For every tax dollar Americans pay out, half a cent of it goes to NASA. Although the old adage of every penny counts could be used here, in the trillion-dollar world that is the yearly operational budget of the United States, it’s not much. Using 2015 figures, the average American household paid $13,000 in taxes. Of that, $143 (or 1.1 percent) was earmarked for science funding.
Now, compare that to the $3,300 (just over 25%) that was sent the U.S. military’s way, and you can see why NASA might occasionally feel like it’s on the short end of the sibling preferential treatment stick.
Let’s say that we reverse the family pecking order and give NASA the budget normally relied on by America’s military forces, which currently sits around the $600 billion number. Rather than the army and navy waking up to a shiny new bicycle every few months, they get what NASA has grown accustomed to – a pair of shoelaces for their three-year-old sneakers.
NASA has estimated its 2019 budget will be $19.9 billion. Consider that in 2015 the U.S. military spent three times that amount on research and development, perhaps in the endless pursuit of getting more bang for their buck. If NASA wanted to blow the $600 billion this very moment on one exploratory goal, it could establish four separate human colonies on Mars.
Even now it is estimated that with a maximum yearly increase of $15 billion NASA could make that a reality in 10 years. Or, it could improve the Earth’s orbital defense systems when it comes to early detection of potentially catastrophic collisions with asteroids and comets.
It might be able to get a jump start on getting Americans back to the moon (already there are proposals in place to fund a populated moon base), or fill the coffers of the International Space Station enough to keep it operational past its set 2024 expiry date. The ISS currently costs NASA upwards of $4 billion a year to cover its share of expenses that are also split between the space agencies of Japan, Russia, the European Union and Canada.
A little extra cash could help out with zero gravity experiments that would assist in understanding exactly how to safely establish colonies on other planets. Oh, and that nagging question as to whether humans should even attempt to procreate in space.
That’s not to say that NASA should take the money and run, leaving the military alone to defend America on a bare-bones budget. NASA could also use extra money to fund improvements on satellite technology and orbital image-taking. Where there’s satellites capable of taking detailed pictures of Earth there’s potential for spying, and that’s where military agencies could at least take some solace in having their allowance all but taken away from them.
Story by Jay Moon
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