Should We Keep Funding NASA?

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Those brave enough to enter the black void of space over these past few decades are nothing short of pioneers, unknowingly developing a path for corporate exploitation of space. NASA itself, along with the Soviet Space Program, can also be seen as the first entrepreneurs for what is becoming a lucrative business venture for men like Elon Musk, David Thompson, and Jeff Bezos. These men are all CEOs and founders of private space companies with aims to explore and exploit outer space.

Since the start of the shuttle era, public support for NASA has been slowly waning. Many Americans are curious as to what the return investment is for their tax dollars spent on exploring space, and have been given what they believe are sub-par answers to their questions. Elon Musk, along with his company: SpaceX, have always been looking for the profit to be had from what space has to offer. SpaceX, being private, does not run on tax dollars, and thus the average American is not affected by what the company fails or excels at.

Musk is the CEO and founder of SpaceX, a private space company that has been aiming to build reusable rockets that can carry supplies and men to the International Space Station as well as decrease the cost and increase the reliability of space travel. Musk himself is the CEO and founder of Tesla Motors, the founder of PayPal, and is the chairman of SolarCity, all being recent start-up companies that have seen consistent success over the past ten years. Musk one day seeks to colonize Mars and has worked with NASA in the past to make the dream a reality.

Some people support sending people to explore Mars further, but others feel that it is a waste of time and resources.

“Human exploration is not needed,” Dr. Shawn Weatherford, Assistant Professor of Physics, said; “The public might be more supportive of NASA if they just conducted basic research.” Weatherford makes a bold statement concerning publicly funded space exploration. NASA was responsible for landing men on the moon and is determined to continue tackling the dark unknown head on by building and launching more probes, but some people think NASA is being stretched too thin. The US government has not been funding the institution like it has in the past, but NASA is proposing massive undertakings that could potentially stretch their employees and budget to the limits. Should this be a sign that NASA should step back and allow private companies to conceive and execute large, expensive ventures? Why should the public be concerned with something they cannot take advantage of?

The answer lies in the simple truth that we have just one planet, Earth, which we can call home. Climate change is more than an assumption, or some sort of pseudo-science to get people to buy solar panels. The consumption of fossil fuels is pumping more and more carbon into the air, which is already causing catastrophic effects on our oceans and atmosphere. The time is now for the people of Earth to save the planet, or find another planet to live on. Many scientists already agree that the damage that has been done cannot be reversed or halted. The obvious thing to do would be to further fund innovations in space technology to hopefully have the power to colonize another world to ensure the survival of the human race, whether that be done publicly or privately.

Both public and private institutions have their purpose, and for more than 20 years have worked side by side to achieve their goals. NASA’s ambitions may not be the same as private companies, but they both want to innovate and make space travel feasible and cheap. They also want to explore the unknown, and further expand our knowledge about the universe. The bottom line is that we need NASA just as much as we need private companies. Whether NASA should be used for basic research or massive projects, we still need NASA to do what they have always done; explore and understand the cosmos for humankind.

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