A brief case for NASA
In response to Richard Goodwin’s letter, “Mars can wait” (Tuesday’s edition), I would like to offer a second opinion.
It is true that NASA’s budget may seem significant; however, in perspective, this cost is not so dramatic. According to the Space Review, the national budget for 2007 totaled about $2.78 trillion. At $16.14 billion, spending on NASA accounted for 0.58 percent of this. In other words for every tax dollar you paid, three-fifths of one cent was allocated to NASA’s budget. Times are tough, but the average American still spends more on their cable bill, eating out or entertainment.
So what does NASA’s budget get us? I agree with Mr. Goodwin that it can be difficult to understand how/where this money is spent. In addition to extending the frontiers of space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research, non-space spin-offs from NASA have increased the quality of our daily lives. Examples include: health and medicine (digital imaging breast biopsy system, breast cancer detection, programmable pacemakers, LEDs, artificial limbs), public safety (radiation hazard detection, fireman’s air tanks, storm warning systems), environmental (solar energy, pollution control devices, weather forecasting), transportation, computer technology and manufacturing technology. Of course this is not a comprehensive list.
Other benefits of supporting NASA include job creation and the ability to maintain space supremacy within the international community. As China, India and Russia make significant leaps in space technology, U.S. space dominance may be threatened in a short time without further investment.
No doubt we are in tough economic times, but I suggest we dig a bit deeper into the cost/benefit of our science and space funding prior to making strong assertions. NASA’s budget is a small price to pay for expanding scientific discovery, enhancing the quality of our every-day lives, creating jobs and keeping the United States No. 1 in space.
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