Throughout the 1960s, space exploration was viewed with a sense of wonder and awe throughout the United States and helped create interest in science and engineering among an entire generation of young Americans. However, 50 years after John Glenn’s historic orbital flight around the Earth in the tiny Friendship 7 capsule, there isn’t much fanfare over NASA’s current exploits– few of which carry the promise of rocketing astronauts into space anytime soon, especially with the retirement of the Space Shuttle program last year.
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson believes we need to reverse this trend and promote space exploration and research as a way to help foster innovative ideas within our own culture. In an interview with NPR, Tyson explained that not only would a heavy investment of government funds into NASA help revitalize the American space program, it would also help “build the foundation of tomorrow’s economy.”
The problem, of course, is money. With many Americans believing the federal government is too bloated and even stretched too thin, is it practical to invest money in NASA when it might be needed elsewhere? Alan Boss, a world renowned authority on planetary and stellar research believes the devil is in the budgetary details: