NASA: Big Achievements Left in the Dust of Budget Cuts

Pavel Raskovalov, Staff Writer

The space race was truly a glorious age for mankind, a time when an average working American would sit down at the television after dinner and see one of his countrymen launch off into the great unknown. Technology was ever advancing. How It Works reminisces “[NASA] planned to expand human knowledge of space; lead the world in space-related technological innovation; develop vehicles that can carry both equipment and living organisms into space; and coordinate with international space agencies to achieve the greatest possible scientific advancements.” Yet as the years went on and the goal of landing on the moon was achieved, NASA’s funding fell dramatically. claims that “NASA’s budget peaked during the Apollo program in the 1960s. A larger portion of the yearly federal budget should be diverted to NASA, without investment into the company, the advance into the frontier of space will see even more continuous stagnation. After the United States won the race to the moon, space exploration lost political support and NASA’s budget was cut significantly. Since the 1970s, NASA has hovered between 1 percent and 0.5 percent of all U.S. government spending.”

Russia stopped trying to reach space, so the U.S. no longer had to match them. Money began to trickle elsewhere, and NASA got less and less funds to continue their ever-important work. The stars no longer won votes for politicians, so they stopped reaching for them. For our politicians dealing with the money of common Americans, building an impressive military and continuing the ever-prevalent arms race was more important.

Such a shame that this is an issue in the first place. Humanity had come so close to expanding beyond the bounds of our planet, but has nearly given up due to lack of directed funding. according to Govinfo, the official source for viewing the national budget, only about 31.1 billion, less than one percent, went to science in 2016 and only a portion of that went to NASA. On the flip side, 634.2 billion or about 16 percent went to military spending. Why is this disparity so huge? Scientific advancement is what got us here, grants from the government is what paid for our ability to go beyond our planet and find out anything about our real outside world. Why would we want to pay less for advancement, and more for war? Continuing to stock our military against threats is important, yes, but is it worth sacrificing progress? At this rate, we could continue throwing explosives at each other for millennia, wasting both invaluable human life and the limited resources which we could instead utilize to leave the bounds of our planet. We have been to space, we have put men on the moon, and we have even set multiple robots on mars. We have built and continue to maintain a space station in collaboration with China and Russia, yet we have so easily settled for just one. Why one? Why not two, three, or even a hundred? Why have them just orbit the earth? Have them orbit Mars, Jupiter, or even Neptune. Or why even stop there? Some of our satellites made ages ago have already left the solar system, Why not use modern technology to have humans leave it too?

NASA has proven itself to be successful and worthwhile, How It Works claims that “Over the last 60 years, NASA has achieved every one of [it’s] goals, and it continues to seek answers to some of the biggest mysteries in science as it evolves with a changing world.” NASA had almost singlehandedly opened our eyes, shown us that there is more to life than the dusty blue marble we find ourselves trapped in, yet it has received less investment now than it used to. Imagine what it could do with ten times the funding. We have the tools to advance, yet we don’t use them. According to TheDrive, “In 2019 alone, American military aircraft, manned and unmanned, employed 7,423 munitions of various types in Afghanistan and another 4,729 in Iraq and Syria.” TheDrive also cites the price of such an American air to missile: “AIM-9X Sidewinder (Navy) – $430,818.” Half a million fired off into the desert in just one trigger pull. That half a million could have fired off into space and taken us even just a small step closer to real valuable advancement.

There is no true limit to what humanity can accomplish, our only barrier being the resources and effort that we put into advancement. As the space race has shown, there is an abundance of money that can be put into NASA and the exploration of the cosmos, but it is not going there. With support from future political candidates, NASA could receive larger funding and achieve even larger things.