SHOULD UNITED STATES CONTINUE TO SPEND BILLIONS OF MONEY ON THE SPACE PROGRAM OR SHOULD THE MONEY BE DIRECTED TO OTHER AREAS.
The support for the U.S. space program has been fading for two decades. Most Americans don't follow the U.S. space program. They have a very vague idea how much the government spends on the program and what the money is used for. The general feeling is that too much money is spent and that it is not spent wisely. How did the U.S. get to this point?
The U.S. space program was fueled by rivalry with the Soviet Union space program in the 1960. The Russians sent successfully the first satellite and the first man to space. The Americans were shocked. They deeply believed that the U.S. was an unquestionable world leader in technology. The Russians lead also had grave implications for the U.S. security. The threat mobilized the Americans, new programs were established and existing programs expanded. This resulted in catching up with Russia and going head to head for several decades. With the demise of the Soviet Union in the end of the 1980 the focus of the U.S. on the space program faded. Do Americans need another shock, this time from China or other country to persuade them once again that not spending money on the space program is short-sided?
It had been demonstrated that the U.S. space program was enormously beneficial for the American science. The scientific advances and discoveries gained through the space program were applied in many industries - in the car industry, the airline industry, and the defense industry to name a few. In addition the applications of the discoveries changed our daily life, most of us don't realize the extent of the impact. One example that speaks for all is the GPS (global positioning system), there would be no GPS without the space program.
In the last decade the private sector has become more active in the space exploration, there are many commercial applications, such as satellites, scientific experiments in the weightless state, and lately space tourism that the private companies are financing with the goal of making profits. But there are other more ambitious programs - the Space Station, a planned station on the Moon, a flight to Mars, etc. These ambitious goals require enormous financial resources and at this point cannot be provided by the private sector.
With the exception of a few years during the Clinton administration, the U.S . government has been running deficits for decades. There always shortage of funds. The space is an easy target for budget cuts since the general public holds very little interest. Unfortunately, it would be very short sided to redirect the money to other areas. The space program has enormous benefits for the nation. Some of them are strategic, the U.S. security depends on them, some of them continuously improve our life. And the last but not least the nation needs goals that can inspire, and the space exploration is one of them.