Blue Vs. White: Space program will continue to benefit economy, culture
Published: Friday, October 19, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 19, 2012 00:10
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was once seen as the pride of the United States, expanding knowledge and promoting extraterrestrial exploration. Throughout the 1960s, NASA was not only a symbol of patriotism and national pride, culminating in the first manned lunar landing in 1969. It was also a driving force for economic growth throughout its time as a government program. NASA received, in 1966, just over 4 percent of the U.S. budget. But funding soon began to trickle away after the lunar landing. Today, its federal funding is less than 1 percent of the nation’s total budget.
There are many reasons why focusing more funding into NASA would help our country. Economic studies have shown that the increase in technology and Research and Development (R&D) companies is one of the most important ways of sustaining and improving the economy. As an R&D company, NASA has been paramount in the discovery and pioneering of new technologies.
In an era when unemployment and job scarcity are alarming facts of life, job-creating companies should be more heavily funded, yet this has not been the case with NASA.
NASA has a proven track record of creating jobs. In 1975 alone, NASA created 20,000 new manufacturing jobs. The inception of the space shuttle program was eventually found to have an employment multiplier of 2.8, meaning that direct employment of 95,300 more years yielded an increase of 266,000 more years in the total employment. Further research was conducted that found that for every one dollar spent R&D programs, there would be a return of $7. NASA was initially funded with $25 million in 1958, and by 1987 had returned a total profit of $181 million.
NASA is incredibly important to our society, both inspirationally and fiscally, and must be given more federal funding. For the past few decades, it has been marginalized in the United States budget, and therefore in the minds of many American people. Those who have not forgotten it, however, are the private companies such as Sierra Nevada, Space Exploration (SpaceX) and Boeing. These three all receive grants from NASA to develop new shuttles. If NASA had more funding from the government, it could either give more to these companies – creating more jobs and advancing research and development – or use more of this money for its own private research and actual production.
With more robots and parts being added to the space station, it may even find a more practical use, which would only further the support of NASA. Even better, more stations could be constructed, which would create manufacturing jobs and create more interest in NASA’s goal, bringing it more into political focus for funding.
As of right now, half of the R&D programs in United States are linked to the military.
If more interest – and new jobs – were generated, however, NASA’s program would likely be seen as a greater gain for research and development than new and improved weapons.
The boosting of our space program may even have an effect on global politics. As with the current international space station, it could bring scientists from all over the world together, sharing knowledge and research and allowing all countries involved to gain from exploration and the construction of new technology.
One prospect that has been discussed which could have global impact is low-gravity flight. This would involve sending a shuttle up into the highest reaches of the atmosphere and having it travel across the globe.
If airstrips were built for this, we could travel from New York to Tokyo in as little as a few hours, drastically reducing time for shipments, or even travel.
All of this could be accomplished with more federal funding. It is not enough to simply sustain an aeronautics and space program. We must promote it and pursue it, if we are to enable NASA to develop to the fullest extent of its capabilities.