Space exploration has always been a popular topic of discussion ever since the launching of Apollo 11. Even more recent, Elon Musk’s space program, SpaceX, has announced that they will be sending citizens to space which demonstrates that through a variety of space related events, society has been swayed into supporting space exploration. In fact, Pew Research Center, a non-profit fact tank located in Washington D.C, found that eight in ten Americans believe that space exploration is essential for the United States and that the space station has been a good investment for the country (Pew News 2018). Through analyzing the current status of society, many may wonder about societies suggestions on the future of space exploration. However, space programs have been silent for several months due to lack of communication and the government forcing it to shutdown. The government shutdown has been detrimental to space exploration by creating fear amongst the people in society, preventing the creation of advanced technology, and raising the chances of shutting down private space exploring programs.
Societal Shake Up
Space exploration has been a major topic that society has depended on for thousands of years. It has kept society out of chaos and encouraged nationalism. The Catholic church used the topic of space in order to keep society out of chaos. The Catholic church had analyzed the Bible literally which caused society to believe that the Earth was in the center of the universe. Various popes claimed to have viewed the stars revolving the Earth which supported the Catholic church’s literary understanding of the bible, allowing the church to have control over society. Halting space exploration would create fear in society which can be seen through the 2018 U.S government shutdown. The government shutdown has caused NASA to halt which implies that “about 95 percent of NASA employees won't be able to go to work… [and NASA] won't be able to keep tabs on NASA missions and discoveries as closely; the folks responsible for running NASA TV and keeping the agency's website updated will be furloughed for the duration of the shutdown”(Wall 2019) explains Michael Wall, a senior writer at Space.com that has wandered through California's Mojave Desert with scientists on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity mission and helped launch balloon missions through Earth's auroras in Alaska. Majority of people that work for NASA will not be able to receive income for the duration of the government shutdown which indicates fear in society. The halt of space exploration would additionally cause fear in society which can be seen through the launch of Sputnik during the cold war. The American public was in fear when they realized that the Soviet Union was ahead of them in space exploration and concluded Sputnik could be a spying tool. The American public was fearful due to the fact that the Soviet Union had better technology which was a direct factor of the leisurely progress of the U.S space program. Sunday Morning, a news branch part of CBS that hosts interviews, found from Von Hardesty, the curator of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, that “[President] Eisenhower took a lot of the heat for that because although he tried to reassure the country, everything he said seemed to exude complacency, inertia and inactivity”(Cbs 2007).
Lack of Advancement of Technology
The lack of funding has been keeping space programs from rapidly developing new technology to get into space. NASA’s promise of space colonization has not been fulfilled but seems to be possible in the coming decade. However, if funding of space exploration was halted, plans for the future would be destroyed and advanced technology would be impossible to create. NASA has contributed to airborne travel by efficiently creating planes and experimenting with projects. In one case, NASA was able to create the X-43A which was a plane that was able to travel at approximately 7000 mph. Brian Dunbar, the Senior Researcher for Advanced Materials in the Advanced Materials and Processing Branch with a Ph.D. degree in Chemistry from Virginia Commonwealth University, states that “The X-43A/Hyper-X program accomplished several important goals. It provided the first free flight data on scramjet engines. It also showed the predictive tools used to design the engine were accurate. They could then be used to design more advanced scramjets with longer burn times”(Dunbar 2017). NASA was able to devise new theories for the perfect jet through experimental flight. These theories were used to advance space shuttles and make existing planes run with efficiency. A sudden halt in funding would seize the advancement of planes and would be detrimental to society for it would crush the possibilities for citizens to go into space.
