Debate on NASA Funding Continues

Discussion around space program funding continues as next steps are made in space exploration

Alex Kuck, Reporter

The recent landing of the Mars rover Perseverance has reignited the age-old debate surrounding NASA and the funds it receives. In a world where so many things need fixing, debates over priorities have been a constant in the political landscape.

 

NASA, established by Congress in 1958, was originally created to compete with the Soviet Union’s space program and to assert the US as the global superpower. During the end of the cold war, with the Soviet Union in turmoil, NASA began to leave this competitive mindset behind in favor of advancing science and technology.

 

Debates on the amount of funding given to NASA have been going on since the very beginning of the program, especially during the years leading up to the 1969 moon landing. During that time, as much as 4.5% of the yearly US federal budget had been allocated to NASA. Many people, including notable civil rights protesters and leaders,  were in outspoken opposition to spending this much money on the space program, arguing that the priority should be fixing the problems on Earth.

 

While testifying to Congress in 1966, Martin Luther King Jr. said “in a few years we can be assured that we will set a man on the moon and with an adequate telescope he will be able to see the slums on Earth with their intensified congestion, decay, and turbulence.”

On the other hand, many argue that the work NASA does is essential for scientific progress, technological advancement, and even national security.

Thirty-one years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, tensions between the US and another global superpower are once again approaching dangerous levels. There is no doubt that China’s unprecedented rise to economic superpower will continue into the future; its economy is projected to become the world’s largest by 2028. China already spends more of its budget on science and technology than the US, which has caused many to fear a Chinese overtaking of the science and technology sectors.

China has also made progress in terms of space, successfully completing a groundbreaking mission to the moon and preparing to launch a manned space station within the year to rival the ISS. To many in the US, the Chinese space program’s pace is frightening – some fear a new space race.

Sophomore James Kwan believes that

“We should increase NASA’s budget for further development, which, from a competitive standpoint, would help us win the new space race against China.”.

 

Space travel is also important to many people because of the knowledge it generates and the fundamental questions it addresses concerning our place in the universe and the history of our existence.

 

Regarding money allocated to NASA, Sophomore Lane Capps thinks that “We should increase NASA’s budget so that we get more knowledge and explore the universe.”

 

Sophomore Oliver Diaz-Moore emphasized the uniqueness of the work NASA is doing, which he says makes it important to continue to support the agency at the current fiscal level. “NASA pushes our boundaries and allows us to discover things that we don’t have an answer to on Earth. It allows us to find solutions that we would not be able to find on Earth, so it is worth it to increase its funding as an investment in the future.”, he said.

 

Another concern is the onset of the consequences of climate change, which many fear will render the Earth uninhabitable in the near future. As a result, the search for alternative planets to Earth has slipped into the mainstream, with Elon Musk’s SpaceX especially involved. Musk’s space exploration company plans to land humans on Mars by 2026, aiming to colonize the red planet and to make it suitable for long-term human habitation. SpaceX works in close collaboration with NASA and receives significant funding from the agency.

 

“We also want to accelerate reaching Mars as options for other planets become more important. NASA is a federal agency, which means that it is not doing its work just for a profit; it actually wants to explore space and gain knowledge.”, said Kwan.

World history teacher Josh Goldberg shares his view; “With the way humanity is heading to destroy our own home planet, it will become more and more important for the survival of humanity to have as many options as possible.”

 

In addition, space exploration has generated excitement around the possibilities that unexplored planets hold. As sophomore George Mattinson said, “NASA funding should be increased as we have a serious chance to find new natural resources on other planets. Space mining will be a huge business in the future.”

 

Space travel has long been seen as unifying and inspiring; an endeavor in which the human race is joined by a common goal. We have a tendency to separate ourselves with artificial borders based on social constructs like skin color and gender, which only harms our progress and collective well-being. Space travel allows us to look past these artificial borders and, through the vastness of space, makes us realize that they really don’t matter.

During a phone call with the crew of Apollo 11 after landing on the moon, former President Richard Nixon said“For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this Earth are truly one.”

 

Goldberg acknowledges that space exploration can bring unity and cooperation, but also brought up the fine balance that needs to exist between funding our cosmic aspirations and addressing the problems on Earth.

 

“If we can make [space exploration] an international effort, that will lead to better stability and longevity of the program. At the same time, how do you do that when you have people standing in the unemployment lines; I think that [the space program] has to be balanced with responsible social programs but it can renew a sense of unity and rekindle a belief in science that we seem to be severely lacking.”, he said.