-Lucas, Wiltshire, UK
    If space is such a brilliant area to invest in, why aren't businesses lining up to do it themselves? Leave space development to the private sector.
    Pete Morgan-Lucas, Wiltshire, UK

    There's not that much real estate left down here. Until someone invents Faster-Than-Light travel we'd better learn how to live in micro-g.
    T.J. Cassidy, U.S.A.

    The anti-manned spaceflight comments bring to mind the 19th and early twentieth century scientists who believed that there was not going to be anything more discovered, after all they already knew everything. Or the 19th century patent office in America that was proposed to be shut because everything that could be invented had already been invented. It is without doubt essential that we continue into space because there is no way we can know what discoveries are waiting to be made in the vast cosmos, the only real way to make discoveries is the same now as it has always been, for people to actually go. Robots no matter how sophisticated can only work within their programs or limited artificial intelligence but it takes humans to interpret the results.
    Ian Jenkins, London, UK

    Living just a two hour drive from Cape Canaveral I cannot imagine man not moving forward to explore space

    Dennis Bender, Seffner, FL, USA
    Living in the United States just a two hour drive from Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center, I cannot imagine man not moving forward to explore space. We watch the marvellous rockets light up the sky on their way to space and feel envy towards those who are aboard. We feel the connection to the space program because it is part of us and our country. We cannot imagine life without it. However I can appreciate the comments of those who do not feel this connection. It may seem extravagant and not relevant to their condition, especially where there is a severe lack of resources. But to us it is not a waste, but a serious effort to extend the envelope of mankind's existence. And as long as the resources allow it, we will achieve it.
    Dennis Bender, Seffner, FL, USA

    Sure it's worthwhile, as long as man doesn't still have the attitude it always did when exploring new territories. Ask the natives of any country if they wanted to be taken over and pushed out and made into second class citizens. If we do that in space then I hope we never get there.
    Jill, Canada

    Despite the billions being poured into establishing a space station, it is unlikely in the extreme that humans in any numbers will ever live in space, on the Moon or Mars. The whole proposal is so uneconomic as to be absurd, and the spin-offs of space exploration are nothing that could not have been achieved with a reasonable level of support for science and technology. The money being wasted on the pipedream of a manned mission to Mars, and on the efforts by NASA and others to sell the dream of space colonization could be better spent on dealing with the very real problems of environmental degradation here on Earth.
    Peter McGuinness, Hamilton, Canada

    Manned space travel and future colonisation of other planets is not a waste of money. The space station, however, is. I don't remember why it was built in the first place (other than political and diplomatic reasons). $100b could have gone a long way towards colonising Mars.
    Rajeev Dutt, Munich, Germany

    The added knowledge from the experiments on board the ISS will be around for a long time after we are dead and buried

    Paul Grimshaw, London, UK
    The money could be spent on improving a small area of someone's life, but sometimes even us humans have to think larger than ourselves: Why do we bother to exist if we were not doing anything with our lives? If the universe is infinitely huge, then we better make a start by getting out of our own little back yard and we can't do that without some understanding of what space is and how it effects us. The added knowledge from the experiments on board the ISS will be around for a long time after we are dead and buried.
    Paul Grimshaw, London, UK

    Unmanned probes are fine, but inherently limited to the state of the software technology that runs them - and as we have seen from the recent disasters, they are still a long way from infallible. The human brain is still the most powerful computer we know of and it still takes months of training to prepare for a space mission - it will be many years before unmanned probes will reach this level of sophistication. I think that unmanned probes will be essential in the future exploration of space, but will never replace a manned mission.
    James Hughes, Cambridge, UK

    It is every living creature's responsibility and duty to seek to perpetuate its species and improve upon its existence. Space exploration and colonisation are essential goals for humanity as a whole. We will outlive and outgrow this planet - we must. We will therefore be requiring some new homes!
    Kerry Fraser-Robinson, Brighton, UK

    Space is one of the few remaining "unknowns". If there is one thing that humanity has done throughout the ages, it is to explore. Sure, unmanned craft could do some of the jobs that men/women will perform on the ISS, but what of our never ceasing curiosity? It is impossible to launch ourselves further than the moon from here on Earth. We can use the ISS as our platform to the universe. Also, we cannot rely on computers to do the work that humans can, with lack of spontaneity, and an eye for the unusual results that could make all the difference.
    Andy Reavell, St. Albans, UK

    If this leads to greater co-operation between countries and results in benefits to the populace as a whole, it does not matter how much it costs

    Jonathan Ellery, Cambridge UK
    Man has always been fascinated by the heavens. Even from the earliest times it is believed that the first modern humans sought answers in the stars above and created intricate tales to describe their relation to one another. By the time of the first great civilisations the recording and observation of the stars were highly advanced and accurate. It is very probable that the mathematics required for this was translated into the every day workings of civilisation. Now humans are embarking upon the next great phase of exploration. We have sent probes into space which has only increased our curiosity, and thirst for new knowledge. With the advent of a permanent presence in space we can but wonder at the new discoveries which will be made and the facts we will uncover about ourselves. If this leads to greater co-operation between countries and results in benefits to the populace as a whole, it does not matter how much it costs. The potential benefits to all people will be truly wonderful.
    Jonathan Ellery, Cambridge UK

