As I looked at Mars, I thought how amazing it is that there is a VW Bug sized rover hurling towards Mars at about 25,000 miles per hour. People dreamed to explore other planets and made their dreams a reality. Imagine what Aristotle or Galileo would say if they could be in the midst of some of the most amazing technological advances made by humans! Stop for a moment and think about what that really means. People designed and built rovers and spacecraft to send to another planet. And then, those spacecraft land on and explore Mars while sending back photographs and receiving commands from people on Earth. The MER Rovers lasted for 8 years! It is no small feat and should be appreciated for its innovation and that it all started with a dream to achieve.
Unfortunately, the NASA budget is in jeopardy of being drastically cut. As a teacher, we watched Shuttle and Mars launches (I had students arrive early at 6am once to watch a live launch), and one of the most popular and motivating topics was space exploration. Young people are fascinated by it and dream of other places to go and things to do. They are the ones who will dream up and design the next generation of space exploration, yet, our government may be taking away some of those chances.
I've heard many comments that suggest people think the high cost of space missions is a waste of money. To borrow from a friend, we are NOT sending $500 million in a suitcase in to space!!! The cost of space missions go to pay for JOBS - scientists, engineers, and other companies involved in building the product. Not one dollar is placed in the space craft never to be seen again.
The NASA budget is small in comparison to everything else. NASA costs the public 1/2 penny on the tax dollar, significantly less than the defense budget. According to Neil deGrasse Tyson, the US military spends the entire NASA budget in 23 days (I'm not dissing the military - just showing comparison). Although it's a few years old, here is an article that puts NASA's budget into perspective. And here is yet another with some good links to budget info.
The byproducts of space exploration exist in our everyday lives. Everything from velcro, invisible braces, scratch proof lenses, the ear thermometer to medical equipment, adjustable smoke detectors, cordless tools and shoe insoles, not to mention numerous 'small' things we don't necessarily 'see' every day. Here's another great article highlighting technology spin-offs from NASA. And, don't forget that your cell phones, internet, sattelite TV, GPS are all available because of satellites orbiting our Earth. Life would not be anywhere near the same without the technology that has come from the Space Program.
Imagine what more can come from the space program!
My kids love space and rockets and planets and stars. If mine do, yours probably do too. It is our job to do what we can to make sure that our kids have the inspiration and opportunity to fulfill their dreams, whether it's building a spacecraft, flying into space, benefitting from one the thousands of space exploration byproducts, or simply enjoying the discoveries made by scientists.
So, I encourage you to send a simple letter to your congressmen to encourage them to NOT cut the budget. You can do it easily from this link. If you don't know what to say, there is a form letter provided and will go directly to your appropriate representatives based on your address.
Help us keep Space Exploration Alive for all our benefit!!!! I've listed some further reading below:
Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about benefits of Space Exploration
History of Mars Missions - the US is still the only country to land on the Red Planet!
Putting NASA's Budget into Perspective - a few years old, but still valid
NASA: 50 Years of Achievement