Right up front, I admit I am a fan of the US Space Program (see info on working the International Space Station on 2M FM). This does not mean that I think NASA always spends the taxpayer’s money effectively,but I basically support the US Government spending money on space exploration. Thus, my interest was snagged by a recent survey that shows the American public is clueless about how much money NASA spends. The question posed was what portion of the national budget is allocated to NASA?
According to The Space Review:
NASA’s allocation, on average, was estimated to be approximately 24% of the national budget (the NASA allocation in 2007 was approximately 0.58% of the budget.)
I wonder how I would have answered the question. I probably would have gotten it wrong but would have put NASA’s budget in the one to two percent category.
Even more telling is this item from The Space Review:
In October of 2006, on the 49th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, CBS News anchor Katie Couric summarized this attitude when she concluded her nightly broadcast by saying, “NASA’s requested budget for 2007 is nearly $17 billion. There are some who argue that money would be better spent on solid ground, for medical research, social programs or in finding solutions to poverty, hunger and homelessness… I can’t help but wonder what all that money could do for people right here on planet Earth.”
Thanks, Katie…that is really insightful reporting (NOT). The NASA budget is roundoff error in the federal budget, so it will not make the difference in solving poverty and homelessness. I think the basic problem is that when the dollars get above about about $100M, the general public can’t really comprehend the number. They just lose track of the relative magnitude since it is so freaking big. You might as well be saying “we are spending a bazillion gazillion dollars” on NASA. While $1 trillion is 1000 times bigger than $1Billion, it all pretty much sounds the same.
I think there should be a short math quiz at the voting booth….otherwise, we’ll end up with people voting on stuff that they are incapable of understanding. Uh, oh, too late.