NASA: Money Well Invested
The October 1957 launch of Sputnik alarmed the nation and the western world. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was founded the following year in July 1958 by congressional mandate (National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, 1958/2012). A belief romanticized by pop culture and the media, is that NASA was formed solely to compete with the Soviet Union. NASA was a cold war response in a time when any amount of money would be spent to remain dominate in an escalating cold war with Moscow. While this is true to some extent, a more objective analysis shows NASAs foundation also resulted from a need to coordinate U.S. research interests, eliminate redundancies, and effectively share information in a disjointed nation research environment. NASA The President and Congressional leaders found many deficiencies with the existing system. Federally funded research projects, had overlapping objectives and pertinent related data was not being shared. The law establishing NASA also mandated that the agency disseminate any useful technologies or discoveries, as long as the technology or discovery did not jeopardize public safety or national security.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, some citizens, politicians, and policy groups have argued that NASA and space programs in general are expensive, outmoded, relics, of the cold war. The billions of dollars allocated to space exploration each year would be better spent on ending hunger, reducing poverty, improving healthcare, or protecting the environment.
However, research suggests that public tax dollars allocated to NASA and its many programs are good investments that pay significant dividends by broadening the economy, advancing medical science, and discovering solutions to environmental challenges.
Since NASAs inception in 1958, the agency has contributed to over 1500 products and innovations that have found their way into everyday life (Comstock & Lockney, 2007). NASA has helped to create new commercial sectors, create business and employment opportunities, and increase efficiencies in existing industries and products.
Some of the industries that owe much of their existence to NASA are the communications and television industries. Satellites allow for nearly instantaneous communications across continents and oceans. Satellites developed or deployed by NASA carry vast quantities of information in a fast, reliable, and cost effective manner. They comprise the backbone of most modern day communication systems (Satellite Industry Association [SIA], 2011). Many advancements in computers and cell phones can be traced back to the integrated circuits (microchips) developed for the Apollo missions (Goudin, 2009, p. 12). Without these advancements the internet, as we know it, would not be possible.
The 1958 law that created NASA has been amended over the years to streamline and better define NASAs role in economic development and technology transfer (Comstock &...