Spaceflight challenges our nation’s engineers and scientists like no other peacetime pursuit. As these experts stretch to overcome the obstacles, they leave a rich legacy of technology with a track record of saving lives, conserving energy, enhancing national security and creating jobs. The future human exploration of the moon, asteroids and Mars will test NASA’s ability to recycle water and air and stretch the reach of terrestrial medicine, each a technology that promises to have far-reaching benefits on Earth.
NASA’s diminishing share of federal discretionary resources threatens to extinguish this bright future. Progress in space cannot be turned off and on like a water faucet.
To be clear, bigger space budgets are not a panacea. Success depends on a stable, skilled workforce and experienced leaders who know how to manage risks. It will take the best efforts of NASA, the commercial space industry, a skilled and smartly led industrial base, strategic partnerships within the research community and the educational system. Collectively, we will explore new worlds and solve even greater challenges here on Earth.
Leading on the frontier won’t be easy. President John F. Kennedy reminded us of this fact nearly 50 years ago when he rallied America in the race to the moon.
“The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space,” Kennedy said in his famous Rice University speech in 1962. “We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people.”
The soundness and wisdom of those remarks have not changed.
It’s time to make a bold move and double NASA’s budget. With the world’s largest economy, we can afford to make this wise, 1 percent investment. Our nation’s future depends on it.
Fred Gregory and Tom Jones are members of the board of advisers of the Coalition for Space Exploration.