Opinion: Spending on space is wasteful.

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Ella Adams, Opinion Editor

Since NASA’s Perseverance Rover landed on Mars last week, it seems like space has been on everyone’s minds. There’s no doubt about it, space is cool. The idea that we are one tiny speck in the ever-expanding universe is hard to wrap our heads around, but humans are naturally curious creatures so we are inclined to try. The U.S. may be a prominent figure in space exploration but is sending robots into space the best use of our tax dollars, especially with the serious challenges our country faces such as COVID, climate change and income inequality? 

Since the founding of NASA in 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, federal dollars have been going toward researching and exploring space. A little over a decade later, the U.S. landed a man on the moon – or maybe not depending on who you ask. Space exploration is incredible, but we have to remember that NASA’s funding comes from the pockets of everyday Americans. 

The U.S. is the richest country in the world, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have problems. In 2020, more than 50 million Americans experienced food insecurity, which increased due to COVID-19. Closer to home, Watauga County experienced a food insecurity rate of 16.8% last year. The pandemic has been hard on Americans and food insecurity is just one example of how people are struggling. 

With people struggling to eat in the richest country in the world, is exploring space how our tax dollars should be spent? About 5.9% of the federal budget is spent on Medicare and healthcare, 5.7% is spent on housing and community and 6.3% on education. Spending for these programs is in the single digits so where is all our money going? The military which receives over half of all discretionary spending. Of course, America’s outrageous military spending is a whole different issue. Only 0.5% of the federal budget goes to NASA but 0.5% of a $4.5 trillion budget is a lot of money, $23.3 billion this year to be exact. 

$23.3 billion is a lot of money for NASA, which has little to no direct impact on everyday Americans’ lives. Sure, space is cool to learn about and the advancement of science and technology is very important, but parents who can’t feed their children probably don’t care about some rocks on Mars. 

NASA should not be a priority when issues such as poverty, food insecurity and homelessness exist in America. Our tax dollars should be spent on us – improving our infrastructure, helping the poor, bettering education and solving climate change. To be clear, government funding for research is very important and NASA should not be abandoned. Knowledge should be accessible and space shouldn’t be treated like a personal playground for the ultra-rich. Right now we need to focus on fixing the problems here on Earth before we try to figure out the age-old mysteries of space.