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National Stories, Space Race 2.0

The Politics of Space: Why Obama Must Restart the Space Race

By Julian Harris Gibson / Photo: NASA

As the infographic explains America is spending millions on sending astronauts to space. The only problem is their spending this money with Russia.  America has to get back in the space game. The ending of the NASA space shuttle program put thousands of engineers and aerospace professionals out of work.

What message are we sending to our competitors? With no immediate plans to build a new shuttle and no clue when we will ever launch a mission to Mars many people in the space community feel they are in limbo or better yet–lost in space.  During the second presidential debate the president stated we should be investing in space. However, the 2013 budget proposals state NASA will receive a cut of over $300 million or about (21 percent).

In fact, since the glory days of Apollo, NASA has had to constantly fight for resources to take the next steps in exploration. The major problem is Congress appropriates NASA’s budget as they do for all government agencies. However, the Congressional Committee on Science is  in charge of  budget issues for NASA. This committee is notoriously staffed with politicians from unscientific backgrounds who are loyal to their congressional district or  political party and up for re-election in less than two years.

Each congressional cycle brings in new members with their own set of priorities. I am not saying these legislators don’t respect science. I am just saying the bureaucratic way Congress deals with NASA makes it hard to plan for future missions and its time the public support their cause. Moreover, legislators with scientific backgrounds may be more qualified to look at budget requests as more than a line item.

How can we, “Win the Future” as the President claimed in his State of the Union address in 2012 if we are not exploring space and providing a path for the next generation to live in space if they so desire? So once again, space is now a political issue. as the election results proved the youth vote is planted firmly on democratic soil–for now.

However, support in the future may depended on this administrations commitment to actually pivot to issues like space that are future focused. Space is also a national security issue, but not in the way most people in the military think. If nations like China eventually passes the United States in the space race then we may never catch up again.

We cannot afford to lose our place as a world leader in space exploration. Therefore, we need to make space a national priority by supporting NASA and non-profits like The Planetary Society who are fighting to keep space alive.  

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