Wilson: NASA funding can reignite national pride

Peter Wilson, Staff Columnist

In 1969, NASA landed the first humans on the Moon.

This feat was the culmination of the so-called “Space Race” during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Starting in the late 1940s, the Space Race was a major scientific endeavor, and the United States’ success was a testament to the men and women who accomplished all they did. It was also a major source of national unity and pride. Since the 1960s, the NASA budget has severely been cut and is now dwarfed by the U.S. military budget. In the present day, more space travel is undertaken by private companies such as SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corporation than by the governmental agency.

NASA serves a vital purpose to the United States, both for scientific advancement, but also regarding national pride. Its ability to instill national pride may be the perfect infusion for our current state of political division. NASA cannot be allowed to fall behind the private companies now launching into the space travel and exploration market.

Increasing NASA funding can lead to a variety of impressive outcomes. Of course, the clear purpose would be to achieve more awesome feats of human scientific understanding. However, NASA does much military research as well.

The most important reason to increase NASA funding is to reignite much of the lost national pride in this country. Performing the first successful human landing on Mars would be quite the feat. It would also inspire thousands of young men and women to want to become astronauts, space explorers for the United States, as the moon landing once did. What would be more inspiring than watching live footage of a Mars landing, culminating in the planting of the American flag in that dry Martian soil?

This increase in NASA funding could easily be done without even increasing taxes on the common American. Simply allocating more funding to the NASA budget from the exorbitant military budget could generate much more national pride than launching another controversial war.

This is not a partisan issue. Scientific research should not be partisan. The fundamental advancement of science in this country has taken a backseat to many other programs issues in this country. Research organizations and institutions have all, in turn, had to endure drops in their funding. A drop as we have seen is categorically detrimental to the nation.

NASA has stated that, given budget constraints, it will stop funding the International Space Station (ISS) by 2025. The ISS is partially funded by NASA, which contributes $3 billion a year. Therefore, cutting the ISS funding saves NASA $3 billion a year. President Donald Trump’s proposed military budget for 2019 is $681.1 billion. The importance of the ISS and its research speaks for itself, and an additional $3 billion, especially compared to the massive proposed military budget, is practically minuscule.

That being said, the Trump administration has proposed increasing NASA’s budget, with the goal of creating a base of operations on the moon which would serve as a first stop for longer missions, such as to Mars or beyond. This is evidence that the problem is being looked at, but not seriously considered. Actually increasing the budget for NASA would not come with stipulations, but rather be for pure research and development.

Furthermore, one of the Trump administration’s other goals for increasing NASA funding is the implementation of the so-called “Space Force,” which would be an additional branch of the military, but its goal would be to monitor and protect American space travel agencies.

NASA was once an amazing source of national pride and fervor. Today, with its proportionally small budget, the organization is frequently overlooked. For the sake of the country and for national unity, increasing the NASA budget would be for the direct benefit of the United States and all its people.

Peter Wilson is a second-year biomedical engineering student on the biocomputing and informatics track. He works in the Gustafson Lab and can be found on Twitter at @wpieltseorn.