Being green, racing cars, and flying Space Shuttles
March 14, 2012 § 6 Comments
Some of our readers have asked me and Dave how we can be “green” when one of us (Dave) is a racecar driver, and we both have been involved with the space program for cough-cough number of years (note how I cleverly avoided telling you how old we are with the casual coughing maneuver). Yes, space vehicles and racecars use a lot of fuel. And that spent fuel does contribute to pollution.
The fact is that both racing and space exploration bring about green innovation through their associated technological development.
Even though most of our posts are about food and living on a farm, Dave and I are both skilled engineers. He works for an aerospace contractor, and I work at a technology start-up. Before my current position, I spent many years working as a NASA contractor. And before NASA, I worked in private industry, developing innovations for Formula 1 racecars. So, I’ve seen a lot of technological development.
High technology enterprises, such as NASA, the racing industry, and technology start-ups like the one where I work now contribute billions of dollars per year towards research and development. For the racing industry, that capital is focused on efficiency and performance. Innovations that are developed for Formula 1 eventually make their way into private industry, resulting in improved safety systems and better miles per gallon for consumers.
People tell me all the time that NASA contributes little to the economy, but actually for every dollar it receives, the Agency returns $7 to the American consumer, in the form of innovations that enhance fuel economy (space vehicles need optimized fuel economy, too), improve vehicle safety systems, provide clean energy, enhance medical care, provide clean water for people across the world, and a myriad other innovations. Oh, and by the way…NASA’s budget isn’t that big. At 0.6% of the United States Federal budget, the Agency’s budget is a drop in the bucket as compared to that of other Federal agencies, AND it gives back more than it receives.
So yes, Dave and I do get a little prickly when we’re challenged about being green and working in an industry that appears to be not very green at all. Dave and I have spent many years in our careers, developing innovations for the space program. While we enjoy living on a little farm on the outskirts of NASA, we also enjoy crafting technologies that will help humans on this earth live a little healthier, greener, and economically.