The U.S. should make space exploration a priority again

The 1960s were quite a turbulent time in American history. The Vietnam War, psychedelic drugs and the evolution of rock music dominated much of the news in the decade.

More important than these events were the birth of “Star Trek” in September 1966 and Apollo 11’s moon landing in July 1969. These two events single-handedly spawned an entire generation of space lovers who dared to dream about what lied beyond the “final frontier.”

In today’s tough economic times, NASA and JPL have been hit extremely hard. At its peak in the 1960s, NASA’s budget was almost five percent of total U.S. GDP. Currently, NASA’s budget is less than one-tenth of that.

Despite these tough budgetary times, NASA and JPL have continued to produce magnificent pieces of technology, take Curiosity, the current Mars rover.

The goal with Curiosity is to explore the Martian landscape. This exploration is a testament to the power of human ingenuity.

If the United States were to invest more in space programs like NASA, I believe that our nation would grow both intellectually and economically.

Many people forget that NASA proved to be a great economic benefit to the United States in the 1960s.
NASA put thousands of men and women to work, and provided citizens with revolutionary new technology (medical tests, aircrafts and smoke detectors).

NASA, in short, changed the way we live.

If the government were to give NASA more funding, thousands of former employees could be put back to work.

In addition to putting people back to work, NASA can give us something greater: hope.

When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon in 1969, the world paused. For just a brief moment, mankind stopped worrying about nuclear bombs and politics and united in their appreciation for mankind’s greatest achievement.

Events like this can and will happen again, if NASA is allowed to explore the great beyond. Imagine what would happen if a NASA-funded probe discovered life on another world?

Sadly, none of this will likely occur in the near future. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have made it clear that space travel and exploration are not priorities.

There is one solution to this problem, however.

When NBC announced that “Star Trek” would end after its second season, fans took action and saved the show by writing NBC thousands of letters, urging executives to keep the show on.

“Star Trek” fans won, albeit temporarily. The show was renewed for a third season because of the fans’ work, only to be cancelled again in 1969.

NASA fans should take a chapter out of the “Star Trek” book and write personal letters to the people in charge of NASA’s budget. If they sign them with Captain Kirk’s name, anything could happen.

Shane Newell is a sophomore journalism student and the assistant city editor for the Daily 49er.

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