The 2010s have been paramount years in renewed interest in manned space flight.
Civilians and scientists alike have been pining for humans to return to the moon, visit other planets and venture beyond our solar system since the end of the NASA Apollo missions in the early 70s. But developments in technology, specifically electronics and computers, have made it feasible for humans to economically return to the moon and possibly even land on Mars in the near future. And the organization we all think of when we think of space exploration is NASA.
NASA has taken Americans to the moon and played a lead role in the International Space Station since its inception. Our tax-payer-funded space agency has led us to places in the universe that to our knowledge no living creature has ever reached, yet as inspiring as NASA’s history is, NASA may not be the ones to take us to Mars or the moon again. The agency is in a money crisis.
While NASA’s budget has increased every year since its foundation, the percent of the federal budget that it makes up has decreased significantly since the mid-60s, dropping from a high of three percent in 1968 to a depressingly low 0.5 percent of the 2017 federal budget. This has led to project cuts throughout NASA and created significant hurdles for the Orion space vehicle program and Space Launch System rocket program — both of which are crucial for sending humans into the outer throes of the solar system, specifically Mars. The journey to Mars is long and dangerous, so if we want our astronauts to return safely, we must develop the necessary technology to ensure their safety. Developing these technologies will prove to be problematic if we continue to cut NASA’s share of the federal budget.
These monetary setbacks are especially troublesome because of how greatly they affect research progress. Research has been moving at a considerably slow pace when compared to private companies like SpaceX, which famously invented the reusable Falcon 9 rocket. Government support is highly contingent on the ability to produce viable results from research in an efficient timeframe, which is difficult when the budget you are able to work with dwindles in comparison to other branches of the government.
So, if we want to maintain government interest in manned spaceflight, we must develop the tools necessary for deep space travel at a faster rate than what we have currently. And the only way to do so would be to divert more funding towards NASA’s projects.
If the citizens of the U.S. want NASA to be the ones to put the first humans on Mars, the government needs to allocate more funding towards NASA’s budget. SpaceX founder and owner Elon Musk has already expressed his desire and plans to put humans on Mars, and it is only a matter of time before the company develops the capabilities to send humans to other planets.
If President Trump wants to “make America great again,” he should revitalize the American spirit and pride from the great space race of the 50s and 60s. He should encourage the nation to desire to make history and send the first humans to Mars. He should relift the American fascination with space exploration and our desire to explore the unknown.
While his words are usually inflammatory, Trump does get attention for everything he says. Appealing to Congress to support the goals of NASA would not only shine a new light on our President, but it could possibly ease some of the tensions in our incredibly tense political atmosphere through a collective vision to reach the unreached.
Developing technologies for the future and dreaming of new frontiers are essential for creating a better tomorrow, economically, politically and socially. And I feel the beset way to do it by sending humans the furthest they have ever travelled in our whole universe.