The next time you use your cellphone, watch satellite-delivered television programming, use a cordless power tool, drive on enhanced radial tires, drink a bottle of purified water or find your way with a GPS device, thank the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

From medical advancements to aircraft anti-collision warning systems to personal computers, NASA scientists and contractors advancing our space program invented, developed or improved the technology that made all of these conveniences possible. It’s hard to imagine what our lives would be like today if the American people had not accepted space exploration as a national priority in the 1960s.

The incredible challenge of designing and building rockets that could soar around the Earth; the guidance systems to direct these rockets to the moon; the need for small, lightweight technology that can manage volumes of data at one time; and the food and clothing that would allow a human to leave the Earth and travel through almost unimaginable temperature changes and weightlessness all required the development of technologies at a level of sophistication previously unknown.

Through the Apollo and Shuttle programs, the demands on NASA and its contractors and the ability to conduct scientific experiments in the pristine atmosphere of space required even more advanced technologies.

It also meant that in giving NASA what it needed, those same technologies could be applied to other purposes.

Despite the exciting landing of the Curiosity Mars mission, many Americans — and many politicians — are quick to point to NASA as a multibillion-dollar budget item we don’t need. Put those dollars to social programs, they argue. Use the money to create jobs.

Let’s not be too hasty to bite a big hand that literally does feed us.

— The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss., Aug. 11

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