It's always a love/hate relationship between NASA and the taxpayers. When NASA chalks up another historic achievement, the public loves the program. When there's bad press, people begin calling for cutbacks. Let's check into the Reality Hotel for a moment. Although some changes need to be made at NASA, here are ten reasons why America should continue to support the program:
1) Space is truly the Last Frontier.
The history of mankind shows a drive to expand his knowledge and explore the unknown. Space is the last great frontier. Unless we want future generations to continue to stare at the stars and wonder what is out there, then we must find out for ourselves. This is the higher goal, of course.
2) Are We Alone in the Universe?
You could call this the Big Question. Is there other life out there, anywhere? Even the discovery of microbial life within the ice caps of Mars would be historic, and we're getting close to finding out. SETI keeps listening - just in case. Even with all the tech advances we now enjoy, we don't even know if there is any life at all beyond Earth. This question must be answered. It will change everything we know, and open the universe to unlimited possibilities.
3) The Origin of Man
Life has existed in one form or another on Earth for well over a hundred million years. Man has been here maybe a few million. Ever wondered how we drifted into the neighborhood at the last minute and managed to take over the planet? It's likely the answer is out there, not here. You can believe the Creation Story if you wish, but the evidence is against it. This question must be settled. Perhaps not by our own generation, but at least we could get the ball rolling.
4) Finding God
There will always be debate on whether the universe and the Earth were created by a Supreme Being who placed us here, or whether that concept is flawed. Right now, it is strictly a matter of faith. Perhaps God is as He is...or maybe not. We don't really know for sure. Or, as Terence Stamp once said in the film 'Red Planet', "you could pick up a rock and underneath it could say 'Made By God'." The drive to explore space is also a subconscious search for the Supreme Being. This is another of those 'higher goals'.
5) Saving Earth From Extinction
Comets and asteroids are more of a threat than we thought. There have been at least four major extinction events in Earth's history. We have reached the point as a species where we may be able to control our environment away from the Earth. In some ways, we're still in the Stone Age, but in the future perhaps we can use technology developed in space to avoid an extinction event.
6) Natural Resources
It's become obvious that our natural resources on this planet cannot support the growth of the human race. The future does not look good over the next hundred years. Without going into long diatribes about it, we need space to help us discover new supplies of natural resources. It's difficult to face this, but as a species we must, or die.
7) To Contact Other Life
Unless you are willing to discount each and every claimed contact with intelligent beings, and write them all off as the testimony of crazy folks - then the possibility exists that other intelligent life is hanging around - SOMEWHERE. If 'they' exist, and if they have visited here at least ONCE, then we have to find out who they are and where they live.
8) To Encourage the Study of Math and Science
Math and science coupled with developing technology are resources we need to solve some of mankind's most pressing problems. If we give up on space, these things will fall to the wayside, and so will man.
9) To Expand Communications Around the Planet
Our Internet, telephone communications, and other technologies are very much dependent on the space program. In order to keep these systems in place, NASA plays a key role.
10) To Expand the Human Presence to Other Worlds
We may or may not survive as a species under the current conditions. That remains to be seen, and much depends on what we do in the coming years. However, it is possible that humans could move outward in the future and ensure the survival of the species.
To those people who say we are wasting money with NASA and space exploration: NASA runs everything, including Canaveral, Houston, Glenn Center, Ames, White Sands, JPL, Johnson, Langley, the IV and V Center, Plum Brook, their HQ in DC, the Shuttle program, the planetary missions, the ISS, their interactions with universities and schools, the telescopes, the com sats, and a host of other things....on an average budget of less than $20 billion a year.
How to compare that? If you took the yearly budget for the Department of Defense and split it into 365 equal daily payments, NASA does all this on about five days' worth of that a year.