The American Space Program Outweigh Its Costs Essay

The American Space Program Outweigh Its Costs Essay

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NASA has been one of the most visible agencies of the United States government since its creation in 1958. The agency also maintains a high level of public support. A 2009 Gallup public opinion poll showed that 58% of Americans think that benefits to the American space program outweigh its costs. The same poll also found that 60% of the public supported maintaining or raising the current level of spending on NASA. (Jones, 2009) While the American public appears to support NASA’s work and spending, other research indicates that they are generally ignorant as to actual economics of the space program. In a 2007 poll conducted by the Space Review respondents estimated that spending on NASA approached 24% of all federal spending. In fact, the single largest area of federal spending at that time (and currently) was defense, coming in at approximately 22% of federal outlays. (Dittmar, 2007) It seems clear that the public could use a better understanding of the economic costs and benefits of the space program.
This paper will seek to address two main questions. The first question is does the United States’ space program generate a net benefit to the American economy? This will be answered through an economic cost benefit analysis. I will examine the costs of the space program, mostly as represented by government spending on NASA. Considerations in this analysis will include current spending levels as compared to historic trends, the cause of shifts in spending levels, and spending on specific projects and programs. In analyzing the benefits of the space program I will measure the employment impact in both the government and private sector, the impact of gross domestic product, community-level impact, and technological growth ...

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...Those questions cannot be satisfactorily answered within the scope of this paper and they do inhibit our ability to get the one number to represent the overall cost to the American public of the space program. For purposes of this paper we will assume that the NASA budget is the best representative of spending on the American space program. Total funding on a broadly defined American government space program likely equals somewhere between 0.75 and 1% of all federal government spending, or between about $25.9 billion and $34.5 billion. This represents a much smaller portion of government spending than the median citizen would likely guess, as indicated by polling data. In absolute terms this range of funding is still a large amount and surpasses the gross domestic products of several countries, such as that other major recipient of American funding- Afghanistan.

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