To Dream Again

space-shuttle-774_640By: The American

July 20, 1969, the first man stepped onto the surface of the moon marking a historic day for the people of America. NASA had its largest budget percentage of the federal government’s spending during the years leading up to this space achievement and has since declined to an all-time low. Can we afford to increase NASA’s budget during our recently tough economic times and should we attempt to revive the nation’s interest in space exploration? Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and many other astronauts are American icons and heroes. America has lost its ambitions to explore and as astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson put it, “we stopped dreaming.” It is time to regain our lost glory by increasing NASA’s budget and once again start dreaming.

First let us look at some of the numbers about NASA’s budget. Currently the requested budget for NASA for 2017 is $19 billion and is set to expand to $20.4 billion by the year 2021. Our current budget for NASA is only at a 0.5% of the federal government’s budget. Think of this as NASA’s budget being only half of a penny of every tax dollar. As Neil Degrasse Tyson points out, two years’ worth of military spending is more than the entire history of the NASA programs spending. This is significantly down from the all-time high during the 1960’s space race where it peaked at 4.41% of the federal budget. All it would take is to change from half a penny of every tax dollar to one penny of every dollar to revive the exploration of space.

The recession that we have suffered through in the past decade has turned the public off from any idea of spending. The national debt has been a hot topic and the general population is in a panic over what should be done. Any idea of increasing a government sectors budget is met with resistance and it is apparent we are still in downscale mode. As for increasing NASA’s budget, many resist such a notion saying either that we should be focusing on fixing our planet before venturing into space, we should leave it to the private companies, or we cannot afford it.

For the idea of fixing our planet, there are too many issues that are plaguing us that will not be fixed unless we get cooperation from the other nations. The only thing we can count on is doing the best we can for our nation and the country that we inhabit. There are many other over inflated budgets in federal government spending that could be used to cover the costs of “fixing” the earth. There are international organizations that are already looking into these issues and we are already doing all that we can to manage the current issues. It would be unwise to just focus on the problems here on Earth when we could diversify our interests and manage space exploration at the same time. If we become too narrow sighted then it will lead to more problems in the long run.

Private companies such as SpaceX operated by Elon Musk have had recent success with launching spaceships. We should not rely on these companies however to represent America since they are private and operate within their own best interests. If NASA were to go obsolete then we would be held at ransom by these private companies since they would be our only way of getting to space. We may have won the space race against the Russians during the cold war era but despite being out of the public’s mind, they have not gone away. Currently we rely on the Russians to supply us with Russian Soyuz rockets for transportation during missions. We have become too complacent with where we are currently at and have become unaware of our dependence on third parties. With NASA we can push forward space exploration with the best interests of the future in mind. In order to do so, it is imperative that we vote in representatives that have an interest in our space program and pressure our current representatives to support this program. It is time to stop coasting on our past space success and reignite the passion that we once had. The price for regaining this is certainly not unreasonable.

Space travel is always portrayed as expensive when not compared to the rest of the government’s spending. When looking closely, NASA is only a mere fraction of the federal budget. As Neil Degrasse Tyson said, “if a dollar represented the federal budget and I cut into it horizontally to represent the budget of NASA, it would not even reach the ink.” That shows how tiny NASA is in the larger scale of government spending. The biggest programs that the government is currently funding are: defense, healthcare, and pensions. These are each roughly a quarter of the entire budget. Healthcare and pensions have shot up from the 80’s due to the baby boomer generation. This may change in the future since the costs will only continue to go up as the population expands and budget may get cut from these sectors. The military is often vilified and always targeted for cuts by the public. The defense budget has actually decreased over the past decades in the percentage of government spending although I can certainly see more cuts coming soon. As we begin pulling out of wars, defense spending will decrease. There are many programs within the military such as the F-35 fighter jet program which will cost upwards of $1 trillion over the next 50 years that are over inflated. A few cuts to programs such as these will save billions of dollars which is a good size of NASA’s already small budget. NASA will not be expensive to fund especially when comparing it to the size of many of these other government programs.

NASA should be treated as important as any other government division. NASA has led to many benefits to mankind besides space travel. These include advances in weather forecasting, memory foam, freeze dried food etc. There are many more spinoffs that NASA has produced over the years which they list in their annual catalog. NASA is also important to the defense of the planet. NASA observes outer space and detects asteroids within the vicinity of the planet. We do an effective job of securing the safety of our nation on Earth but without NASA, we would not be able to defend ourselves from what is coming outside of Earth. NASA is a symbol of hope to many and for the youths it gives them a goal to succeed in the specialized fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

NASA is the pioneer of the future. It is the symbol that has given hope to the world for decades and in such a time of low morale, maybe it is time to reinvigorate our dreams.  Without proper funding, NASA is limited in its capabilities. The government is slowing down our path to the future through its constant budget cuts of space exploration. NASA can create the heroes that we need to lead us into the next great space age and with an increased budget we can begin to dream again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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