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Politics

5 Reasons why NASA budget cuts are killing America [Infographics]

Recently we’ve been able to witness a couple of amazing, truly awe-inspring things: going to the edge of what is physically possible in order to smash world sports records and landing the Mars Curiosity Rover on the surface of Mars to further our understanding of the universe.

NASA 2013 Budget Cuts (Click for larger)

And here’s something else rather amazing: for about the cost of two weeks of the Olympic Games we could have sent over another five rovers to Mars. In fact, the amount of money needed to fund the Olympic Games could fund NASA for nearly an entire year.

Similarly tiny by comparison, the US government spends a mere $17.7 billion on NASA and spends more than 36 times that on defense—$647 billion, with nearly $20 billion alone in 2011 spent on air conditioning tents. Since NASA’s Cold War glory days, the budget has gone from 4.41% of the total budget in 1966, to less than 0.45% today, its lowest ever. NASA helped to usher in a promising new future in the 1960s and it was rewarded with a rapidly-eroding budget.

INFOGRAPHIC: NASA Budget Timeline

It’s not an oversight; it was bound to happen in the absence of wealthy, politically-connected space science advocates to twist politicians’ arms. And in spite of the tiny fraction of money spent on NASA’s program, there are still many people who say that NASA is a waste of money. Chris Berg, a research fellow with Australia’s Institute of Public Affairs said recently that in the face of a rising national debt, “parachuting cars onto distant planets is the ultimate discretionary spend.”

Sure, I suppose that would be true, except for the fact that scientists aren’t actually parachuting cars onto distant planets so much as pushing the limits of human knowledge and conducting insanely valuable research that will make our lives unimaginably better in untold ways. Meanwhile, Americans are forking over $25 billion or more per year to chase down the kid who smokes weed in his mom’s basement. Hooray for priorities on that “discretionary spending.”

VIDEO: NASA’s 2013 Budget: What Will It Buy?

If anything, America needs to spend more on NASA. The US needs to invest in science and technology if we hope to remain competitive in the world. Here’s why:

  • Technology development — The technology developed in space laboratories lead to innovation and growth in both the public and private sector in industries across the board from aviation to zoology. Spinoffa NASA publication, features products whose development can be linked to NASA. I’m sure there’s nothing we really need as much as tent A/C among the following:
    • Medical ultrasounds, enriched baby food and artificial limbs
    • LED lights and temper(-pedic) foam
    • Aircraft anti-icing systems and improved radial tires
    • Freeze drying, water purification and solar energy
  • Training scientists  Now, more than ever, America is losing its competitive edge in science and technology to other countries. NASA is the preeminent organization for encouraging discovery and fostering intellectual curiosity. Funding NASA and creating opportunities for scientists allows us to innovate more quickly and lead the world by creating opportunities for Americans in cutting-edge fields. And if we know anything, it’s that NASA scientists are sexy.
  • Defense  — It may not be the Cold War, but it is important to understand space as a frontier for defense. As more countries develop space programs and equip themselves with larger weapons, it will become increasingly important that America innovates in its use of space for defense, from communications to aeronautics. Also, if an asteroid ever gets a little close for comfort, we probably ought to have a plan or this could happen. Or this. OR THIS.
  • Resources discovery — If there’s anything that Americans are good at it’s 1849-style prospecting: find resources and exploit them. Also, since we’re irresponsible gluttons, we’re rapidly running out of the stuff we need here on Earth to survive. Fortunately, the universe is a vast treasure trove of valuables and we just need to find them. Remember ALF’s home planet, Melmac, coveted lint, gravel and foam, but had gold and platinum toilets? And hey, at least we’re not destroying Earth if we’re plundering other planets, right?
  • The “big questions” — Are we alone or is there other intelligent life in the universe? Is there a God? What is the meaning of life? Who shot JR? We’ll never know until we go forth into the dark, vast, final frontier we know as space.

Perhaps Bill Nye said it best:

“When you cut NASA’s budget in this way, you’re losing sight of why we explore space in the first place…There is no other country or agency that can do what NASA does — fly extraordinary flagship missions in deep space and land spacecraft on Mars. If [NASA budget cuts are] allowed to stand, the United States will walk away from decades of greatness in space science and exploration. But it will lose more than that. The U.S. will lose expertise, capability, and talent. The nation will lose the ability to compete in one of the few areas in which it is still the undisputed number one.”

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Discussion

9 thoughts on “5 Reasons why NASA budget cuts are killing America [Infographics]

  1. This is ridiculous, America DOES NOT NEED TO WASTE MONEY ON SENDING ANYTHING TO MARS.
    THE AIR WE BREATHE ON EARTH IS ALMOST POISONOUS, THE WATER WE DRINK HAS TO BE FILTERED. Nasa needs to spend money EXPLORING THE EARTH AND F WHAT IS OUT IN SPACE.
    WE CAN’T DO NOTHING WITH IT ANYWAY. WHEN ARE THESE BONEHEADS GOING TO FIGURE THIS OUT. WE SHOULD STOP FUNDING BILLIONS FOR SPACE MISSIONS. I’M GLAD THE GOVERNMENT IS CUTTING BACK ON THAT STUPID ISH.

