Policy Speech: NASA Funding Speech

Josiah Hanson

NASA Funding Policy Speech

 

Introduction

NASA used to be both a national and international inspiration of what humanity could when we tried—yet today NASA’s stagnant budget threatens to destroy that inspiration as well as the vital technological and economical benefits NASA has given us.

To solve this problem the Government should increase NASA’s budget from 17 billion dollars to 1% of total Federal Spending—24 billion dollars.

Significance

In 2007 Astrophysicist Neil Tyson wrote in Parade Magazine that we could lose everything that Apollo-era NASA gave to our country:

Humans [landed] on the moon aboard Apollo 11 as part of an ambitious investment in science and technology. That enterprise drove a half-century of unprecedented wealth and prosperity that today we take for granted. Now, as our interest in science wanes, America is poised to fall behind the rest of the industrialized world in every measure of technological proficiency.

Science and technology are the greatest engines of economic growth the world has ever seen. Without regenerating homegrown interest in these fields, the comfortable lifestyle to which Americans have become accustomed will draw to a rapid close.

Investment in NASA drove America to the top, but today stagnant funding is threatening to topple our international leadership and prosperity. More tangibly, reduced NASA funding led to the loss of a second shuttle and crew in 2003. Joseph Trento working for the National Security News Service, explained in 2007 how that lesson is still unlearned:

NASA is playing with fire by trying to run the shuttle on the cheap. They're keeping the [shuttle] together with baling wire and matchsticks. The budget can fall no further without raising the risk of calamity. This is it; we can't get any closer to the bone.

Continuing to starve NASA of the funds it needs will surely lead to more deadly mistakes due understaffed operations or outdated equipment—it is a matter of life and death. Insufficient NASA funding will also lead to lost American aeronautic competiveness, as Congressman Mark Udall explained in 2007:

Most people have no idea NASA is essentially the only agency organizationally and technically capable of supporting the nation's leadership in air transportation, air safety and aircraft manufacturing. At these funding levels, NASA [can’t] come close to fulfilling national needs in the face of an already strained air-traffic control system, fierce international competition in aircraft markets, challenges of emissions and fuel efficiency, and demands for improved air safety and homeland security. This shows stunning neglect of national interests in the future of aeronautics technologies.

With current NASA funding the US will lose its international leadership in aeronautics and continues low funding will lead to lagging economy, decreasing standard of living, lost international technological leadership, further accidental loss of life and materials, and loss of national aeronautics industry.

Inherency

NASA’s current budget is 17.3 billion dollars—0.7% of total Federal Spending including Social Security—a pittance for what many experts agree has been the driving force in American technological superiority.

Solvency

The Government should increase NASA’s budget to 1% of the Federal Budget, from 17 to 24 billion dollars. In 2007 US Representative Ken Calvert of California explained the benefits of such a raise:

Increased investment can have a profound and material positive impact on U.S. competitiveness and technology leadership, as well as the nation's status as a leader among nations. Civil space is so important to our nation on so many levels that it warrants sustained funding of at least 1 percent of the federal budget in any given year. Goods and services relying on space infrastructure generate more than one hundred billion dollars in direct revenue and enable important industries that are much larger. By investing in the space program, we advance knowledge, improve the quality of life for our citizens back here on Earth, and help maintain American technological competitiveness. In short, we are investing in our future.

Spending on NASA yields many-fold returns in capital and industrial development as well maintenance of our life style. In 2007 US Senator Barbara Mikulski expanded on the need for increased NASA spending to help the US’s struggling economy and scientific leadership:

We need NASA to spur our economy and inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers. In 2004, China graduated 500,000 engineers and the U.S. graduated 70,000. In 2003, only three American companies ranked among the top 10 recipients of patents, and America spends less than 1 percent of its GDP on research and development. The bottom line is that the President must increase funding for NASA.

Clearly the US needs increased educational and economic competiveness through boosted NASA funding. Such funding will maintain the innovative climate necessary for our continued economic and intellectual growth, as Astrophysicist Neil Tyson said in 2007,

The cross-pollination of disciplines almost always creates innovation and discovery. And nothing accomplishes this like space exploration. Those collective efforts have the capacity to improve and enhance all that we have come to value as a modern society. America’s former investments in aerospace have shaped our discovery-infused culture in ways that are obvious to the rest of the world. But we are a sufficiently wealthy nation to embrace this investment for tomorrow—to drive our economy, our ambitions and, above all, our dreams.

Closure

In conclusion, maintaining our status as the international leader requires that we both acknowledge what NASA done for us and then pledge to maintain NASA with funding at 1% of the Federal Budget.

 

Thesis:

The Government should increase NASA’s budget from 17 billion dollars to 1% of the Federal Budget—24 billion dollars.

Continued low NASA funding will lead to lost economic, technological and educational leadership of the US.

