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Should we Invest in Space Exploration (NASA waste)?

Written by Quadrum Lee

September 22, 2019

Future Tech News | Latest News

Is Nasa worth it?

In 1970, Sister Mary was surrounded by immense poverty in Africa. She saw children dying of hunger while people were celebrating the moon landing. So she wrote a letter to NASA asking, how they could justify billions of dollars on space when so many children were starving on earth and should we Invest in Space Exploration anymore?

Her letter found its way to the desk of a top rocket scientist and his response inspired this article. Sister Mary’s perspective has come up time and time again. It’s totally understandable. Around the world, there is no shortage of human suffering. (Poverty, disease, violence, hurricanes, and wildfires) With all the suffering in the world, should public money still be invested in NASA?

Topics we discuss today

01. Should public money still be invested in Space Exploration?

02. What value does NASA provide for 0.4 % of the Federal Budget?

03. NASA Inventions

04. Why Should We Invest in Space Exploration?

01. Should public money still be invested in Space Exploration?

NASA’s budget is currently 19.5 billion and  2011 survey, found increased amounts of Americans don’t think this is a good investment. However, the same survey shows that the majority of Americans believe, it is essential for the US to be a world leader in space exploration.

While 19.5 billion dollars is a huge figure, as a percentage of the federal budget it is the lowest proportion allocated for NASA in almost 60 years. In fact, for every one dollar of federal spending, NASA receives just 0.4% of the budget.

For comparison, military spending accounts for 16% and interest payments on debt accounts for 6%.

02. What value does NASA provide for 0.4 % of the federal budget?

The challenges of space exploration require innovation and new technology. Many of these hard-won innovations, spin-off into technologies that solve problems here on earth.

Consider world hunger, it’s essentially a problem of food production and the food distribution. In some parts of the world Farms are highly efficient using large scale operations driven by technology but in many areas farms are relatively inefficient. Farms in the developing world could be used better if farmers had more effective methods of,

Water control

Fertilizer

Use weather forecasting

Fertility assessment

Plantation programming,

Field selection

Crop surveying

The best tool to provide all of this information are satellites. They can observe and measure many variables such as crop conditioners, soil droughts, rainfall and so on. By making this information freely available to farmers, the harvests of food can be increased by giant proportions. NASA’s amsr-e satellite, provides this information free of charge. It catches the global soil moisture and creates heat maps to show moisture levels.

It is the most accurate way to estimate soil moisture. The main determinant of crop yield, which improves a forecast of how well food will grow. The US department of agriculture combines this information with weather tracks to help empower regional and national officials to prepare and prevent food crisis. Innovation for NASA has also led to an array of spin-off technologies that you use. In the last week,

Have used memory foam or baby formula?

Have you drunk an electrolyte sports drink?

Have you ever flown on a plane that didn't ice up and crash?

What about taking a photograph on your phone?

The innovation behind all of this technology was driven by NASA. 

03. Following are some other NASA Inventions

The insulation in your home that keeps you cool in summer and warm in winter.

The heat and flame resistant clothing that firefighters use.

WB HRZS a powerful coater

WB HRZS chemically bonds with steel to protect it from corrosion. It’s used in the following things,

Coat bridge girders, PipeLines, Oil rigs, Military Tanks, Dock Equipment, Toys, Water facilities, Power Stations, Antennas, Tractor frames and Marine Products.

It was even used on the Statue of Liberty during refurbishment and they spin-off examples, don’t even scratch the surface. NASA has recorded over 1700 different technology spin-offs.

Studies estimate that for every $1 invested in NASA, the economy is boosted by $7 – $14. It means, when NASA’s current budget of 19.5 billion dollars, the US economy can expect an injection anywhere from 137 to 273 billion dollars. That’s much stronger than the average of return from shares or bonds or real estate.

04. Why Should We Invest in Space Exploration?

(i) International Relations

This is the first view with human eyes of Earth rising over the limb of the Moon. (*)  It was taken from Apollo 8 in 1968.

It shows just how limited that our earth is. How we are just a precious island in an unlimited void? The value provided by NASA is not limited to inventions or financial return. NASA’s work crosses borders and improves international relationships.

