There are many people who wonder why we should care about funding space exploration when there are still so many problems here on Earth.
That line of thinking assumes that there is no connection between NASA and the average person, which just isn't the case. Even if it might not be obvious at first, NASA's work improves all of our lives in many different ways.
Don't believe it?
Here are 5 reasons to care about funding NASA:
1. The technology they develop helps everyone's daily lives.
In its quest to explore space, NASA has created or greatly improved upon many items that we all use in our everyday lives. These include memory foam, scratch-resistant lenses for glasses, cordless vacuums, freeze drying, and solar panels.
When the Hubble Space Telescope was first launched, a faulty mirror made the images blurry and nearly unusable. To save the mission until the mirror could be replaced, an algorithm was developed to sharpen the images. This same algorithm was then used to help clarify the picture on mammograms, allowing doctors to identify breast cancer more easily.
NASA also tracks asteroids and other objects that are flying through the solar system so we can try to avoid an apocalyptic event like what killed off the dinosaurs, which is always nice, too.
2. They help us understand our own planet.
By looking out into the Universe, scientists are able to understand more about our own planet. By looking at younger solar systems, they are able to learn more about how our planet formed. Finding life on other worlds could help us figure out how life originated on our planet.
Yes, we still need study Earth directly, but we also need to look elsewhere for some context about how we fit in with the rest of the Universe. NASA's satellites provide the opportunity to look at our planet as a whole, finding large-scale patterns that might not be obvious otherwise.
NASA also does a tremendous amount of research about our climate, which is crucial to understanding the full scope of climate change and figuring out how to best address the problems before they arise.
3. Private corporations can't replace all of NASA's work.
While it is true that private corporations like SpaceX and Orbital Sciences are finding ways of making certain aspects of space exploration cheaper and more efficient, they can't replace everything NASA does.
Private corporations need to weigh the risks with cost benefits, which is difficult to do when exploring new territory in space with nothing to compare the potential payouts. If we are going to stay on the forefront of exploration, we need to have guaranteed funding through a government agency. Private corporations can then come behind and perfect it.
Additionally, without the transparency that the government requires NASA to have, the free flow of information would almost certainly stop.
4. They're uniting scientists all over the world.
NASA doesn't only benefit Americans; it also helps scientists and citizens around the world through strong collaborations and the fact that their data is available free to the public.
The International Space Station, which has performed invaluable experiments for nearly 20 years, was built and is currently maintained by 5 different space agencies, representing 15 different countries. NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization are also collaborating on a mission to Mars.
These connections allowed for shared ideas and resources, but they also help overcome any political and ideological divides, as we learn to focus on our shared interests instead of our differences.
5. For every $1 spent on NASA, we get up to $14 back into the economy.
We shouldn't only think about how much money we're spending on NASA, we also need to look at what we get back from that investment.
NASA's projects create good jobs, but it's the technology they're developing that makes the biggest impact. On top of all the things that they're inventing, they're also improving existing technologies to become more reliable and efficient.
It's estimated that for every dollar we spend on NASA, $7-14 gets put back into the economy because of their inventions as well as products that are spin-offs of that.
Of course, the knowledge that we get from NASA's work is priceless. Their climate research allows leaders to make more informed decisions and spend resources more wisely. The discoveries are improving our understanding of the Universe, which improves the education our children receive and also makes people appreciate our existence more.
So how can you help?
While it might seem like NASA has an enormous budget to do all of these incredible things, it only represents 0.5% of the total federal budget. This means that for every dollar of tax revenue that comes in, NASA gets half a penny. As a comparison, health programs like Medicaid and Medicare get 28.7 cents, the military gets 25.4 cents, and 8 cents goes toward paying unemployment and running employment programs.
There is a campaign called Penny For NASA which seeks to essentially double the budget, bringing NASA's share to one penny of each tax dollar. Considering the incredible return on investment, it would be a pretty smart move to do so.
NASA's budget is determined by congress, so the best way to ensure that it's getting the funding it needs is to contact your senators and House representative and tell them to vote in favor of progress and exploration.