    We should go into space and explore it, settle it, master it ... because, and only because, it is there. If we get anything else out of it, great; but let's satisfy our soul first. It's what we do.
    Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

    It seems to be basic human nature to explore

    Neil Gall, Scotland
    It seems to be basic human nature to explore. To deny ourselves the opportunity to explore is to give up on the future of the human race. The cost is irrelevant: none of the Earthly problems we face are due to lack of money.
    Neil Gall, Edinburgh, Scotland

    It is money well spent. It is a deeply important human activity. The starving people of the Third World are starving largely due to their own corrupt governments, not because greedy America is spending billions on space research.
    B Maguire, UK

    Thank goodness the great explorers of the past were not deterred by difficulty and danger, although I suspect expense has always been a problem. No matter how sophisticated robot spacecraft become, they will always be second best to a manned presence because of humans' incredible ability to cope with the unexpected. There will inevitably be casualties and spectacular failures, but there will also always be people willing to take those risks. Our solar system and the wider universe beyond it must hold unimaginable treasures, hopefully including life on other worlds. We have taken our first faltering steps into space. Just like a toddler, after that there's no stopping us. My main regret is that Europe, and particularly the UK, is not investing heavily in manned space exploration. My second regret is that I'm too old to go myself.
    Peter Green, Sunderland, UK

    Charles in Washington - what's even better is that the ESA with Ariane overtook NASA years ago in terms of commercial launches and profitability! But, thanks for the cash for the IIS anyway.
    Geoff, London, Europe

    The American government would rather spend billions of taxpayers' money on space than provide a Health Service for their own people. Europe appears to be going down the same path.
    Ian Baldwin, Buntingford, England

    It's not the cost of space exploration or all the useful things it can teach us that excites me. I want to find out about these penguins that fall over when aircraft fly over. Now that is a proper use of money.
    James H, London

    The biggest financial payoff will take considerable time, but it will be enormous

    Mark Thomas, Denver, Colorado, USA
    How many people who think small are celebrated in history? How many people or countries that never took a chance have made a real positive difference to the human race? It's no surprise that the USA is the primary supporter of manned space exploration. We are a nation of people or descendants of people that decided to take a chance for a better life, which many of us have achieved. To those who say manned space travel is uneconomical, you don't understand science or history. Rest assured that the technical problems will be overcome sooner or later. Think about the airplane in the 20th century. To those who say it would be better to send machines instead of people into space, you don't understand that humans are, and have always been, the real focus; science and robotic explorers are our helpers. The biggest financial payoff will take considerable time, but it will be enormous. How do you value the addition of entire worlds and the increased survivability of the human race?
    Mark Thomas, Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.

    Space is said to be the 'Last Frontier', What else will we be doing with our existence if we do not send man into space?
    Gabwu, Singapore

    I think that the money can be put to better use on Earth

    Zeina , Beirut, Lebanon
    Although space exploration has its benefits, and possibly necessities, I think that for the time being it satisfies nothing but the purpose of curiosity. The money poured into space research and exploration is not going to help solve any of the major crises we are suffering from down here on Earth, at least not on the short run. The countries involved in such projects no doubt have the extra funds, as well as the peace of mind, to divert their attention and efforts to such issues, but I think that the money can be put to better use on Earth. Besides, I don't think I am quite OK with the idea of staring in to the sky, and seeing a steel and metal space station, it's just too "unnatural" for my taste. Why does man always want to "appear" and prove his existence through such expensive, large, solid constructions?
    Zeina , Beirut, Lebanon

    Of course we need to go into space, to colonise other planets. We have almost killed this lovely planet of ours and now we need another goal, another planet to kill! Wherever mankind goes, there is a trail of destruction behind. Let us hope we can get out there and this time not cause too much havoc! They say the price is a bit high at $60 billion - but what price do they put on humanity? We are priceless!
    John C., Warwick, England

    Dr Werner von Braun saw no reason for a man in space. Probes and small experimental packages can do ever so much more at far less cost. The space shuttle is horrifically expensive and does what? We can put up a telescope without it. The space station will eat us alive, and if there is a failure, lives will needlessly be risked. Stop the madness. Use robots and little toasters to explore space. We will learn more at less cost.
    Colin Butts, Milton FL, USA

    How is man different from all other creatures on Earth? One distinction is that we realize our place in the Universe. Understanding the universe, however, is something we have not achieved. Space exploration helps in this regard. The more we know about the universe, the more we know about ourselves.
    Chi Cheung, Toronto, Canada

    One day we will get to Mars, that's for sure. But let's just hope we don't make a mess there as well.
    Eddie, Liverpool

