“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its ongoing mission—to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”
—“Star Trek The Next Generation”
In 1977, a motion picture blasted into movie theaters driving America right into the stratosphere. Telling the story of three teenagers in the 24th Century, “Star Wars” is one of many films and television shows which were fueled by America’s drive for space exploration. Particularly, it signifies the U.S. government’s spending on space voyages during the late ‘70s and ‘80s.
Hollywood does not make films like “Star Wars” anymore, nor does America place the same values on space exploration it used to. Last week, President Bill Clinton cut the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) budget from $14.6 to $9.6 billion. Although the $5 billion hit will be phased into effect over the next five years, it is but another symbol of the old American values being cut in order to balance the budget. Not only will this have a negative effect on employment, but it means setting the U.S. back in science and technology.
Space exploration does not just mean astronauts being sent to the moon, it also means funding for science and technological advances which are often indirectly discovered due to experimentation. NASA funding includes support for satellites and refined fiber optics, and with all the concern about resources on planet earth, NASA is looking toward ways to sustain human life in space.
Why cut NASA?
If the government cuts NASA funding, there are no groups to contend with. No mothers will protest. No retired persons will lobby. It means a clean cut with no one directly injured. This may not be the case. If NASA decides to cut its fledgling spacecraft “New Millennium,” layoffs may occur at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada-Flintridge.
According to NASA, space shuttle missions and a station will go unscathed, but recent projects like Millennium and a $580 million mission to Pluto are possible hatchet jobs.
What good is a shuttle and a station if all the astronauts can do is look around the moon and not turn their sights toward other stellar bodies?
Does no one out there care about the space program?
Whatever happened to the children who grew up on “E.T.” and “2001: A Space Odyssey?”
People do care about the space program, but in desperate times America forgets about the future and focuses on curing the present ills.
Why did we ever begin space exploration if we are not going to explore it to its fullest?
According to Hollywood, the future will include more than planet earth. It will encompass exploring black holes and other galaxies. With government cuts, children in the future will wonder what exists past the moon.
By cutting the NASA budget, the government is pigeon holing the administration.
Should NASA go commercial?
The answer is yes, if the government will not provide NASA with more funds. Currently NASA does not allow outside businesses to use its facilities.
What if Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain or Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal had decided not to fund sea exploration?
Fortunately they did, but the United States is not doing so. We need to realize that our community is not just America or the earth, but the entire universe.