OPINION: Why Congress should increase NASA’s budget

If given only a slightly larger budget, we could travel to Mars and improve space travel in a short amount of time.

If given only a slightly larger budget, we could travel to Mars and improve space travel in a short amount of time.

Justice Fauver, Staff Writer

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If we are ever going to venture to planets beyond our own, NASA needs to be provided with the funds to do so. NASA is grossly under financed, receiving only half of a percent of the United States federal budget. I say it’s time we change that. In a speech he gave to a group of representatives at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Vice President Mike Pence stated, “We will return NASA astronauts to the Moon — not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation, we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond.” However, I find that a mission of this spectacle is not feasible on a budget of 19.5 billion dollars a year, and the experts think the same. NASA spent nearly 165 billion dollars (adjusted for inflation) on the Apollo program, and that only scratched the surface, quite literally. NASA estimates that another trip to the moon would cost more than 100 billion dollars.

Vice President Mike Pence adressing CCongress over space exploration, 2017. Aubrey Gemignani

The most obvious solution would be to increase NASA’s budget, and this has worked in the past. During John F. Kennedy’s presidency, he requested that NASA’s budget be increased dramatically in order to send humans to the moon. The following year their funds were increased by 89 percent, and just 8 years after Neil Armstrong stepped on the lunar surface. In recent years, other presidents have arranged for voyages back to the moon. President George W. Bush called for a new trip to the moon, but it was terribly underfunded and poorly-executed, and once Obama came into office his administration dismissed the program.

Our planet has a rapidly shrinking amount of materials and resources to sustain all 7.4 billion of us, and the only way out is up. All factors taken into account, such as population increase, climate change, and political tensions that could very likely result in nuclear war, things aren’t looking to good for us here on Earth. And as I said earlier, the sky isn’t always the limit. NASA has had the red planet in their sights since the 70’s, and more than ever a trip to Mars seems like a legitimate possibility. NASA theorizes that they will land humans on Mars in the 2030’s, but there’ no way to know for sure. 

I think that instead of taking money from other programs, people should pay more taxes towards NASA. If the average American paid 30 dollars a year in taxes to NASA, they would make more than double of what they do right now (Mark Rober). Considering that the average American pays $10,489 in taxes annually, 30 dollars is a seemingly insignificant amount (America Today). 

A visual representation of NASA’s federal cut, Mark Rober/AP

The most common argument against space travel is that, “We have enough problems on Earth, so why should we care about space?”. Although this does hold some validity, it is not entirely the truth. Terror groups like ISIS are a threat, and the military is fighting against them. The thing is, some of NASA’s satellites help the military with intelligence gathering, communication, and navigation. NASA has been and continues to help people back on Earth, whether that be with technology developed for the ISS or with various satellites in orbit. Satellites like SMAP complete an abundance of tasks, such as monitoring droughts, helping better weather forecasts, predicting floods, and a plethora of other tasks. 

Interplanetary travel is essential to the survival of the human race, and the people who will get us off Earth need to have the money to do so. Whether that be with extra funds from the federal budget or by imposing more taxes, either way works all the same. Not only would giving more money to NASA benefit us on our journey to Mars, but it would help them in developing new technologies to benefit the quality of life on Earth.