09/05/2012 08:44 am ET Updated Nov 05, 2012

Investing in Our Future: Does Investing in Space Exploration Help or Hinder Progress Towards Prosperity?

A common argument against strategic U.S. investment in fundamental science, technology and space exploration is that those same dollars could be spent supporting the impoverished right here at home. That would be a very short-sighted strategy. Of course increasing attention, focus and money on support of the impoverished is a good thing, but U.S. investment in fundamental science and space exploration has a dramatic positive impact on our overall economy and thus the plight of the impoverished.

Clearly our government, should on our behalf, invest in our future. Investments that reduce the costs of basic survival needs, or expand access to the tools that allow people to help themselves, is universally a good investment. In some cases, such investments are obvious. Agricultural research has allowed our nation and the world to grow far more crops, on far less land, with less water and other impacts than ever before. This investment has clearly improved national and even global prosperity.

Investment in space research is no less critical. The amazing web of satellites we now have orbiting the earth, lets us understand and better manage everything from weather, to floods, to crops and vegetation rates, to urban impact, and even pollution. Not to mention the services we all use every day such as global communications. Few should doubt the benefits of this investment for people at all economic levels.

Yet some, who support this, may see waste in studying the surface of Mars with robots, or sending humans into space at all. To this I offer a couple important thoughts. First that many of the discoveries we have made in deeper space have also created profound practical benefit for all back here on earth. Understanding planetary geology by studying the surfaces of other planets, for example, has helped us greatly improve the models we have for problems on earth, such as drought prediction and mitigation as well as global warming. Without improved modeling, we run a greater risk of making poor choices about how to manage the future, which will cost much more money and even lives. These models save lives and property during events like hurricanes and other natural disasters.

So, in a time, when all spending should be carefully measured and justified, it is important to remember that the modest investments we make in space exploration are far more than just inspirational. It does far more than keeping our country on the technological leading edge, which lets us remain a strong economy. These investments are of direct practical use to protect national wellbeing and to improve life for all here on earth. Most importantly, keeping America the leader of space exploration will keep Americans with one of the strongest economies on earth, which will allow us to have the tools we need to fix the other problem. Advanced scientific and technical knowledge, allows our economy to remain a leader in job creation, which creates the jobs we need to employ our citizens and thus minimize the ranks of the impoverished.

This post is part of the HuffPost Shadow Conventions 2012, a series spotlighting three issues that are not being discussed at the national GOP and Democratic conventions: The Drug War, Poverty in America, and Money in Politics.

HuffPost Live will be taking a comprehensive look at the persistence of poverty in America August 29th and September 5th from 12-4 pm ET and 6-10 pm ET. Click here to check it out -- and join the conversation.

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