Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013
One of the nice things about blogging for WIRED is that my blog reaches more people than it used to reach. This means that I can wish a lot more people the very best in 2013 than I could in 2012. Happy New Year, everyone!
Having a larger audience also means that I am often solicited to tout books, videos, and other products people want to sell, or to write about new space-related projects people want to promote. As a general rule, these products and projects have little to do with the subject matter of my blog – which is, of course, space history chronicled through programs and missions that didn’t happen – so I press delete.
To round out 2012 and start 2013, however, I want to make note of a grassroots space promotion effort that I find heartening (and which has not, I want to point out, asked me for a promotional mention). Penny4NASA is a project run mainly by university students. I’ll leave it to you to learn more about its aims by visiting its website; the short version is, however, that it aims to see NASA’s budget doubled.
Now, before anyone screams, be aware that, of each dollar of the Federal budget, NASA receives slightly less than one-half of one percent; that is, less than half a penny. Doubling our national space agency’s budget would raise its share of the Federal budget to slightly less than 1%, which is about what it received during the mid-1960s, at the height of Apollo development, construction, and testing.
Please know that I do not think that NASA’s budget will in fact be doubled any time soon. It has remained almost flat in recent years, and I will not hazard to predict what will happen to it in 2013.
Two things lead me to tout Penny4NASA here. First, I believe that it raises awareness that NASA receives only a tiny fraction of the Federal budget. Because it does amazing things on a daily basis and has for decades, and because this has made it highly visible, people often believe that NASA is one of the better-funded Federal agencies. If more people became aware of how tiny is NASA’s portion, they would at least be able to place in better perspective the amazing things NASA has achieved.
Second, this is a grassroots student project. I want to do what I can to encourage the next generation to keep on dreaming about space exploration even when times are tough. I work regularly with students – I am, among other things, a NASA Space Grant Mentor – and this gives me hope for our future in space. There are many talented and committed young people eager to help NASA explore space. Penny4NASA reminds us of this, and of our duty to the next generation.
I research and write about the history of space exploration and space technology with an emphasis on missions and programs planned but not flown (that is, the vast majority of them). Views expressed are my own.