Flattery: A case for NASA

BY NEIL FLATTERY | JULY 16, 2015 5:00 AM

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On Tuesday, NASA accomplished yet another milestone achievement by completing a successful flyby of the dwarf planet, Pluto. This great feat comes on the heels of budget cuts that will severely hamper NASA’s ability to engage in space exploration in the future. The space shuttle program has been discarded, and NASA has had to cut back on many of its missions to deep space. 

Space exploration and research needs to be a priority because of the boundless potential of resources that outer space holds for us, the safety concerns that outer space can pose for Earth, and the interest it gives young people to study math and science. 

As emerging nations China and India put a new focus on space exploration, it is imperative that the United States keeps pace. China landed the Yutu rover on the Moon in 2013, and India successfully placed a spacecraft in orbit around Mars last year. As these nations’ economies continue to grow rapidly and catch up in size to the U.S. economy, the country that has the capacity to be able to take advantage of the resources that space has to offer most effectively will receive a significant economic boost.   

As Spain benefited from its investment in exploration to the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries, so, too, will a country be able to benefit from investment in space exploration in the 21st.  

The positive economic effect from investment in NASA will not only be felt on a national level. The retirement of NASA’s space shuttle program cut 4,600 high-paying jobs for Americans at the height of the Great Recession. Private companies such as the mattress company Tempur-Pedic have been formed as a result of products that NASA has developed. Furthermore, the effect NASA has had on the telecommunication industry with the satellites it has put in orbit in addition to the research it has done is immeasurable.   

Other than the potential economic boon that the United States can experience from investing in NASA, the space agency also helps to keep the Planet Earth safe from threats that outer space can pose. NASA has put a new focus in cataloguing all of the asteroids that come into proximity with Earth. However, budget cuts have severely hamstrung its ability to detect all potential threats.  

According to a recent BBC study, the United States currently ranks 28th in the world in combined math and science test scores for 15-year-olds. Young people in the United States are not as interested in studying math and science as they once were when NASA was sending manned missions to the Moon and space exploration dominated the headlines. Ambitious projects aimed at testing the limits of human ingenuity and exploring the unknown would spark a renewed interest in these subjects.

NASA’s accomplishment this week was certainly incredible. Though the milestone has been compared with man landing on the Moon, I fear the story will not resonate in deserving way and will largely be ignored by the young people of America. Investing both money and time and attention in NASA will undoubtedly have a positive effects on the education, economy, and safety of the United States.

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