Here's an interesting question. What should children who are in middle school today study so they will be in demand when they get out of college?
That depends on what we do today. If we support a strong space program, both manned and robotic, now there are a few fields that will explode in a decade.
As long as we don't keep cutting NASA's budget, in the next decade we will need as many biologists as we can train. This will be from two things.
If will can maintain NASA's barebone budget we will have a few more unmanned landers go to Mars. Evidence of long term water on the surface has been found, if the composition of the soil in this area is as we suspect, it has a good potential for life to have developed. A few more landers and we will see if Mars ever had life.
If we find even fossilized remains of microscopic life that evolved on Mars, biology and life science will be revolutionized. What we know of biology comes from observing life on Earth, it all evolved together. The extremophiles, life that lives in the extreme places like volcanoes and the Antarctic have taught us a lot about the borders of biology, but it is still life that evolved on Earth next to all other Earth life.
If we get a sample of life that evolved somewhere else, we can see what things evolved because they are necessary and what just worked well enough and were held over. Having two examples of life that evolved differently will give biologists an incredible amount of new information. That will lead to new discoveries and filter out to new medicines and medical treatments here on Earth.
This alone will make biology and life sciences a hot field for the next decade.
The second way NASA, at current budget levels, will make biology and life sciences expand is a manned expedition to an Asteroid. Asteroids have amino acids on them. Amino acids are the building blocks of life. Several types of amino acids found on meteorites don't exist on Earth. Studying these in their pure form is bound to lead to new discoveries. Combine that with biological exploration of Mars and life sciences will be making new treatments for decade.
Already if the life sciences division of NASA were independent and the money from its patents went back into its budget, it would be profitable. That's just from the field of zero-gee biology. Private Space companies will tap into this and that research will explode. With a continuation of NASA's programs the explosion will be huge.
Just continuing NASA's budget at current levels means todays middle school students will have a field they can enter and be in demand for the next century. And NASA's budget is tiny. If we spent as much money on NASA as we saved just on air conditioning by withdrawing our troops from Iraq, NASA wouldn't be able to handle that large an increase.
So to everyone who is against Space Exploration, I say, “Shut-up Stupid, even the tiny amount of the budget we are spending on space now will make sure that the kids in currently in middle school will have a field that they can go into where they are in demand for the next century. The advances that will be made in biology and life sciences alone will more than pay back the investment we make now.”
By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE