Launch Week Update. Is NASA worth the Cost?

“Never limit yourself because of others’ limited imagination; never limit others because of your own limited imagination,” Mae Jemison.

NASA requires imagination….scratch that…NASA demands imagination. That, I often wonder, is why some people fall short of appreciating that agency? If you don’t appreciate something, you’re not going to be excited about paying for it.

It’s the criticism I hear most often; NASA cost too much money.  I’m not saying there isn’t waste within NASA. There is in every government agency. Just keep in mind that NASA’s budget is less than one half of one percent of the federal budget. That’s right…half of one percent. Keep that in mind when you hear that NASA spends billions of dollars. They sure do, but the federal budget is trillions of dollars.

If you want to tackle government waste in spending I promise you’ll easily find other things you wish your taxpayer dollars didn’t support……

“I wish the money that was spent on NASA was spent on education. Kids could go to college for free with that money.” “I wish that money was spent on healthcare.”

So many things to spend money on.

Directly and/or indirectly, NASA does so much work for education and healthcare. They bring clean water to the poor, they help with medical breakthroughs, and on and on.

So, what has NASA done for you? That’s a good question!

First and foremost, NASA’s work on putting satellites in orbit aught to be enough to convince anyone of their importance. The use of those satellites in weather alone has made NASA worth every penny, in my opinion.

Inventions stemming from NASA technology include the jaws of life, laser eye surgery, GPS in your car/phone, digital photography, robotic surgeries, artificial limbs, scratch resistant lenses, insulin pumps, flame-retardant suits for firefighters, the Dustbuster, shock absorbers that help make buildings earthquake resistant (first developed to reduce the shock from shuttle launches to nearby structures), solar cells (big time!), and on and on.

Better commercial vehicle tires are coming, thanks to NASA technology, too. Tired of flat tires? NASA has us covered. Coming to you by 2024.

Nearly everything wireless and cordless came from NASA technology.

Camera phones, CAT scans, improved baby formula and air purifiers.

Grooved pavement. Yes, they’re a pain to drive off the road onto but blame/thank NASA for that one too. That was originally developed to prevent hydroplaning on NASA runways, as the water settled into the grooves. Now, we use them on airport runways, highways, and to warn you that you’re about to drive off the road. I’m pretty sure I still have a mom because of those warnings (ha). Keep it ‘tween the ditches, Ma.

Home insulation, deicing methods for airplanes, ear thermometers, LED lights, portable computers (big time!), computer mouse, and on and on.

The shock-absorbing rubber in my running shoes. Thank you so much, NASA! I think about that every time I go for a run.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the water filtration system on the International Space Station has made such improvements to those systems that people all over the world in remote areas have benefited from cleaner water.

Remember that 3-D printing I wrote about earlier? Our very own Dr. Reb Ivey reminded me that 3-D technology is being looked at for human organs, too. Imagine being told by a doctor that you need a new kidney. Today, you’d be put on an organ donor list and you may end up waiting all your life for that kidney. Imagine the doctor telling you to come back tomorrow because your new kidney should be printed by then. This just blows my mind! Imagine how wonderful this would be for a sick astronaut on Mars, too!

Self-driving cars will benefit from the technology in DEMO-2. If the geniuses of NASA can fly that thing to the International Space Station all by itself surely to goodness they can figure out how to get you to Walmart and back (ha). Ok, so our roads are little more trivial than going up but still! Mark my word, the inside of your car will look like the inside of a spacecraft before you know it. And don’t worry, it’s actually quite simple!

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The international effort of space projects brings countries together. The unity that NASA extends to the world is quite powerful. Countries that politically are at odds with each other have scientists and students who work beautifully together on space projects.

For me, the greatest contribution is the fuel they throw on the passion within those of us who just love this stuff! It’s all just so amazing and incredible and inspiring and….on and on I could go. But you know what’s the best of all? The best of all is when a kid comes up to me and tells me how cool all this is. It gives them hope. It gives them a dream. It gives them something to work toward. Something that benefits all humanity and is quite possibly the coolest job in the whole world.

We’re human. We’re explorers. We’ve been exploring since our creation. Some of you look out. Some of us look up. Some even look down. We’re all looking and exploring. It’s just who we are. It’s just that some of us are looking harder than others  and some of us are more excited than others to look (ha). Don’t worry. Hang around me long enough and the passion will rub off on ya. My passion for meteorology made me look up to the clouds. My passion for NASA made me look to the stars.

In recent years, more and more of NASA’s projects are becoming privatized. That is a good thing. I’m 100% for government funding of NASA, but I also applaud some privatization. SpaceX is a private company and the DEMO-2 vehicle is the first privately owned space vehicle to go to space with astronauts onboard. Folks, this is a big step for our country. Privatization removes some of the government responsibility and frees the government from some of the funding. Again, I think this is a good thing and this should appeal to those who question the size of NASA’s budget.

Finally, if you doubt NASA is “worth it” just remember those who have willingly given their lives for it. And remember the thousands of us who apply every time the opportunity comes up for being an astronaut. It’s worth it. Or, as Andy Weir put it, “Astronauts are inherently insane. And really noble.”

Let’s just hope and pray the words of President Kennedy always ring true.

“Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolutions, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it–we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.”

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