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NASA Simply Stopped Being a Priority

posted Apr 30, 2012, 10:51 AM by Michael Stoltz   [ updated Apr 30, 2012, 10:52 AM ]
By Howard S. Friedman, Huffington Post, 04.30.12

When you try to determine what is important to someone, it is useful to pay attention to how that person spends their time and their money. Someone who talks endlessly about how passionately they feel about getting involved in a certain cause, but never puts any time or money into it is just talking. Someone who dedicates a considerable amount of their time or money to a certain cause is investing in what they believe is important, whether or not they advertise that to the world or not.

Governments are similar. The priorities of a government can be seen in its budgets, not in politician's visionary speeches. As the space shuttle Enterprise moves to New York for its retirement party, many people talked about the demise of the American space program. While there are some free enterprise endeavors set to take very wealthy people out to space, these efforts are miniscule compared to the project that brought humans to the moon. At the time, America was racing with the Soviets to prove superiority and President Kennedy's famous challenge "before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." This statement has become a textbook example of leadership. Kennedy defined a clear and measurable goal then rallied support to make this moon landing (and safe return) a possibility.

As you can see from the graph below, NASA funding was a substantial part of the federal budget. There was a burst of funding and scientific activity in the 1960's, leading up to the 1969 moon landing and then funding dried up. Landing on the moon was no longer a priority and further space exploration, whether it be to Mars or other planets required a far greater investment.

To read the full blog, please click here.

[Image: NASA]