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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Lack of support for space programs threatens innovation

    Space programs haven’t exactly been at the forefront of American concerns in recent years. After Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in 1969, the average American’s interest in exploring the depths of our solar system slowly waned away and the federal government’s funding for space programs faded with it. Today, we still lead the world in space technology, but the gap between us and our competitors is rapidly closing.

    China completed their first manned mission to dock with an orbiting module just days ago, a preliminary step toward creating a permanent space station. Less than a decade before, China became the third nation to send an astronaut into orbit. China is advancing quickly, with substantial missions being completed every few years, and their ambitions are high.

    The United States on the other hand is doing little to maintain its leadership role. We have consistently whittled NASA’s budget over the years down to 0.5 percent of the federal budget, compared to 1966 when it was 4.4 percent, and we are promoting private corporations to carry NASA’s torch. As it stands today, we even depend on Russia, who spends less than 25 percent as much as us on space programs, to send American astronauts to space due to the space shuttle’s retirement, according to the New York Times.

    While China’s exploration into space will inevitably benefit our understanding of the universe as a whole, the United States should nonetheless support and fund American space technology and push private corporations to be ambitious, lest it risk losing the immense technological innovations that space exploration and research produce.

    In reality, the agency’s projects have led to hundreds of inventions each year that have played a critical role in research regarding space.

    Satellites were originally created to take cosmic measurements and pictures above our hazy atmosphere, but are now more versitile, providing service for GPS, TV and phone calls.

    The smoke and carbon dioxide detectors on your ceiling today are also based on NASA research. To help detect fires in the first American space station, NASA invented the detectors to differentiate between water vapor, toxic fumes or smoke.

    Space technology even saves lives, thanks to medical breakthroughs derived from NASA research. In order to send astronauts into space, NASA must complete extensive medical research to preserve their health and safety. This research has led to many medical innovations such as heart defibrillators, advanced breast cancer screenings, artificial heart pumps and more. They also foster job growth, reduce costs and increase revenues for the companies that use NASA technology to create commercial products.

    Promoting privatized space programs is a smart move to offset the costs of space exploration. However, the government should maintain NASA’s position in a leadership role so that corporations like Space X keep their ambitions high and don’t simply act out of profit. Thanks to ambition, space technology has sky-rocketed. If we can maintain the same ambition we had then, and exceed the ambition that China has now, then our technology will continue to thrive.

    — Michael Carolin is a junior studying journalism and creative writing. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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