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The School Newspaper of Texas High School

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EDITORIAL: The new frontier?

Students question the future of space exploration
Truth Dukes

In 1957, Sputnik 1, the first satellite to be launched into space by man, marked the beginning of the Space Race. In 1961, the first man flew into space. In 1969, Neil Armstrong iconically took, “one giant leap for mankind,” as he became the first American man on the moon. 

In the past 60 years, the world has ventured beyond the surly bonds of Earth, undoubtedly leaving a mark on the world, both educationally and economically. We now know more about our galaxy, something that was once completely unknown. Private companies continue to emerge with the intent to send civilians to space for vacation or to acquire rare resources. The possibilities are limitless.

At least at first glance.

However, once you look a little closer, it becomes clear that space exploration hit a wall, or a meteor, so to speak. No huge breakthroughs have presented themselves to the media. No one has set foot on the moon since 1972. No one talks about NASA anymore.

That leaves us to ask the big question: why? What happened to the fervor fueling the Space Race? As many answers could be given as there are stars in the sky; however, one answer rises above them all: politics. 

During the Cold War, there was an overwhelming political pressure to demonstrate the strength of the United States against the Soviet Union. This led to NASA’s budget peaking at $63 billion in 1964 (adjusted for inflation), and one of the strongest motivators to exist, national pride.

Leaps and bounds were made in terms of discovery and innovation. Students eagerly watched launches from their desks. Adults anxiously gathered around the television as broadcast after broadcast aired. 

As kids, we watched astronauts on the International Space Station and dreamed of becoming astronauts ourselves. Yet, somewhere between the imaginings of our adolescence and the introduction to the job market, that interest in space travel disappeared. 

Most people don’t care that NASA hasn’t launched a shuttle since 2011 or that they have a rover on Mars. People have talked about colonizing other planets for years now, but no new information is actually heard about it.

It’s hard to say why the public stopped caring about NASA after the space race. Maybe it simply lost its novelty after the first decade or two. Maybe people didn’t care so much about space exploration as they did beating the Soviets. Maybe the public became scared of the mysteries space holds, the dangers presented following the Challenger and Columbia disasters.

No matter what caused the loss of public support, it soon resulted in a loss of the government’s support as well. After all, they only care about something when it helps them get re-elected. Space didn’t do that.

Currently, the proposed budget for NASA is $27.2 billion. While this might seem like a large number, it doesn’t begin to compare with the budget of the 1960s as they had over $60 billion set aside to explore the unknowns for the future education of the next generation. Out of all government programs, NASA only receives 0.3% of federal funding, a fraction of what they once had. They’ve come to rely on other organizations like SpaceX and Roskosmos, Elon Musk’s and the Russian’s space program, respectively.

However, the government fails to see what could be gained by funding this program. The benefits go beyond just space. If further exploration was advocated, there would be a limitless list of possibilities. 

The STEM field would be expanded, bringing pride to our education system. We would see an influx of new inventions and innovations, which will in turn promote economic growth. Technologies we use on a daily basis will become safer, improving our quality of life. 

From this perspective, the benefits surely outweigh whatever costs there might be.

Just because space exploration has diminished in the public’s eyes doesn’t mean it’s not important. It is imperative that we reinstate our drive for exploration for the benefit of everyone. Who knows? Maybe we’ll achieve the unimaginable. 

After all, no one knows what’s written in the stars; it’s up to us to go above and beyond to discover it. 

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About the Contributor
Truth Dukes
Truth Dukes, Social Media Manager
Truth Dukes is a third year returning year staff photographer and is the current Social Media Editor for photography. She enjoys creative multimedia work, and plans to study Media Marketing after high school at the University of North Texas. Truth is excited to help lead the photographers this year aside the other photo editors, but is sad to finish her last year of being a staff photographer.

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