Improving NASA's Image

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In 1962, President John F. Kennedy, in what became one of the most famous speeches of the twentieth century, proposed going to the moon by the end of the decade. At the time of his speech, the only American who had traveled into space was Alan Shepard, who flew on a fifteen minute suborbital flight (“Humans to Mars”, Outlook). Less than eight years after this speech, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. Yet since the end of the moon landings in 1972, and the Viking landings of 1976, few Americans can name any of NASA’s achievements. The events that come to mind are not the Voyager and Galileo probes that have explored Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Instead, most people think of the disasters of the Space Shuttles Challenger and, more recently, Columbia. The scientific breakthroughs that NASA promised would come are still either unseen or unknown to the majority of the public, and thus too many promising programs are eliminated in the name of the budget before they have a chance to get off the ground. NASA currently has serious problems with implementation of its programs, but through reappropriation of funds and energy, it can improve its image in the eyes of both Congress and U.S. taxpayers. NASA has proposed a 15.469 billion dollar budget for the fiscal year of 2004 (“House Science Committee Views”, Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics). Of this, approximately 6.6 billion dollars was requested for the Space Shuttle program and programs that rely on the Shuttle, specifically the International Space Station (ISS) and its affiliated research program. While this may seem like a lot of money, one must consider that the current cost of launching a Space Shuttle is 500 million dollars. Once the expense of the payload, mainte... ... middle of paper ... ...eas to NASA. This will continue the cycle of technological evolution, and it will make both NASA and space a part of every day life. These are radical changes, but they need to be made. It is imperative that NASA improve its public image with both Congress and American taxpayers, or the United States risks losing sight of space and all the wealth and progress it has to offer. If enough people band together, NASA and the U.S. government may hear our voices, and with our support, NASA may be able to return to the glory and praise it once knew as the finest space agency in the world. 1 NASA has planned more than 40 shuttle flights (“Space Station Assembly”, Para. 2) at an estimated cost of $40 billion to complete assembly of the ISS. Given the rather high estimate of $100 million for a heavy lift rocket, the same mass launch capability would cost about $1 billion.
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