Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

The New Space Race: Why Now More than Ever, America Needs to Reinvest in its Space Program.

By Daniel OudolskyPublished October 24, 2014

The author argues that public reinvestment into NASA will not only lead to faster technological growth and keep the United State's technological preeminence, but produce positive economic blow back that will only strengthen the U.S. economy in the long term.
By Daniel Oudolsky, 10/24/14

Turning the news nowadays or flipping through the various 24/7 news channels, it is hard not to be settled with bad news constantly throughout daily life. The Ebola outbreak, ISIS, Syria, The War on Terror are constant topics of political conversation amongst informed citizens. There is no longer the concept of exploring"the frontier" that exists on ground level Earth. Although wars still occur and poverty and diseases have not been fully eradicated, a lower percentage of people die from either illness or violence than ever before. Despite all this scientific and technological achievement within the last half­century, the United States have been backing away from further expanding on their space program. As we delve further into the 21st century, that question is asked constantly is whats next for NASA and the U.S. space program?

The iconic Space Shuttle Program has been shut down since 2011, the space shuttles themselves being decommissioned. Manned moon missions have not taken place since 1972. Moreover, the United States government has made cuts on funding NASA. Currently, the NASA budget is $16.85 billion USD. While a significant amount of money, this represents only 0.5% of the total fiscal budget. This is contrasted to 4.0% of total budget expenditures ($32 billion USD adjusted to inflation) the U.S. government devoted to NASA in 1966. In fact, the budget allocation is so low that it is estimated that each American only spends $9 on NASA through taxation. Our international agreements with our Russian partners have also been faltering. Meanwhile, developing nations such as China and India have been making aeronautical history. India's Mangalyann spacecraft recently touched down on Mars after a 10­month journey, a major milestone for India's scientific community. Despite these daunting statistics, NASA has actually been the forerunner for developing new space technologies that will increase our capabilities in space like never before.

Moon missions are essential in establishing a foundation of exploring more distant worlds. Establishing a permanent moon station would create the necessary experience and skills needed for the long­term space missions that would be required to visit other planets and celestial bodies. The moon may also be used as a forward operating base on which humans learn how to replenish essential supplies, such as rocket fuel and oxygen, by creating them from local, raw material. After Congress passed the NASA authorization act of 2010, NASA has embarked on a new phase of space exploration. The Hubble Space telescope is scheduled to be replaced by the James Webb space telescope in 2018. The agency is currently developing the Space Launch System (SLS), the successor to the Space Shuttle program. As a complement with the SLS program, NASA has also been developing a new model of space capsule­ The Orion crew exploration vehicle. Scheduled to be launched in December 2014, these new capsules would be much larger than the predecessor Apollo spacecraft, with a four person crew accommodation and triple the volume size. The Orion capsules can be utilized for up to ten times, and will parachute down to earth like the old Apollo craft­ through arriving on dry land rather than splashing into the ocean. At a max speed of 20,000 miles per hour, it would give astronauts the capabilities to explore the Moon, asteroids and Mars.

Today, if we are to jumpstart the American economy and restore our system of education to the high quality standards we once held, we must urge our government and elected officials to reinvest into our Space program. Although NASA Is already developing major technologies now, they would be able to produce more technologies quickly if there is enough capital funds available to do so. In the latter half of the 20th century when government funding for NASA was much higher, The Apollo program has led to instrumental discovery of spin­off technologies such as the MRI scan, microwaves, Global positioning system (GPS), tempur pedic mattresses and instant replay programs. Government investment into NASA has also produced blowback economic impact. In the year 2002 alone, the aeronautical industry accounted for $95 billion of economic revenue. In 2005, this was $180 billion in 2005. In other words, one dollar towards NASA spending produces about $10 of economic output. This is the concrete evidence that public investment into the space program not only leads to economic growth, but technological innovation and progress.