The International Space Station is a great example of this. The Space Station is a joint project from the American-Canadian, European, Japanese and Russian space agencies. At 150 billion dollars and is the most expensive single item ever constructed and has been continually occupied for over 17 years. It serves as a microgravity and space environment research lab with crew members conducting experiments in biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields.

Not only Americans

Men and women from 18 different countries have visited the station. International cooperation in space is not limited to the international space station. Why the Russian American relationship has been tense following the Trump election?

These tension does not extend to the space agencies. In September 2017, Russia and the United States agreed to cooperate on a NASA led program to build the first lunar space station. Part of a long-term plan to send humans to Mars. The challenges of space are simply too big for a single country to continuously push on alone. Space exploration breaks down borders and it doesn’t care about age or race or gender or color.

By pushing further into space, we build unity and strength here on earth which in turn helps to challenge the greed misunderstanding and selfish ambition that is behind so many of our challenges.

“We wish that every human being could see with their eyes not just pictures but with their own eyes what the earth looked like from space and I think it would I personally think it would change us as a species it would change us and make us all realize that Earth is really a spaceship and we’re living on a spaceship with just a thin shell that keeps us safe from the vacuum and darkness of space”

Whilst unity and improved international relations can go a long way to reducing inequality and other global issues. It doesn’t guarantee our survival as a species. While Earth is the only home we have ever known. History teaches us that survival on a single dot of dirt and water in the large vacuum of space is perilous.

What happened to dinosaurs? 

 Colonizing other planets, avoid see beware of all your eggs in one basket and drastically increases our chances of survival as a species. The more planets we occupy the less likely a single event could wipe out all of us. Mars is the ideal planet for us and it has a similar length of days as earth and has water ice on the surface.

Building upon the shoulders of NASA’s work, there private groups such as Mars 1 and SpaceX aiming to establish human settlements of Mars. Perhaps is reasonable to suggest that these private groups should take control of space exploration with their own funds rather than NASA using the federal budget.

The problem with privatizing this sector is that these companies by their very nature are focused on what will provide the highest return. This includes activities such as asteroid mining, satellite launching, and space tourism. Interesting activities to be sure but focused on profit.

On the other hand, NASA has projects like the dart wish.. dart is a planetary defense mission which aims to deliberately crash a spacecraft moving at almost 4 miles per second into an asteroid to change its direction. Essentially the Armageddon movie without the drilling team NASA has dedicated resources to track asteroids and develop approaches to stop Armageddon level impacts.

This is something that no private company focuses on. Beyond these very pragmatic reasons, there’s another purpose to continue to invest in NASA.

(ii) To inspire dreamers

Jim Adams, a retired NASA executive said

“humans are constantly asking what’s beyond the horizon. Our imagination takes us there if we begin to imagine this, it will happen it is written into our DNA to ask what is next?”

Space travel Elon Musk says,

“it is important to have a future that is inspiring and appealing. It has to be a reason you get up in the morning want to leave. What do you love about the future if the future doesn’t include being out there amongst the Stars and becoming a multi-planet species I find that incredibly depressing”.

Mark Rober, a former NASA engineer and now a major YouTuber said,

“We sent men to the moon orbiters to Saturn and Rover’s to Mars. Not necessarily because there’s some financial incentive or some quick payoff that we are looking to exploit but because as humans there are fundamental burning questions were yearned to answer. Exploring the unknown and breaking boundaries that we once thought were impossible drives innovation and flames the fire of curiosity inside all of us.”

(iii) For 0.4%, NASA provides

  1. Strong financial return with spin-off technologies that make your life better
  2. They develop innovations they improve the quality of life for millions of people around the world they
  3. They help to break down international borders and build unity.
  4. They develop programs that could save our entire species from excision and
  5. They inspire wonder inside of us

Just imagine what they could do with a more budget. When sister Mary got the response to a letter, she wrote back to NASA saying,

“Thank you! From now on, I firmly believe in the profound value of the space program”

What do you think? is NASA worth it? Should their budget change? Should we invest in space exploration? Do you agree with the points I’ve raised? Let us know your thoughts about “Should we Invest in Space Exploration (NASA waste)?” below in the comment section.

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