The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is asking Congress for an additional $1.6 billion to be added to their 2020 budget, which would increase their overall budget to around $22.6 billion. With a budget increase of this size, NASA hopes to put another astronaut on the moon by 2024 and create a fleet of reusable rockets, landers and other vehicles supporting sustainable, long-term missions for crews and robotic missions by 2028. The cosmos seems to be the next frontier in American exploration.
On May 13, President Donald Trump tweeted, “Under my Administration, we are restoring @NASA to greatness and we are going back to the Moon, then Mars. I am updating my budget to include an additional $1.6 billion so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!” The extra $1.6 billion is designed to help NASA put astronauts down near the lunar south pole in 2024. While this is an ambitious goal, NASA officials have said that “this pioneering mission will help lead to a long-term, sustainable human presence on the moon.”
Since its advent in 1958, NASA has completed over 200 launched crewed missions to space, most of which became complete during the Space Shuttle program. In these missions, NASA has put men on the moon, created the ISS (International Space Station) and developed a reusable spacecraft. All of these accomplishments were made within the confines of their ever decreasing budget. The U.S. military, on the other hand, has $600 billion in spending budget, which is about 54% of the United States annual discretionary budget, according to the DOD (Department of Defense). This is a significant number and about thirty times the budget NASA receives each year. While the military’s budget is necessary to ensure the United States remains the leader of the free world, an increase in funds to NASA would make us the leader of space exploration as well. Ever since the end of the space race, public interest in space exploration has declined significantly, along with their budget.
NASA’s current and largest ambition is to put people on Mars, a mission program that would span decades and eat away at a significant portion of their budget. According to NASA, the entire Apollo program cost around $140 billion in today’s dollars over a span of ten years, this is only a sixth of the military’s budget in one year. I am not saying to allocate the military’s budget for NASA’s endeavors but this goes to show how much NASA could do with a budget increase. So why is going to space necessary or important when there are much bigger problems here on Earth with no present solution.
When thinking about space exploration it helps to look to the past for answers. When Manifest Destiny took hold and thousands began to travel west they were heading into the great unknown, with no guarantee of their success, future or even their lives. They traveled for the mere idea of discovery and opportunity, which is made infinite when looked for in space. The Wild West was the new frontier for Americans, as space is today. If NASA had the fundings equal to other major governmental organizations, the possibilities of discovery and commerce would be infinite. Exploration and discovery almost always lead the transformation of seemingly uninhabitable places into engines of enterprise, commerce and sustainable growth. If an organization such as NASA is requesting additional funds, then it is crucial to provide them with the resources they need to further humankind as a whole.