Why spend on NASA when we have so many problems here on earth ? That is a really tough question tom answer and if somebody asked you this question how would you answer ?
But before I even get into the reasons as to why i believe NASA is not a waste of money, what percentage of the US budget do you think goes to NASA ? According to polls most Americans think it’s 20 percent so she comes as no surprise that one in four Americans think that NASA’s budget should be reduced. If you say the total budget represents a dollar or 100 pennies the truth is NASA gets less than one-half of one penny for comparison 16% goes to the military and 60% goes to social programs like Social Security, unemployment, Medicare and health care. Okay so if that is our foundation let me give you five incredible things that we get in return for that half a percent or less than nine dollars a year for most Americans.
1. Improving Life on Earth
Just like some might ask why should we spend time exploring space when we have so many problems here on earth, some of our ancestors probably asked why should we waste time trying to figure out agriculture when we have so much work to do hunting and gathering or why should we spend so much time messing around in boats when we have so many issues here on the land and the answer to all three of these questions is the same reaching for new heights often creates new solutions and opportunities for people back on the ground. Unquestionably one of the most famous projects of NASA is the curiosity rover. But there was another much lesser known project called SMAP launched in 2015. But SMAP is a much more important project to us as it is a super complex earth observing satellite.
Here’s how it works once it’s in orbit the antenna boom is deployed and in this 20 foot gold mesh reflector origamis out like one of those Hoberman’s sphere toys and then the whole thing starts freakin spinning at 15 rpm and it’s using a Radiometer that can see through the clouds to measure the soil moisture levels on earth this is important because soil moisture is one of the key vital signs of the planet by measuring the moisture levels in the
soil it allows you to predict droughts under floods and even predict crop
yields for a given year and because the antenna spins around like that you’re able to measure all the soil on earth every two to three days.
snap cost to 900 million dollars Africa is the continent with the most extreme poverty today I did the math and for 900 million dollars you could feed all of Africa for less than a day but instead we invested in research and technology which empowers them to better help themselves increasing the amount of food they can make on their own for decades as opposed to a one-time fleeting handout.
2. Extinction protection
This is a fancy way of saying we should be doing everything within our power to make sure that nothing catastrophic ly bad happens to us Hollywood got this right when they said that a large asteroid impact would be really bad news now the chances of this happening are small but the potential consequences are so large just ask these guys it makes sense to take it seriously NASA has already put an asteroid early warning detection system in place and in October 2022 for the first time ever they will test ramming a spacecraft into an asteroid to see if you can deflect it off course with a mission called dart but perhaps an even bigger threat to humans are humans one of the goals of all of the Rovers that we sent to Mars is to gather data on it would take four humans to live there establishing a permanent human outpost on Mars would serve sort of like a backup hard drive for your computer in case something catastrophicly bad happened here on earth.
3. Offshoot technology
America’s first satellite was built at JPL and now satellites make it so we can get GPS driving directions on our phone or get TV beamed down to us from space or predict the path of hurricanes with much greater accuracy the word pixel in the concept of the first digital camera was also invented at JPL in the 1960s when an engineer was trying to solve how to get pictures of the planets and send them back to earth in fact there are nearly 2,000 NASA technology spin-offs we don’t know what we don’t know and so expecting NASA to justify its funding but predicting all the amazing things it will discover would be like expecting Christopher Columbus when he was lobbying Queen Isabella for ships to predict the polio vaccine or Netflix.
Of the 18 billion that NASA gets it’s not like they’re just putting that money on a rocket and launching it into space the majority that money goes towards the salaries of tens of thousands of some of America’s most skilled workers and one of the counter arguments here is yeah but why do we need the government to fund these programs why not let private companies do the innovating private space companies like SpaceX or Blue Origin are awesome and they play an important role but they’re incentivized to pursue technologies that will give them a return on investment like space tourism or asteroid mining or launching satellites for other organizations there’s just no incentive for a private company to invest in tracking and deflecting asteroids or investing in earth science missions like SMAP and then making the data available for free to anyone who needs it so to recap for that less than half a penny from a dollar investment in NASA not only do we improve life on Earth through projects like SMAP and protect ourselves against really catastrophic events and discover other incredible technologies to improve our lives along the way but the money to make all that happen goes back into growing the economy through the salaries of all the smart people doing your work.
My fifth and final reason why we should spend money on NASA even when we still have unsolved problems here on earth is perhaps the most important even if less concrete.
5. Exploration & Imagination
I think it’s captured best by what some call the most important picture ever taken what you see here is the result of a 10-day exposure image from the Hubble Deep Space Telescope
with the exception of these three dots which are single stars
every speck smudge and spiral you see in this image is a galaxy with hundreds of billions of stars just like our own Milky Way galaxy most remarkably the field of view captured here is the darkest part of the night sky the size of Roosevelt’s eye on a dime held at arm’s length we send men to the moon and orbiters to Saturn and Rovers to Mars not necessarily because there’s some financial incentive or some quick payoff we’re looking to exploit but because as humans there are fundamental burning questions we do to answer the first person to set foot on Mars is alive right now they could be in junior high or high school he or she could be reading this right now it could be you I feel that our continued exploration of space in all its forms fills me with hope and inspires me to reach higher and makes me a better person.