Pro/Con: Funding space exploration


The argument against further investment in space exploration — often heard amid discussions of pressing socioeconomic, medical and climate change issues — fails to grasp the broader implications of such funding cuts.

While addressing these pressing challenges on Earth is undoubtedly crucial, reducing funding for space exploration is not the solution, especially since, according to NASA and The White House, it receives just over 0.5% of the total U.S. national budget and benefits many different aspects of our society.

Space exploration accounts for a miniscule fraction of government spending in the U.S., despite the misconception that NASA is overfunded. In 2023, the U.S. government spent $6.13 trillion, with $25.4 billion of that amount allocated to NASA — roughly 0.5% of all government spending.

Moreover, NASA has demonstrated that the funding it receives has impacts that extend far beyond the vastness of space.

These funds have significant positive effects on the economic, industrial and technological realms — benefits that profoundly impact our everyday lives.

According to NASA’s 2022 Economic Impact Report, the agency supported around 340,000 jobs worldwide and generated an estimated $7 billion in federal, state and local taxes in 2022 alone.

These economic benefits are driven by scientific research and technological breakthroughs that transcend space exploration; advances crafted in NASA labs have entered everyday life, including the use of weather satellites, GPS technology,telecommunications and remote sensing, according to NASA.

In addition, space exploration programs encourage historically underrepresented groups, like women and people of color, to pursue work in science, technology, engineering or mathematical fields, also known as STEM fields.

NASA has also established numerous Special Emphasis Programs for the sole purpose of helping underrepresented groups enter the federal workforce, including the Federal Women’s Program, the African American Program and LGBTQ Individuals with Disabilities Program.

While it may seem counterintuitive to look to other planets to improve our own, proponents of space exploration argue that investing in the exploration and colonization of other worlds is not only beneficial, but necessary for the long-term survival and advancement of humanity.

As such, when considering the future of NASA and other space operations, people must look beyond the misleading price tag to the far- reaching economic, societal and technological services this exploration provides.


From skyrocketing global temperatures to patches of garbage that cover our oceans, the Earth is overused and abused. Instead of working to counteract the damage on the ground level, our leaders, the enablers and often perpetrators of this degradation, plan for a far-fetched miracle on Mars.

It seems as though our priorities have shifted to such a pessimistic and dystopian state that instead of fixing the planet we live on, we throw money at the possibility of escaping it; in other words, we funnel billions into space exploration.

The U.S. budget for space exploration increases every year. In 2023, it was $25.4 billion, a 5.6% rise from the previous year, according to the Planetary Society, a non-profit space research organization. The proposed NASA budget for 2024 is $27.2 billion, yet another increase.

The funding for space exploration comes from the government’s discretionary funds, which can be allocated toward Earth-centric pursuits like education and infrastructure. While only a small percent of these funds go to space exploration, this money could do more good in other aspects of our society.

For example, $7 billion — less than a third of NASA’s budget — could save 45 million lives, feeding people around the world on the brink of starvation, according to one United Nations estimate.

Another report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that $20 billion could end homelessness. In other words, the same amount of money used to search for extraterrestrial habitats could provide homes to our suffering populations.

But these are just hypotheticals. In reality, programs like NASA receive massive funding while other, less glamorous sectors go without.

Consider education: U.S. public schools are underfunded by almost $150 billion, according to the Century Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank. Moreover, low-income school districts and those with large Black and Latino enrollment have a concerning funding gap within districts of different incomes.

This means that in pulling from the government’s discretionary funds, NASA and its space exploits disadvantage nearly 30 million children.

Since the first ventures into space, it seems like the milestones achieved are simply hovering above planets and sending animals to the moon. While discoveries in space research do trickle into the lives of the general population — from GPS technology to the radio — it’s difficult to argue for those benefits in comparison to people lacking adequate education and food: people who would benefit from a small fraction of NASA’s budget.

There is no point in looking to the sky for escape when our own planet can still be saved.

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