NASA Administrator Griffin Discusses Value of the Space Economy
WASHINGTON - NASA Administrator Michael Griffin kicked off a lecture series honoring the agency's 50th anniversary with an address Monday describing the critical role that space exploration plays in the global economy.
The "space economy" was estimated at about $180 billion in 2005, according to a report by the Space Foundation released in 2006. More than 60 percent of space-related economic activity came from commercial goods and services.
"NASA opens new frontiers and creates new opportunities, and because of that [NASA] is a critical driver of innovation," Griffin said. "We don't just create new jobs, we create entirely new markets and possibilities for economic growth that didn't previously exist. This is the emerging space economy, an economy that is transforming our lives here on Earth in ways that are not yet fully understood or appreciated. It is not an economy in space -- not yet. But space activities create products and markets that provide benefits right here on Earth, benefits that have arisen from our efforts to explore, understand, and utilize this new medium."
Since NASA's birth almost a half-century ago, military and political competition in space largely has faded away. The focus of space exploration today is in the economic arena. Rising living standards and technological advancement around the world mean greater competition from places that were never competitors before.
"If technological innovation drives competitiveness and growth, what drives innovation?" Griffin said. "There are many factors, but the exploration and exploitation of the space frontier is one of them. The money we spend -- half a cent of the federal budget dollar -- and the impact of what we do with it, doesn't happen 'out there.' It happens here, and the result has been the space economy. So if America is to remain a leader in the face of burgeoning global competition, we must continue to innovate, and we must continue to innovate in space."
NASA is uniquely positioned to drive the space economy with technological innovation. Griffin cited a number of examples where the space economy yields tangible benefits for people here on Earth.
"We see the transformative effects of the space economy all around us through numerous technologies and life-saving capabilities," Griffin said. "We see the space economy in the lives saved when advanced breast cancer screening catches tumors in time for treatment, or when a heart defibrillator restores the proper rhythm of a patient's heart. We see it when GPS, the Global Positioning System developed by the Air Force for military applications, helps guide a traveler to his or her destination. We see it when weather satellites warn us of coming hurricanes, or when satellites provide information critical to understanding our environment and the effects of climate change. We see it when we use an ATM or pay for gas at the pump with an immediate electronic response via satellite. Technologies developed for exploring space are being used to increase crop yields and to search for good fishing regions at sea."
Griffin's lecture followed a luncheon Monday at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in Washington. It was the first in a series that will honor NASA's 50th birthday. The space agency began operations on Oct. 1, 1958. U.S. Rep. Alan B. Mollohan of West Virginia introduced Griffin.
Future lectures in the series will feature prominent speakers to discuss the benefits that space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research provide in addressing global issues such as the economy, education, health, science and the environment. Lockheed Martin Corporation of Bethesda, Md., is co-sponsoring the two-year lecture series.
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