NASA: Some perspective and gratitude

WASHINGTON – Americans are aware of NASA but I do not think they realize how much NASA does and for how little money. Do you know what NASA’s budget is for 2014? Thanks to our deadlocked and dysfunctional Congress there is no approved budget for the Government.

NASA is looking at roughly $17.7 billion requested by President Barack Obama for FY2014. That breaks down to roughly 15 cents a day per American and less than 1 cent a day per human on the planet. I include this last figure as much of what NASA does benefits all of humanity, not just Americans.

To put NASA’s budget in perspective, consider these facts – Americans spend $61 billion on their pets per year. Also, a white collar criminal was ordered to pay $170 billion in restitution to his victims

NASA’s budget is under review by OMB and facing absurd cuts like shutting down Cassini at Saturn – a perfectly functioning spacecraft monitoring the whole Saturnian system. Hear what Bill Nye the Science Guy says in an “Open Letter” to President Obama and what you can do to help.

Bill Nye addresses NASA’s planetary exploration budget and here are NASA’s current major planetary missions (this list does not include NASA’s international participation with other space agency missions):

  • MESSENGER at Mercury
  • Moon – Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, LADEE
  • Mars – Rovers Opportunity and Curiosity; Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter; MAVEN enroute
  • Jupiter – JUNO enroute
  • Saturn – Cassini
  • Pluto – New Horizons enroute
  • Interstellar space – Voyager 1 and 2

Here is a listing of all NASA space missions past, present and future, including their websites – it is a long list indeed.

Here are a few highlights from that list:

  • Hubble Space Telescope (HST)
  • James Webb Space Telescope – HST’s successor
  • International Space Station
  • Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Space Launch System (SLS) that will return the U.S. to manned spaceflight capability that can go to low Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars and the asteroids.

NASA provides 24 hour a day monitoring of our star, the Sun using Solar Terrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) A and B (B sees the farside of the Sun), Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). These spacecraft provide realtime data on the Sun to help determine space weather and its effects on spacecraft and Earth, providing advance warning for solar storms.

NASA also studies Earth including:

  • Weather – hurricanes and tornadoes
  • Global climate changes
  • Polar ice
  • Ozone layer
  • Oceans
  • Space weather and its effect on aviation.

Planetary defense falls under NASA as well since it’s searching for asteroids and comets that could pose a threat to life on Earth via the Near Earth Objects (NEO) program.

Whatever defense is mounted against a future comet or asteroid that has our name, we’ll need NASA to carry it out. As I am fond of saying, “the dinosaurs are dead because they didn’t have a space program.”

Add to this already impressive mix of new technology, astronomy, aeronautics, astronautics, commercial space development, education, public outreach, jobs, inspiration and hope.

It adds up to a lot of bang for the buck.

Thank you NASA for all that you do for the planet, humanity, and America. Our future and survival lies in space and NASA will get us there IF given the necessary resources.

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