Why NASA is Vital to America
If you were to ask me as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer would not have been a ballerina, doctor, or firefighter. It would have been a Vulcan. Yes, even in my youth, I was a giant nerd. I loved Star Trek, and I loved the world in which it existed. I grew up watching a universe where the earth was united, poverty was nearly non-existent, and exploration, discovery, and peace were the primary goals of those in charge.
Now, I have since grown up and have realized that becoming a member of a fictional alien race is not a valid career option. However, my ability to imagine a better future has never left me, and as I watch current events unfold, my heart breaks, as I fear we are moving farther and farther away from what could make us great.
We need to be putting more money into the space program.
Everyone knows that the United States spends more on our military budget than any other country in the world. I know that I have made it clear in the past that my tendencies are usually pacifist, and I am not such an idealist to think that we can remove our military budget, but we are spending more and more on weapons while NASA has seen its funding drop another 2 billion in Obama’s second term. There are real threats in the world and I am aware that ISIS is a problem. I suppose we could have a debate on whether or not we should be bombing the middle east, the ethics of drones, how involved we should be with this, etc., but even though our leaders came to the conclusion we needed to be at war, that does not change the fact that our greatest accomplishments in the space program came during the Cold War, a time where we were under constant fear of destruction. NASA makes up less than half a percent of the US budget. At its peak in the 60’s, it was about four percent. It has never been a huge cost to the American people, but the space program has given us some of the most remarkable accomplishments of humanity, and it is ours. It is our heritage, but with the current funding, it will not be our future.
The technology developed by NASA does’t just allow for exploration, it provides answers to major problems we see on the ground. The space program gave us medical advancements, like artificial limbs and LED therapy. It gave us cell phones, firefighter equipment, and water purification and so much more. If we were to continue investing in NASA, we will see technology that will save lives, solve conflicts, and propel us toward a safer and more stable country and world as a whole.
As I watch the government strip more and more from NASA, while at the same time maintaining the largest nuclear arsenal the world has ever known, all I can think is that we have become incapable of investing in anything other than our own fears.
We once inspired the greatest scientists, the greatest explorers. Not any more. We are far behind in math and science, and the upcoming generations will be much more likely to associate the word debt than dreams with their education. But that’s not how it has to be.
In the past, we fought a failing economy with the machine that is war production. What if, with that same vigor and zeal, we became a powerhouse for space exploration? Older industries are dying out, but if we could replace them with the space industry, on a massive scale, we would see a dramatic increase in jobs. Instead of making an industry who’s primary goal is destruction, we could build one that would push us into being something greater. We would see students rise to the challenge of mastering the great unknown. In the first part of the 20th century, we went from having people that were born still using horses and buggies, to see a man on the moon before the end of their lifetime. Don’t give me any more of this half a percent of our budget. I want leaps like this again. I want to live to see people colonize Mars. I want to see us leave our solar system. I want to push to be absolutely everything we can be but aren’t living up to.
I don’t know if you understand how much my generation loves space. With Pluto’s recent (possible) comeback, all I’ve been seeing on my social
media feeds for the past few days are my peers typing in all caps, “VIVA LA PLUTO!” I’ve seen infographics, and discussions, all from thousands of people who just really love space. In general, millennial’s see their future as pretty gloomy, but if you talk to most of us about space exploration, we think that is such an exciting thing. It’s something so many dream about.
NASA can give us the answers to our greatest problems, and everyone, especially my generation, needs this organization more than you can imagine. Please, don’t cut us off from reaching for the stars.