In-Depth Report

Mythbusting: New York & Space

Patrick Chase
Sep 09 2021
At first glance, the combination of New York and space travel might not be intuitive to you. When people think of space travel, they likely picture Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon, Space Shuttle launches from Florida, or some random tweet from Elon Musk. When they think of New York, they likely picture the Empire Space building or the Statue of Liberty, maybe Niagara Falls or the Erie Canal. If you ask someone on the street “Can you name a connection New York has to space?” you would likely get a number of blank stares and uncertain answers.

Space in general is often seen as cool but distant, or perhaps unapproachable and ‘beyond my grasp.’ Too often people think you have to be a scientist or an engineer to appreciate space travel, or think that it has no bearing on their day to day lives.

This couldn’t be further from the truth, and New York has a rich history of participation in space exploration with an exciting future in store. So let’s bust a few myths and see where this story is taking us.

Myth #1: Space exploration doesn’t impact my life. False.

Your smart phone and internet service, the weather forecast you use, the insulation in your house, medical technologies in your local hospital, and the fabrics in your clothes have all been influenced and improved by NASA innovations over the years and would not exist today without the advances that come from space exploration. Nasa runs a Planetary Defense division that monitors for potentially disastrous asteroid impacts. Economists also forecast the space industry could grow to over $1 trillion in activity within the next few decades, becoming a major driver of the global economy.

Myth #2: Space exploration is for scientists, I’m not smart enough to understand all that. False.

Yes it’s easy to get wonky, fast when it comes to talking space, and it is a big concept to wrap your head around sometimes, but there are so many ways to get involved with and appreciate space in baby steps in a way you are comfortable with. It’s not all math equations and engineering labs, but the beauty of the night sky, the inspiration of learning about an astronaut from your hometown, or the joy gained from a fun new experience with friends and family. Visiting your local museum or planetarium, going to see an amateur rocket launch with friends, taking the family to a local star party, or following your favorite astronaut on Twitter are fun, easy ways to ease yourself into the world of space and meet some great new friends in the process. You can appreciate the beauty of space and the importance of exploring it regardless of where you are from and how much education you have.

Myth #3: Space exploration all happens in Florida and Texas, New York has nothing to do with it. False.

A few quick facts:
> The Apollo lunar landers were built on Long Island.
> 30 New Yorkers from every region of the state have gone into space, including those that have broken barriers of gender and ethnicity and pioneered new technologies.
> There are over 100 planetariums, observatories, museums and science centers with space programming throughout the state, in every region.
> Over 50 universities throughout the state have numerous programs involving the space sector, with hundreds of affiliated student groups throughout the state.
> NASA operates a facility at Columbia University, and had an economic footprint of over $250 million in 2019.
> The joint space/aerospace sector in New York employs thousands of people and pays out billions of dollars in wages per year.

New York has always played a role in space exploration, and will continue to do so in the future.

So where does that leave us? Space exploration and development has a profound impact on our day to day lives (even if we don’t think about it). There are numerous ways everyday people can get involved and learn more about space, enriching their lives and opening new chapters for exploration regardless of who they are or where they call home. New York has played an integral part in the evolution of the space age so far, and will have a role to play in the future as well.

What is lacking is a story.

Florida tells a great story about space because of its prime position at the center of the national space industry, it’s easy for them. New York tells a great story about innovation, urbanization, industry and immigration, but it's space story has never been able to crystallize in all the louder stories being told.

It’s time to change that.

New Yorkers should be proud of the role their state has played in the Space Age, and prouder still of the daughters and sons sent to the final frontier to break barriers and explore on behalf of all humanity. New Yorkers should realize the potency of the space sector currently operating in the state, it’s contributions to the state’s economy and quality of life, and it’s potential to bring even greater rewards in the future.

This is a story of a quiet contributor to space exploration, never taking the limelight and at times forgetting its own legacy, but always playing a part nonetheless.

A larger role to play is available in the chapters ahead.

The biggest question remains: What will New Yorkers write?

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