A weekly commentary by CBS News correspondent Andy Rooney.
The Columbia spaceship disaster has caused everyone to look more carefully at NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Some have questioned whether it's been worth the cost in lives and money.
We spent $24 billion getting to the moon in 1969. It was a remarkable achievement and it provided us with amazing pictures and a great sense of national pride.
Well, the fact is though, it wasn't as big a step as we thought at the time. It led to nothing. The last time we went back to the moon was 30 years ago. It turned out the moon is just one big, dull rock in the sky.
Space exploration is different. Even if you can't put your finger on the results or count the advances that we've made in terms of dollars, space exploration is important to the progress of life on Earth. We have to find out more about where we are in relation to the rest of the universe. You never know what's going to happen to this planet. We may have to get off it.
It seems wrong, or strange anyway, that we've spent so much time and money exploring outer space when we've never been more than a few miles down looking at inner space - the earth we live on. We really don't know much about it.
It's as if we went two miles into space.
Here's a little globe, I have.
The distance around the Earth - the circumference - is about 24,000 miles. If you went right through the center of it, the diameter is only about 8,000 miles. Here's New York - here's Australia. I've always wanted to go to Australia but it's too far: 12,000 miles from New York. That's a long time to have your seatbelt securely fastened. If we had a tunnel from the United States to Sydney, a straight line through the center of the earth, I estimate it would only be about 5,000 miles.
We used to think of heaven as being up and hell as being down. Well, if the center of the earth is hot as hell - they don't even know that for sure - we should be able to tap into it and use the heat to warm our houses without ever burning anything.
If we ever do dig way down into the earth, we'd have to find a place to throw all the dirt and rocks we took out.
And that's where the moon might finally come in handy. We could ship it up there and dump it.
Eventually, of course, we'd have a full moon.
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