By Jon Parton
NASA was created more than 50 years ago. In just one year, our government has spent the same amount of money on our military as it has over the entire lifetime of our space program. Is it any wonder that our students rank so low in science and math? We are becoming a nation of anti-intellectuals.
We need NASA. The program means more to our country than just science. The space race between the United States and Soviet Russia in the 1960s represented a symbolic measure of American knowledge and drive. It was not enough to say that democracy allowed for the best of humanity; it had to be proven.
The space program is responsible for so many technologies that we take for granted. According to the NASA website, more than 1,500 technologies developed for space travel have been introduced to the world. The artificial heart has given people more years to their lives. It was developed with technology first used in space shuttle fuel pumps.
The lives of countless American soldiers have been saved from the use of land mine removal devices. Leftover fuel donated from NASA is used to help remotely ignite and destroy the mines. Aggressive development of computers and miniaturization within the space program led to the development of the microchip.
The GPS in our cars and smartphones all benefit from NASA technology. Not only did the program expand our knowledge of the universe, it also created jobs. Engineers were needed to create the spacecraft. Scientists were needed to plot flight paths.
Companies like IBM and Boeing hired more workers to develop the products NASA needed for its mission. The space program, rooted in science, has done a lot for the U.S. This year, NASA will receive more than $17 billion in funding.
That amount sounds like a lot until you compare it to how else Americans spend money. Last year, Americans spent more than $50 billion on their pets. The U.S. spent almost $700 billion on military expenditures and more than $725 billion on Social Security during that same time.
I know that our country is trying to stamp out pocket groups of terrorists, but I am reminded of Winston Churchill’s words. During World War II, Churchill’s finance minister said he should cut spending for the arts in order to support the war effort. Churchill replied, “Then what are we fighting for?”
The money we spend on NASA is a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of our spending. Meanwhile, countries like China, India, and the United Kingdom are spending more on their own space agencies. This is because they recognize the inherent value of a space program and how it can benefit society.
Instead of siding with political parties, we ought to side with the belief that America should be the global leader in science and technology. We need to embrace the great unknown and pick up the mantle of exploration for which our country is known.
Contact Jon Parton, staff reporter, at firstname.lastname@example.org.