The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) requested almost $17.5 billion for their 2015 budget estimate. While that number seems astronomical, it is only a small blip of the United States’ $39 trillion budget.
The idea of space travel has been propagandized as a necessity by popular media, with heartwarming movies like “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial” and “WALL-E.” Films like “Gravity” make space seem like an intriguing final frontier of knowledge and splendor.
While a fraction of a percent of the national budget seems relatively expendable, there are a number of Earth-confined issues that the United States could address, or attempt to address, with $17.5 billion.
According to a 2012 New York Times article, it was estimated that homelessness in the United States could be phased out for just $20 billion. This estimate came from Mark Johnston, the acting assistant housing secretary for community planning and development. In 2012, notably, only $1.9 billion was spent to address the problem. Conversely, NASA’s 2012 budget was $18.2 billion.
The Borgen Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing poverty and hunger, estimates that $30 billion per year would effectively end world hunger. Considering the European Space Agency has a budget of nearly $4.8 billion, and would buy into this effort, this number could be easily attained.
Relatively recent studies have found out that Mars did, at one time, possess the ability to sustain life. While the recent NASA discoveries on Mars are not to be scoffed at, what significance does it present for residents of this planet going forward? What does it offer citizens?
Investigating the livability of planets in our solar system seems to be a worthwhile idea, but at what point to do we pack it in? Our space travel is exceptionally limited, with current technology only having the capability to send humans to the moon. I didn’t need to spend a dollar, except for my parents’ tax dollars, to learn in grade school that humans will not leave this planet in my, nor my hypothetical child’s, lifetime. But, at least we know Earth has a “twin planet” an unattainable distance away.
NASA is an organization that profits, or receives, from the public’s general acceptance that space is really cool and if we spend enough time there, we will find something absolutely amazing. The fact of the matter is, we’ve only been disappointed with space. Mars was, at one point, livable, but it is not now, and won’t be for a long time.
While all the pictures of space humble us and fill us wonder and glee, it is time to put our money into attainable issues that can be solved with the resources we have on this planet.