 

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Terrorism and world troubles deserve the money:

 

No, firstly NASA takes less than one percent of our budget. Secondly, what defines us as the leading nation is our perseverance to push toward innovation and the future despite obstacles.

NASA Chief Historian Steven Dick 2007

 

Today there are ample reasons one might give not to continue space exploration. 2001 --supposed to be the year of Arthur C. Clarke's "Space Odyssey," will forever be remembered instead for the events of 9/11. We do have to deal with the reality of world events, but surely we should not let terrorism set the agenda. H. G. Wells said many years ago that "Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe."

We are still in that race today, and surely an international cooperative venture into space -- with all that implies -- strikes a blow against catastrophe, and a victory for civilization. It now remains to be seen whether great things may be done even in the midst of great unrest in the world.


NASA does not yield tangible benefits

 

No, the effects of NASA’s efforts are present in all of our lives.

 

Matthew Rogers, Perdue University 2005.

 

The scope of discovery and invention resulting from NASA missions is almost infinite: From astrophysics to material engineering to medicine. For example, smoke detectors were invented by NASA to use on their spacecraft. Quartz timing crystals that you find in most watches, bar codes you see in retail stores, and much of the portable medical equipment in ambulances are all derived from NASA inventions first used in spaceflight. Composite materials designed to be light enough to launch into space but strong enough to withstand the impact of a meteorite and other space junk are now used in helmets, tennis rackets, and even some parts of cars. Over 30,000 products, procedures, and materials have come from the NASA labs


Other ventures would yield more economic growth

 

No, NASA is one of the most efficient ways to get return for tax dollars.

 

Matthew Rogers, Perdue University 2005.

 

The most immediate benefit of exploration is economic growth; discovery of new goods and materials, and the inventions inspired by the needs of exploration, generate enormous returns to the nation’s economy. NASA’s own returns to the United States’ economy are not insignificant–on the order of a 700% return for every dollar invested in space exploration (NSS). This primarily comes in the form of new materials and microelectronics that NASA more or less freely shares with the public or US companies.


Funding should go to fight poverty instead

 

No, that diversion wouldn’t even make a different—and would rob us of NASA’s benefits.

 

Matthew Rogers, Perdue University 2005.

 

Comparing NASA’s budget with agencies whose mission is to alleviate poverty-related problems shows staggering disparities that effectively nullify the argument for diverting funds away from NASA. Most notably: Housing and Urban Development ($40 billion), Health and Human Services ($560 billion), and the Social Security Administration ($50 billion), the agency that figures out how to disburse Social Security payments ($502 billion). Individually, each of these agencies already have many times the funding of NASA, let alone their collective total of $1.15 trillion, 77 times the funding of NASA.. Suffice to say, NASA’s funding is a drop in the bucket of the federal budget. Taken from an economist’s perspective, NASA is one of the government agencies with the highest return on the investment.

Space Travel is no longer fashionable or Inspirational

 

No, aeronautics and space travel is the most inspiration tool in the world, it is fundamental to our progress.

 

 

Do you know the most popular museum in the world over the past decade? It’s not the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Uffizi in Florence or the Louvre in Paris. It’s the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., which contains everything from the Wright Brothers’ original 1903 airplane to the Apollo 11 command module. Visitors value the air and space artifacts this museum contains. Why? It’s an American legacy to the world. But, more important, it represents the urge to dream and the will to enable it. These traits are fundamental to being human and have coincided with what it is to be American.


 

Funding would do better elsewhere

 

Yes, we need funding elsewhere but NASA is only a tiny expenditure of our government.

 

 

How many times have we heard the mantra: “Why are we spending billions of dollars up there in space when we have pressing problems down here on Earth?” Let’s re-ask the question in an illuminating way: “What is the total cost in taxes of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the space station and shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit and missions yet to fly?” Answer: less than 1% on the tax dollar—7/10ths of a penny, to be exact. I’d prefer that it were more, perhaps 2 cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to no more than 4 cents on the tax dollar. At that level, NASA’s current space-exploration program would reclaim our pre-eminence in a field we pioneered. Right now, the program paddles along slowly, with barely enough support to ever lead the journey.


 

We Can’t Risk More Lives

 

First, NASA has claimed very few lives, second, we must push through disaster for the greater good.

 

Elliot G. Pulham 2004, president of the Space Foundation.

 

On February 1, 2003, America and the world lost seven brave souls who cheerfully gave their all and knowingly risked their lives so that humankind could benefit from the knowledge to be gained by 16 days of scientific research in space. When mission STS-107 ended in tragedy over the southwestern United States, the anguish of our loss was felt around the world.

How we respond to national tragedy is the measure of our character. The effect of the attacks of Dec. 7, 1941, and Sept. 11, 2001, was that our enemies had awakened a sleeping giant. We can be equally proud that our response to the loss of Columbia has not been to retreat from our exploration of space, but rather to strengthen our resolve.