Fall of Third Party Organizations
The inability to create technology is a factor of reduced or no funding which also can lead to the shutdown of private space exploring companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Loren Grush, a senior editor at The Verge explains that, “A shutdown won’t have a big impact on the space agency’s biggest projects, but commercial companies like SpaceX — which rely on NASA and other government hardware — may suffer schedule delays”(Grush 2018). This implies that SpaceX relies on NASA for resources and although SpaceX and the government are not directly connected, the cutting of funds would affect third party programs. Additionally, Courtney Albon, the senior editor for aviation and space at Inside Defense who graduated from American University in 2008, where she studied journalism and sociology, explains that “SpaceX successfully launched its upgraded Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket booster on Sept. 29, the first of three launches scheduled this year to qualify the company’s booster to fly Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle-class launches for the Air Force. Col. Kathleen Cook, an Air Force Space Command spokeswoman, told Inside the Air Force in an Oct. 17 email that a stop-work order issued to Aerospace Corp. during the shutdown slowed the service’s process for qualifying the launch as eligible towards the company’s EELV certification”(Albon 2013). Without NASA’s support, SpaceX had trouble in attempting to obtain EELV certification, an approval for launch on the United States Air Force Launch Program. SpaceX eventually launched the Falcon 9 but would have been able to launch earlier if NASA had been able to support. In order to prove SpaceX’s reliance in NASA, Samantha Masunaga, who covers aerospace for the Los Angeles Times and is an alumna of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and UCLA, stated that, “NASA has long been SpaceX's most important customer, providing contracts to deliver cargo and eventually astronauts to the International Space Station. And the Hawthorne company will need NASA's technical support to achieve the first of its grand ambitions in deep space”(Masunaga 2017). Without the government supporting NASA, third party space exploring programs are sure to fall.
Due to the shutdown of the government, the space explorers have been followed up by a majority of unintentional negative consequences. To prevent the failure of space exploration, space programs should be more transparent in their actions so the public can be confident in supporting space exploration. As a solution to the lack of funding, Neil deGrasse Tyson, an American astrophysicist, author, science communicator, and Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space, suggests that “doubling NASA's budget”(Chow 2016) would be the best solution. With an increase in budget, NASA would be able to execute deep space missions and asteroid mining and return with enough material to compensate for the money consumed to asteroid mining. However, this cannot be executed unless space programs become transparent and convince the public that space exploration is worth investing in. Thus, the fate of space exploration lies in the hands of NASA and SpaceX to come up with a solution to become more transparent in their actions in order for space exploration to be seen as one giant leap for mankind.
- Albon, Courtney. “Government Shutdown Stalls SpaceX EELV Launch Certification.” Inside Missile Defense, vol. 19, no. 22, 2013, pp. 7–8. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/24787998.
- Cbs. “How Sputnik Changed America.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 30 Sept. 2007, www.cbsnews.com/news/how-sputnik-changed-america/.
- Chow, Denise. “Boosting NASA's Budget Will Help Fix Economy: Neil DeGrasse Tyson.” Space.com, Space.com, 8 Mar. 2016, www.space.com/15310-nasa-budget-future-space-exploration.html.
- Dunbar, Brian. “X-43A Hyper-X.” NASA, NASA, 10 May 2017, www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/history/pastprojects/HyperX/index.html.
- Grush, Loren. “What a Government Shutdown Will Mean for NASA and SpaceX.” The Verge, The Verge, 21 Jan. 2018, www.theverge.com/2018/1/19/16910378/government-shutdown-2018-nasa-spacex-iss-falcon-heavy.
- “Majority of Americans Believe Space Exploration Remains Essential.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 6 June 2018, www.pewresearch.org/science/2018/06/06/majority-of-americans-believe-it-is-essential-that-the-u-s-remain-a-global-leader-in-space/.
- Masunaga, Samantha. “Don't Expect a Space Race between SpaceX and NASA. They Need Each Other.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 5 Mar. 2017, www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-spacex-nasa-20170301-story.html.
- Wall, Mike. “Government Shutdown 2018: How It Affects NASA.” Space.com, Space.com, 15 Jan. 2019, www.space.com/42823-nasa-government-shutdown-plan-2018.html.