NASA, a name familiar to any child growing up in america, stories of the cosmos and the brave souls exploring the unexplorable. Unfortunately, NASA has recently been facing funding cut after funding cut, and has had to shut down projects and missions, a disappointment to all of those who follow their work. However, this should be a bigger disappointment for all Americans, not just those who are fans of space. What NASA does, and what NASA provides is incredible, the things that they have done for the average American are little known, but very potent.
Why fund NASA?: The current budget for NASA is $19.1 billion dollars, which would seem, to the common observer, to be a huge amount of money, but in actuality is much less than what NASA needs and deserves. For some perspective, NASA receives only 0.4 percent of the federal budget, 4.268 trillion dollars. Compare this to the Department of Defense (574 Billion dollars), or the Veterans administration (78.9 Billion dollars). Of course, both of these departments are incredibly important in their own right, but the perceived and commonly accepted belief that funding space exploration is useless is more wrong then one can imagine. The contributions that NASA has made to research, human advancement, and even our own daily lives are many. Some examples of inventions that were created by NASA during their research are medical scanning technology (such as the CAT scanner), UV and scratch resistant lenses, hand held vacuums, ATM machines, GPS, weather and communication satellites, and an array of medical technology (such as a variety of thermometers and the kidney dialysis machine).
What is NASA using the money for?: People sometimes question why the government should be funding something that involves solving problems that aren’t even on earth, a valid thought, but one that can be debated with a little research in how NASA spends its budget. Turns out, quite a bit of NASA’s budget is spent on more than just rockets. Some of the many projects and facilities NASA splits its budget on are
- Satellites and upkeep
- Aeronautics research and development, where NASA will work with current aerospace companies to create an energy efficient aircraft, and robotic satellite servicing (which could cut costs it the upkeep of satellites). This research currently has about 625 million dedicated to it.
- Space exploration tech, and the new space launch system, which could bring astronauts to the moon, mars, and even deep space. Costs 3.7 billion
- The Orion crew capsule, probably one of NASA’s most anticipated projects. The crew capsule has already been successfully tested, and is the first new American tech to carry humans in 40 years. This would mean that American astronauts would be able to reach the international space station by their own means, instead of our current situation. (we currently pay Russia to transport American crew to the I.S.S.)
- Replacing the old Hubble space telescope with the new James Webb telescope, which costs 1.25 billion
- The 2020 mars rover mission, to further explore the planet. Research done on mars can correspond and open doors to research on earth. This currently costs $1.9 billion
- Upkeep of facilities and employees
While all of these things to spend money on seem like a lot, the budget actually led to a few more projects being cut, such as parts of the earth science department that studied Deep Space, and the Deep space climate observatory satellite, Climate change research, and the NASA education department. NASA also had to cut an incredibly important project to the country, and the world's well being. The Asteroid Redirect mission. The project would have been able protect earth from any incoming asteroids, identified potential threats, and immediately fly an astronaut to the asteroid to redirect it with solar electric systems. The research that would be produced from this could also contribute to missile defense systems, and it’s a pity that it's merits aren't recognised.
NASA gives back: Unbelievably, every dollar that the government spends on NASA, NASA returns into the economy tenfold. In 2005, NASA contributed $180 billion dollars into the economy. With this, along with the cancelled asteroid redirect mission, it’s clear that it would be a beneficial move to invest in NASA’s research. It’s an incredibly smart move on the government’s part, as well as being better for the U.S. as a whole.
There is a conceivable solution. Recently, there’s been an idea that if NASA was able to receive merely one percent of the federal budget, they would be able to conduct any research, project, or mission they wanted. This means that cut missions, like the asteroid redirect mission, could be put into full effect, and even improved on dramatically. Not only that, the money returned to the economy would be around $380000000000. One percent of the budget would not be a huge change for any other department budgets, and would help science and American technology advance astronomically. The importance of what NASA does should not be misunderstood any longer, and it's imperative that they are given the money and credit they deserve.