 

Private Companies would do it better

 

No, other nations already are funding their aeronautics publically; we need to do so to compete.

 

Eric Hedman chief technology officer at Logic Design Corporation 2007

 

NASA’s aeronautics research has helped our aerospace industry stay ahead of companies like Airbus that are heavily subsidized by foreign governments. The European Union is now preparing to select and fund aeronautics research projects in the manner NASA has done. This nation cannot afford to abandon aeronautics research that has been part of the remarkably continually improving safety record of our airlines and helped keep our trade deficit from becoming worse. With the long time for payback from some cutting-edge research, publicly traded corporations with the pressure from stockholders for every quarter to be better than the last cannot always fund this research internally.


 

 

Funding Public Education would be better

 

No, NASA funding is the best way to get multi-fold payoffs for spending in science education.

 

Nils Hasselmo, President of Association of American Universities 2005

 

As part of the overall investment in the future of NASA and its workforce, AAU cannot stress enough the important role NASA science programs play in universities nationwide in exposing undergraduate and graduate students to high-tech programs in flight hardware, advanced data analysis, and modeling. We point out that NASA activities carried-out in our universities have a double pay-off – the first as NASA acquires instruments and software for use in its missions and operations, and the second in the development of students who will one day serve as our nation’s technological and scientific workforce.


 

Other Nations will never be able to catch up

 

No, other nations are already catching us.

 

 

Though recent stories about China have focused on concerns such as tainted drugs and food, China’s growth as a major world player demands our attention. During a recent trip to Beijing, I expected to see wide boulevards dense with bicycles as a primary means of transportation. Instead, I was surprised to see those boulevards filled with top-end luxury cars, while cranes knit a new skyline of high-rise buildings.

China became the third space-faring nation. Next step, the moon. Meanwhile, Europe and India are redoubling their efforts to conduct robotic science on spaceborne platforms. This emerging community of nations is hungry for their slice of the aerospace universe. In America, contrary to our self-image, we are no longer leaders but simply players. We’ve moved backward just by standing still.


 

Space travel isn’t worth it, we should just leave it alone

 

No, pushing our boundaries and exploring is vital for humanity. As Americans we are proud of our achievements, it’s not the time to stop.

 

Elliot G. Pulham 2004 President of the Space Foundation

 

The critics need to be heard, but not necessarily heeded. There have always been those who lacked courage, commitment or vision. They proclaimed that man would never fly. We did. They said that the accomplishments of the 19th century would never be eclipsed in the 20th century. They were. They said we'd never fly across oceans or land a human on the Moon. We have.

As Teddy Roosevelt said, "It is not the critic who counts . . . the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena." The jackals may bark, but the caravan passes on.

It is not a question of whether humans will move out into the final frontier of space. It is only a question of whom and when.


 

Space Travel Doesn’t Matter

No, it’s part of the American identity to explore. It is vital for our nation.

 

Steven J. Dick NASA Chief Historian 2007

 

For its part, the United States has much at stake. Pulitzer Prize winning historian William Goetzmann saw the history of the United States as inextricably linked with exploration. "America has indeed been 'exploration's nation,'" he wrote, "a culture of endless possibilities that, in the spirit of both science and its component, exploration, continually looks forward in the direction of the new." The space exploration vision must be seen in that context.


 

NASA has been doing fine with what it has

 

No, NASA is aging and running off of past support. Besides, it uses less than one percent of the nation’s budget.

 

JOSEPH A. BURNS of Cornell 2007

 

Today's program is like a powerful ship that appears to be staunchly cruising along. But our vessel is sailing so smoothly nowadays principally because of yesterday's investments. In fact, today's craft is running low on fuel, some of its machines are not being properly maintained and upgraded, improved replacement instruments are unavailable, and sadly the boat's crew is aging. Surprisingly, this ship is from the Nation that has always led in exploration of the cosmos. Maybe other nations instead will guide humankind's search of the next shoreline, just as four centuries ago England replaced the Portuguese and the Spanish. Only if we are vigilant today will our ship's journey be secure.

 


 

The US doesn’t need NASA

 

As I said in my speech, we do need NASA. It is vital for our lives and economy.

 

Dr. Lennard Fisk, chair of the Space Studies Board, said before the U.S. House of Representatives 2007

 

We need to consider NASA as an agency with many important tasks to perform. Space is integral to the fabric of our society. We depend on it in our daily lives; we protect our nation through our space assets; we use space to learn about our future; we enrich our society with knowledge of our place in the cosmos; we are moving our civilization into space; we expect the next generation of scientists and engineers to be versatile in the utilization and exploration of space. NASA has an essential role to play in each and every one of these national pursuits, and its role in each pursuit needs to be properly funded.