    The benefits provided by space research will ultimately pay off for everyone

    Tom Albright, LA, USA Name Here
    Not one dollar spent on the space programs has actually gone into space. All money is spent on Earth providing jobs, developing new technologies and techniques which will ultimately benefit everyone on the planet. Sure, that doesn't solve the immediate needs of people in third-world countries, but the situations they face weren't created overnight and won't be solved overnight. The benefits provided by space research will ultimately pay off for everyone. Comparing the amount of money spent on the space program to social and welfare programs, you can see that taxes collected for welfare are spent with no return on the money. The smaller amount spent on the space program ultimately results in a big return. Sure, there are mistakes made - costly ones - but that is a risk that must be taken on the road to something greater.
    Tom Albright, Gonzales, LA, USA

    Do we need to travel into space? This is not essential to our present survival. A second, more difficult question would be, could the funds used be put to better use? What other uses? Where and how? There are many human needs calling for funds that are not there. The integrated circuit, the basis for our computers, was a product of the NASA Space Program. NASA needed to make lighter electronics. They did not have rockets able to place heavy payloads into orbit. Any effort that challenges technology and mankind's ability to survive will certainly add to our knowledge of what and who we are. Space exploration is one such test. That is reason enough to go forward.
    Richard Namon, Miami,FL USA

    Here is the scenario: the shuttle is launched, it goes round and around the Earth and comes home. This has been happening for 20 years, and is getting very repetitive and does not justify the enormous cost involved. Why not take the shuttle around the moon? What happened to the pioneer spirit of Gemini and Apollo? I fear that NASA is becoming conservative with its manned space program, and it is starting to show, space station or no space station.
    Jim, USA via England

    Surely the next logical step for the advancement of the human race lies not in space but within the colonisation of the oceans of Earth. Nearly 3/4 of the Earth is deemed uninhabitable by virtue of it being a little wet! I realise that the oceans are a fragile ecosystem, but have we not learned enough about the damaging effects humans can have on nature to be able to colonise responsibly under the surface of our seas?
    Bruce Shiela, Sydney, Australia

    I would give every penny I had to see the stars without looking through the haze of our atmosphere

    Aaron Schmidt, Canada
    I would give every penny I had to see the stars without looking through the haze of our atmosphere. Those who choose not to invest in space will be left in the 20th century. Space is not only beautiful, it is the future of humanity.
    Aaron SchmSchmidt, Canada

    I think the ISS is a bad idea. The money would have been better spent on a smaller station. We'd be better off fixing up MIR or building another MIR-like station. Then we could take the money saved and put that into unmanned projects. I seriously doubt that the ISS is going to produce more science than projects like Voyager and Pathfinder.
    Walter Gunstrom, Romulus, Michigan USA

    Better we ask our governments to reduce their arms spending than to cut the amount given to the space programs. If a shift of priorities is required then that is where it should be.
    Bill Gibson, Glenrothes, Scotland

    I don't believe for a moment that manned space travel is a "waste of money". In fact, I don't believe that we spend enough money one these endeavours, given the potential benefits which can be reaped for medicine and technology. Human beings have become very insular in their thinking over the last few years, and somewhat selfish. Space travel is the perfect antidote to man's arrogance; it shows us that there is something out there larger and greater than ourselves. I only wish that they would send some poets up there too: I'd love to hear what they would have to say about the experience!
    John Paul Rosario, United States

    Nobody can ever argue that explorations are a waste, because exploration is one of the main reasons for the excellent survival of mankind over other species

    Muthiah Annamalai, Chicago, USA
    It is definitely not a waste of money. If ISS is considered to be a huge waste, then it means that all explorations carried out by mankind on Earth for the past 2000 years is a waste too. Nobody can ever argue that explorations are a waste, because exploration is one of the main reasons for the excellent survival of mankind over other species. But I think that ISS project should have given opportunity to more nations to participate than just 16 nations. It could have been a truly international effort if more countries could have been included in this ISS project.
    Muthiah Annamalai, Chicago, USA

    While there are many places uncrewed craft can go that humans cannot, there are many things that a human on site can discover that a robot cannot. If it is possible to send humans to the planets, we should do so. It is possible, and the ISS is a necessary step to take us there. With respect to cost, how does the cost of the ISS compare with something as trivial as the Olympics?
    Jonathan Clarke, Canberra, Australia

    Of course it is not a waste of money. Why do people keep saying "There are hungry people, there are wars ¿"? The reality is that unfortunately there will always be hunger and there will always be wars. What should we do? Just wait until the world is in a perfect condition like a paradise and then start the space program? Then we will never get to even think about space. We can explore space a lot faster than we can fix our earthly problems.
    Tefy Tambay, Los Angeles, USA

    This mission will lead us a long way and answer many questions that human race had difficulties in answering

    Kris Vamadevan, NYC, USA
    We humans have come a long way since evolution began. Even though we are infinitesimal compared to the whole universe, I think it should be our concern to know why we, the universe and everything has to exist. We may never find out the truth, but there should at least be a concern and effort to find it out. The ISS and space research are just the first step. This mission will lead us a

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