Do We Still Need NASA?

It employs a lot of people and supports a decent chunk of America’s aerospace industry, but it doesn’t make anything!

I’ve just watched a few videos on the site. They have, by far, the most amazing animation expertise in the public — comparable to Hollywood. The animations supplement technical feats as complex as anything humans have ever attempted.

We have a spaceship to orbit and map asteroids. Think of all the problems which must be solved just to make that one mission happen out in the void of space! There are other missions. Some are more challenging. None are easy.

But why? What are we getting out of the deal?

As much as NASA’s work is impressive it often seems without purpose… at least to me. This is pure science. The payoff will only be felt in academia. It takes a lot of money to make that happen. We just don’t have it.

Is this the kind of employment stimulus the Republicans object to? They’d be right. That’s what NASA is. It employs a lot of people and supports a decent chunk of America’s aerospace industry, but it doesn’t make anything!

NASA’s budget this year is $19,000,000,000.

If we’re going to fund NASA its bright minds and technical expertise need to be used to solve real world problems. If not, it’s spending we can’t afford.

7 thoughts on “Do We Still Need NASA?”

  1. Oh my word… there are NUMEROUS products that we use every day, far too many for me to even attempt to list, that have come DIRECTLY from NASA and it’s work! They are items that, now, we take for granted. Velcro is one of them. Certain medicines. Certain kinds of fabric and durable materials. Not to mention the purely technical, like improvements in radio, video, and data communications! Oh, believe me, Geoff, we owe a LOT to the scientists at NASA for a LOT of things! 🙂

  2. Geoff, I almost always agree with you, but I submit this for your consideration:

    NASA, besides being a centralized body to distribute grants to advance science in all its fronts (full disclosure, I went to grad school on a NASA grant), also pushes the limits of engineering, and betters ALL of our lives in the process.

    American science is still the envy of the world for the mere facts that A) it is heavily government-supported, and B) we don’t hide our science behind iron curtains like EVERY other country in the world. Because all work done by federal employees is in the public domain, i.e. everyone can access all the data, very data set, whether it leads to a groundbreaking advance in technology or allows some mundane piece of research to be completed, is completely free. This, in my opinion, is essential for the betterment of mankind.

    Plus, it’s not like this money is just going away. NASA money is invested in American companies, American institutions, and American schools. These are taxpaying Americans who are receiving NASA money. If you get rid of NASA, you get rid of the income for the people who work for NASA, and the people who build things that are used in NASA missions. NASA grants pay for the continued education of thousands of students every year (myself included), keeping the US competitive on the global scale in science and technology.

    And furthermore, you throw out a raw number like $19 billion without any context: The 2012 United States federal budget is approximately 3.7 TRILLION dollars. NASA currently encompasses approximately 0.6% of this. Compare this to the current Defense budget of almost $700 billion, i.e. 19% of the federal budget. NASA is a drop in the bucket that provides all of us with countless benefits. I say it is well worth it.

  3. Oh yes Mike!!! Thank you for articulating! I always felt we still needed NASA – but honestly had no idea why, other than to advance science. Thank you for you clear explanation!

  4. Another tidbit: The Bank Bailout of 2009 was more than NASA’s entire budget. ALL of it, since the beginning. Talk about not making anything.

  5. The point must also be made that it is the culture of innovation and discovery that is cut when the budget for NASA is cut. Don’t forget that both the Bush and the Obama administrations have severely cut scientific funding in general, a fact that has put numerous scientists and technicians out of work, and dramatically halted the progress of research across the board. Numerous CEO’s (conservatives) are calling for the reinstatement of NIH funding. At current funding rates less than 10% of research grants submitted are being funded. The public may argue that NASA is not necessary in these times but the truth that every dollar spent in research returns roughly nine times that amount to the economy is not appreciated.

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