Imagine this for a second. A young teary-eyed boy sits in the waiting room of the hospital as the doctor informs him about his father’s failing heart. As awful and heartbreaking as this situation sounds, that boy’s father is able to stay alive via a ventricular assist device that will continue to pump blood through his veins until he can receive a necessary heart transplant. This device is ever-present in the field of medicine and is responsible for saving countless lives. Well this device is just one of the numerous technological innovations that would not exist without the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) whose future is in doubt due to its detrimental budget cuts. In the frequent media’s light, NASA has been negatively portrayed as a useless organization and this has led to many believed the whole organization should be scrapped or privatized; however, due to the positives that NASA has created such as a boost in the economy and technological advancement, I firmly believe that it is crucial that the White House take the initiative and give NASA a larger budget. At the rate in which NASA’s budget is being reduced, people will soon live in a world in which NASA was a thing of the past. Its budget is now under 0.5% of the entire federal budget, which is a monumental decline from the 4.41% it peaked at during the race to get to the moon in the 60s. The Obama administration has followed its predecessors in continuing these cuts, as seen by the passing of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. Within this Act, Obama cut funding for some of NASA’s incremental programs such as the Constellation program in which billions of dollars had already been invested. The Constellation program was paving the way for a future manned mission to Mars. On scrapping this enormous program, legendary astronaut Neil Armstrong stated, “it appears that we will have wasted our current ten plus billion dollar investment...[and] lost many years required to recreate the equivalent of what we will have discarded” (qtd. in Russ). Dr. Robert Zubrin, who holds a Masters degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering, further condemned Obama's plans: "Under the Obama plan, NASA will spend $100 billion on human spaceflight over the next 10 years in order to accomplish nothing" (qtd. in “Mars Society President: Obama’s Failure to Launch“). The White House must stop stepping in and underfunding NASA’s programs in order to reap the benefits.
During President Obama’s campaign he constantly drove home five significant points to rally voters to back him for the 2012 presidency. His first and most important point, revitalizing the economy, can be accomplished with the help of NASA. Supporters of NASA argue that people cannot even begin to comprehend the benefits that NASA has on the economy. According to Hertzfeld’s article “Measuring the Economic Returns from Successful NASA Life Sciences Technology Transfers,” fifteen companies close with NASA were analyzed; and the report showed that NASA Research and Development investments of $64 million was found to stimulate an additional $200 million in private R&D and also added beneﬁts totaling over $1.5 billion. The study goes on to proclaim that in 2002 the aerospace industry resulted in over $95 billion of economic activity and that “every dollar invested in NASA had a rate of return of nearly 33%” (Hertzfeld). In addition to supporting private businesses, NASA has also been responsible for creating numerous jobs for the hard-working American, jobs that families depend on in order to provide for their household. For instance, take the Mars landing project. According to CNN Money, the project created “over seven thousand highly skilled jobs” (Smith). Smith’s article further states how NASA helps each state’s economy, demonstrated by its having invested over $108 million in Louisiana in 2011. The White House must work to keep NASA alive due to its major impact on the economy and employment rate, and together they can achieve a symbiotic relationship from which both can accomplish their main goals. Not only does NASA directly stimulate the economy, but also it influences education and technology, leading to establishing the United States as the global leader in innovation. In USA Today, J.R. Wilson ‘s article “Top 25 Scientific Breakthroughs” lists the most significant additions to the technological world through the last twenty-five years. Within this article, eight discoveries came directly from the NASA Research and Development department. Technology that people often take for granted came about due to researchers at NASA researching ways to keep people safe outside of the atmosphere. For example, NASA engineers decide to throw high-frequency sound waves at the surface of the moon to pick a harmless spot to land. This idea soon led to the development of the ultrasound and CAT-scan, which are now staples in the medical profession. NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said: “We see the transformative effects of the Space Economy all around us through numerous technologies and life-saving capabilities” (qtd. in Wilson). These breakthroughs would not be possible without the influence NASA has had in the field of education and by allowing children to fantasize to become astronauts and strive for the unobtainable. Growing up, kids dream of emulating heroes; and an astronaut is always a profession that never ceases to amaze them. In striving to become astronauts, these children grow up to stretch the limits of brilliance in order to seek answers to questions that everyone ponders: Is there extra-terrestrial life or how exactly did humans come into existence? Living in a society without NASA in which dreaming of the grander picture does not exist will only lead to the United States’ demise because complacency will come into effect, and Americans will not be able to solve the future problems that await them.
