NASA discovery: A Richland professor weighs in

The discovery of seven new planets the same size as Earth is a rare occurrence, according to physics professor Heather Appleby. “The fact that some of them may have water in the form of liquid begs the question: could life be found there? And by “life” I don’t just mean intelligent life, but plants, animals, even bacteria!” Appleby said. These planets will be studied in the near future for signs of life by studying gases in their atmospheres.”  This discovery will also help astronomers like Appleby test how solar systems are formed. Astronomers will be watching these planets closely.

America’s space program is arguably one of the best investments a civilized nation can make. It’s unique to live in a culture that can look up to the moon in the night sky and say “We went there, it’s no longer a mystery.”   

Looking back to NASA’s inception in 1959, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the space agency into law as a national security necessity.  The Soviet Union launched a satellite into space two years before nicknamed Sputnik. It was a simple low Earth orbit but the U.S. was not going to be outdone by the communists. 

The space race began and the two superpowers went back and forth trying to represent leadership in the world.  In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy pushed for innovative action by the best and brightest to inspire mankind. “Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there,” he said in 1962 to a Rice University audience. By the end of the decade, President Kennedy had passed away but his promise to the beat the Russians to the moon came true. Today NASA’s purpose is more for mankind’s imagination and less about an existential threat. On Feb. 22, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope spotted a distant new frontier 235 trillion miles away.