By Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
So what does the Black & Decker Dustbuster vacuum have to do with the exploration of space?
It actually has to do with drilling. Black & Decker was tasked with creating a self-contained drill capable of extracting core samples for the Apollo program. The company later would use the drill’s computer program to develop the cordless miniature vacuum cleaner.
It this type of “spin-off” technology that the space program has on everyday life, said U.S. Senator Gary Peters, who made a stop in Grand Rapids to celebrate the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum’s current exhibit “SPACE: A Journey of our Future,” which runs through May 29.
“We know that when we invest in science, we will get a higher return for taxpayers,” Peters said.
And as the Ranking Member of the Senate Subcommittee on Space, that higher return is something Peters and the Subcommittee are banking on with the mission to Mars.
“Similar of what you think about President Kennedy — I am sure you have studied this in that President Kennedy made the claim that we would get to the moon by the end of the decade and really set this goal, this bar of which everyone one was trying to achieve,” Peters said to a group of high school students during a lecture at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.
“The same thing is happening to the Mars mission in it is in the process of moving forward.”
While the Mission to Mars is still about 15 years away — the target year is 2030 — the work toward making that happen has lead to innovation not only through out the United States, but right in Michigan, Peters said, adding that several Michigan companies are involved in developing technology and even constructing the SLS rocket that will carry the astronauts to Mars.
In the “SPACE: A Journey to Our Future,” there is an up-close look at NASA’s new Constellation Program with a model of the Ares I launch vehicle and the Orion crew capsule, which is planned to be used in in the Mission to Mars. Other highlights of the traveling exhibit including a Lunar Habitat, where visitors can experience what it would be like to live and work on the Moon, a look at the Hubble telescope, an illustrated timeline 0f NASA’s 50 years of space exploration, and the multimedia 360-degree “Future Theatre.”
Peters discussed some of these items in the lecture such as it being a costly venture to have people living on the moon, but that NASA is looking to use the moon as sort of a laboratory by pulling an astroid into the moon’s atmosphere so as to be able to study it and its components.
“It is believed that astroids that slammed into the earth brought the basic building blocks for life,” Peters said, adding it is exciting to be able to study those “seeds of life.”
The Hubble Space Telescope has served the United States well bringing incredible images, but soon the James Webb Space Telescope — scheduled to be launched in 2018 — will study the phases in history of the universe. “It is said that if the James Webb telescope was on earth, pointing to the moon, it would be able read the heat signature of a single bubble bee…that’s how powerful it is,” Peters said.
All of these advancements lead to new technology such as autonomous or self driving cars, which could impact space programs on a variety of levels, Peters said.
“We do not know what the next big thing is,” Peters said as he talked about research and advancements. “We know that if we continue to invest in the basic chemistry, basic biology, basic physics, that kind of basics that are being done in our research universities, of which Michigan has several in Grand Rapids and throughout, that it will lead to the next big thing that will transform life as we know it know.”
“SPACE: The Journey to Our Future,” which explores the past, present and future of space exploration, is at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, 303 Pearl St. NW, through May 29.