    Posted by NEON LOVER'S LOCALE | August 21, 2012, 5:52 pm
    • You do know that taking money away from NASA won’t make air or water cleaner, yes?

      Posted by aaronendre | August 21, 2012, 6:01 pm
      • What I’m saying is, IN GENERAL,
        WHOMEVER IS WASTING MONEY PERIOD
        IT NEEDS TO STOP.
        DOESN’T MATTER WHERE THE MONEY COMES FROM.

        WHAT MATTERS IS WHAT IT’S BEING USED FOR.

        I DON’T CARE ABOUT ANY ROCKS ON MARS.

        IF WE ACTED LIKE A CIVILIZED NATION AND
        STOPPED OVERCHARGING FOR VEGETABLES AND FRUIT,
        PROSTITUTING CHILDREN FOR PERVERTS,
        TRIED TO VALUE FAMILY LIFE,
        GREW HEMP SO WE WOULDN’T HAVE TO DESTROY THE OZONE LAYER
        then we could STOP KILLING THIS PLANET.

        HELLO.

        That’s what I’m saying.
        There are many ways AMERICAN’S WASTE,
        WE ALSO WASTE 50% OF THE FOOD WE PRODUCE.
        50% OF it goes into the trash cans, BEHIND YOUR LOCAL GROCERY STORE,
        and until recently they locked up the good food til it spoiled totally in the trash,
        instead of letting people have it.

        You need to watch a couple Netflix Documentaries on how many
        RESOURCES AMERICA WASTES. IT’S UNBELIEVABLE.

        and no this comment is not meant to ridicule you in anyway.

        Posted by NEON LOVER'S LOCALE | August 21, 2012, 6:43 pm
    • I understand your concern with the Earth and it’s many man-made problems. However, there are trade-offs. Job creation in the United States is a huge problem. When you hear that NASA put up a probe to Mars with a cost of $5 billion dollars, it is easy to feel that all that money is paid solely to NASA people. However, LandSat 8 was just launched in February which is designed to find sources of pollution etc. (for your cause). The interesting thing however, is how many jobs it created. For 5 years it funded nearly 250,000 jobs in the United States alone. People complain that we need to create jobs for the million people out of work. But cut the NASA budget and 250,000 can be added to that list of people on the unemployment line. So your argument is invalid. We NEED NASA to fund these projects to keep people employed while at the same time, satellites like LandSat wil help the cause you are interested in; keeping the planet clean. Two edged sword there.

      Posted by Brett | March 7, 2013, 9:01 am
    • This argument is as pointless as the PBS spending argument. NASA is by far the most efficient government agency we have. For every tax dollar spent on NASA, citizens get 10 dollars back. That’s in the form of job creation, and market growth provided by NASA’s numerous innovations and inventions that lead the market. NASA runs on less than a half penny from every tax dollar given to the government, and has been able to do way more with way less than any other branch of government and even some private corporations.

      Posted by Alex | May 5, 2013, 7:09 pm
  2. Actually, it does matter where the money comes from (or from where the money comes). It is taken from citizens in the form of taxes. Any time one spends other people’s money, you will get waste. The founding fathers new this. Why have we forgotten it?

    Posted by Gordon Miller | August 24, 2012, 12:35 pm
  3. If an asteroid is hurtling toward the earth, who is there to detect it and warn us? NASA. Who is there supplying 250 000 people in America with jobs? NASA (as Brett was saying). Who launched LandSat 8 (as Brett was also saying) NASA. Now, who is wasting money on air-conditioned tents and money going into battle with countries over matters that have NOTHING to do with America? Hmmm i wonder, perhaps its the military and government? Well, i suppose that America cares about these people and all but still, it could be using the money on things that are going to help the development of technology rather than keep people cool in a tent.If it werent for NASA planes would be crashing more often due to the ice that freezes around the wings flippy thingies (forgot what they are called). NASA does an awful lot for us that we take for granted, not just in America, all around the world. I mean, ultra sound and artificial limbs arent just limited to you guys in America.

    Posted by Lexy | October 8, 2013, 4:48 am
  4. Simply put, the problem with defunding NASA is one of shortsightedness. People have trouble justifying in their own minds the eventual benefits of space exploration and exploitation (resources, colonies to relieve overpopulation on Earth, new sciences, and leaps in innovation) when those benefits will likely not happen in our lifetime. Never mind that other planets which are utterly inhospitable to humans are covered in enough resources to eliminate exploitation of the Earth almost entirely. Forget that the asteroid belt alone has enough water and various other resources to render an enterprising company trillionaires. The government hacks that run funding are only interested in short term solutions to minor budget issues, and the average American lacks the critical thinking ability necessary to invest in such long term goals for the ultimate betterment of the species.

    Posted by Jerry | November 8, 2013, 4:52 pm

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