With all of these benefits stemming from continuing to fund NASA, one cannot seem to fathom why so many people are against NASA; but this is where misconception factors in to the entire situation. Public misconception, which can be cancerous, has fueled many arguments against funding NASA, one being why should the United States spend so much money on space exploration when there are so many problems going on in our own country such as poverty and unemployment. Being misinformed is leading Americans to make this assumption and decreasing their enthusiasm regarding space exploration. In a 2007 poll directed by a Houston-based consulting firm, the results exhibited that Americans believed that 24% of the federal budget was allocated to NASA (Strauss). Although NASA’s budget, $17.7 billion, may seem exceptionally big to the uninformed eye, with a closer look, it is in fact under a mere 0.5% of the entire budget. A subsequent survey, a 2009 Gallup poll, indicated that when Americans were actually told the amount of the budget before the survey, 60% of Americans supported the funding of NASA. In addition to the argument of dealing with worldly problems first, rather than to keep cutting NASA’s budget to phase them out, one resolution that is gaining a significant amount of attention is that space exploration should be left up to the private sector, which will allow the free market to lead to innovation. It is believed that competition among private companies striving to earn their quarterly profit could lead to a more efficient approach to space exploration (Kluger). This ideal of competition leading to success is what American capitalism is based on and has been proven to be efficient. The resolution, however, does not fully reconcile the problem. Private enterprises are typically so worried about quarterly profits, which hinders long-term projects such as putting a man on Mars or exploring Europa, a moon of Jupiter that has the most potential to support extraterrestrial life. This being the case, programs showing no immediate return on investments will be weeded out and plucked from existence before they can actually benefit society; therefore, space exploration is best left in the hands of NASA. To be blunt, the federal government should increase NASA’s budget because without NASA that little boy’s father from earlier would not be alive today. Things so common as the GPS or camera on the back of your phone would not exist because both of them stemmed from NASA’s research. As taxpayers, people strive to know that their money is making a change; and NASA is an organization that they can believe in to make the most out of each and every one of their tax dollars through its benefits shown in the economy and advancement of technology. Astrophysicist and fellow NASA supporter Neil deGrasse Tyson best said it: "Right now, NASA's annual budget is half a penny on your tax dollar. For twice that—a penny on a dollar—we can transform the country from a sullen, dispirited nation, weary of economic struggle, to one where it has reclaimed its 20th century birthright to dream of tomorrow" (Tyson). A half a penny more per tax dollar seems like a very small price to pay to reinvigorate our nation. “How much would you pay for the universe?” (Tyson). Words: 1513
Atkinson, Nancy. "8 Ridiculous Things Bigger Than NASA's Budget." Universe Today. 27 May 2009. Web. 07 March 2013. (M) Hertzfeld, Henry R. “Measuring the Economic Returns from Successful NASA Life Sciences Technology Transfers.” The Journal of Technology Transfer 27.4 (2002) : 311-320. Ebsco. Web. 11 March 2013. (S) Kluger, Jeffrey. “Astronauts Inc.: The Private Sector Muscles Out NASA.” Time. 17 December 2010. Web. 27 March 2013. (M) “Mars Society President: Obama’s Failure to Launch.” AmericaSpace. 19 April 2010. Web. 28 March 2013. (S) Russ, Daniel. “ Neil Armstrong Writes a Letter to Obama. One that Perhaps We Should All Read.” Civilian Military Intelligence Group. 14 April 2010. Web. 28 March 2013. (S) Smith, Aaron. “ How Many Jobs did the Mars Landing Create.” CNN Money. 6 August 2012. Web. 7 March 2013. (M) Strauss, Mark. “Ten Enduring Myths About the U.S. Space Program." Smithsonian Magazine. 15 April 2011. Web. 12 March 2013. (M) Tyson, Neil deGrasse. “What NASA Means to America’s Future.” Distinguished Speakers Series. University at Buffalo, New York. 2 April 2010. Web. 7 March 2013. (S) Wilson, J.R. “Top 25 Scientific Breakthroughs.” USA Today. 28 May 2008. Web. 07 March 2013. (M)