Defund NASA 

Members of NASA’s Orion crew recovery team, right, in red helmets, gather as the test capsule is hoisted out of the water during training for the Artemis II mission at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Launch Complex 39, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. The team practices recovery exercises using the capsule —called a Crew Module Test Article— which will be sent to San Diego for further training ahead of the planned 2024 launch of the Artemis II crewed mission to the moon. Photo by Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP

I’ve had it. With the entourage of criticism inspired by former President Donald Trump’s establishment of the U.S. Space Force in 2019, a majority of those opposed catered toward goals of demilitarizing the U.S. and preventing more frivolous spending on the war industry. An insufficient level of criticism, however, was and has yet to be directed toward the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the U.S.’s premier aeronautics and space program. Thus, today’s column was born.  

I am not here to argue for the abolition or disbandment of NASA; numerous government agencies rank above NASA on the list of dishonorable groups — the military, police and ICE stand out to me currently. Yet this does not exonerate NASA of its sins. Although dissolving the agency in its entirety may not be feasible or advisable at that, it stands that significant budget cuts are exponentially overdue, as well as more strict environmental guidelines and the redistribution of funds.  

The old saying that we know more about the surface of the moon than the surface of the ocean is haunting—and untrue, according to most scientists. Despite the phrase’s credits being reputable, it serves our purpose not in quantifying a metric of knowledge regarding our oceans and outer space, but in illustrating a sentiment that is, in fact, easily proven. Let us not discredit the immense amount of time, energy and brainpower that has gone into deep-sea research, what with our endless supply of marine biologists and David Attenborough documentaries. Rather, between the ongoing privatized space race and the $30 billion pumped into NASA in 2022, the priorities of the U.S. become glaringly obvious. The U.S.’s counterpart agency to NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, received $6.1 billion in 2022, only 20% of NASA’s annual budget that year.  

It baffles me that we’ve set our country’s course to valuing what exists beyond our planet above the life inhabiting it. NOAA aside, and the U.S. aside, the contemporary space race has illuminated a terrifying truth to most individuals: We care more about other planets than our own. Yes, NASA and international space organizations alike contribute to countless environmental and geographic studies annually, but our hyper fixation on the unknown leaves billions of individuals worried for their future. Talks of colonizing Mars leave behind a sour taste in the mouths of the bottom 99.9%. Prioritizing the industrializing of an entirely new planet over attempting to salvage our own is a damning fate. And all for what? To expand the failing, cyclical, capitalistic system that’s already proven its capability of destroying a planet.  

Ned Lamont recently announced a cut to UConn’s Budget. If Silverman’s proposed cut to NASA was made, students would see the potential increase of $3,000 to their fee bill waived. Photo by Jayden Colon/Daily Campus

This is all without mention of the drastic environmental effects our aerospace endeavors cost humanity. The U.S. remains responsible for roughly 14% of global carbon emissions, earning the rank of the second-highest emitting country in the world behind China. Despite strides in renewable energy, such as NASA’s dedication to hydrogen powered launches, the thousands of tons of CO2 emitted each year from various explorations does more harm than benefit.  

Let’s assume, for the sake of the argument, that we were to strip NASA of $10 billion from their annual state funding. They’d rely on the remaining $20 billion, along with the $14 billion it has lying around from private donors and profit. Let’s imagine what that money could do.  

One year of it would alleviate hunger for 42 million individuals for a year, with roughly $4 billion left over, according to UN estimates. Two years of this change would end homelessness in the U.S., according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Hell, if we include even one-tenth of the U.S’s annual military budget—approximately $80 billion—the first year of a debt-free U.S. higher education system could be instituted with $5 billion left to spare.  

While arguments for divestment apply to arguably every U.S. federal agency, I hold to it that NASA, for lack of a better phrase, doesn’t receive enough hate. Do I think there’s benefits to our space program? Absolutely. Can I confidently say that all of said benefits are tangibly received by myself or any individual around me? No. NASA is not the sole problem in our country, nor will reducing its funding save our country. Rather, deductions in funding offer opportunities for the state to reinvest, in some cases, billions of dollars into less harmful and more favorable industries, such as renewable energy or transportation.  

Redirecting a meager portion of funding from a multi-billion-dollar organization to be used for state-sponsored initiatives is a step toward a green, equitable future. Just think what the U.S. could do with an extra $10 billion. Or better yet, what Connecticut could do with an extra $167 million.  

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