Recently it was announced that the U.S. sequester (which has resulted in budget cuts right across all U.S. governmental departments) had cut all public outreach programs of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It turns out that this may have been a slight exaggeration; a knee-jerk reaction to any expenditure cuts to the once-popular space program . . . a space program that has lost public support ever since the end of the Cold War.
But there WILL be cuts to various NASA programs. Tweetups (where media and social media followers gather for particular events, such as rocket or satellite launches) will still be held. But heads of departments within NASA will have to submit more detailed outlines of outreach requests, which means that not all will receive funding. Which, in turn, means further public ignorance about the world — the universe — that surrounds us.
What do these cuts say to the public about science priorities? The United States was once a leader in science and space exploration. Already, with its mothballing of the space shuttle program, and no vehicle to replace it, they have fallen woefully behind such nations like China which is making leaps and bounds into space exploration. It’s bad enough that the space program has been cut, but now to cut in educating the public about space science? How much further back will this set the U.S.? If you don’t foster the love of science in youth — the very people we are depending on to carry us forward — then who will be the ones to advance our knowledge?
But there are those of us out there who have a deep love of space and feel the overwhelming need to explore. Exploring is what has led us to where were are now . . . has given us the knowledge and technology we enjoy today.
What could space exploration mean to me and you? It could mean reaching out and settling on new worlds; it could mean finding fuel elsewhere for our homes and cars; it could mean unlocking the secrets to our evolution. Each of these results has its own merits, some more tangible than others. But either way you look at it, it is a result. It is what helps humanity grow.
And don’t get me wrong: I know that there have been cuts to other valuable and important programs throughout the U.S. All I’m saying is that perhaps there are other places where they could have made cuts . . . say, the Department of Defence, for one.
The U.S. government is making a big mistake cutting its budget to outreach programs. It is precisely what is needed to foster the minds of today’s youth. The ones who will get us to places we can’t yet imagine. It’s a sad outcome of bloated spending in other areas, and its repercussions will be felt sooner rather than later.
The U.S. government is forgetting one very important thing: the future is now. Thankfully there are other nations who haven’t.
If you, like me, love space, watch this video. It will make you proud . . . and bring tears to your eyes.
(To read the NASA letter to employees, see this Universe Today post.)