Repost of a Quora answer found here.
Space agencies are funded by politicans in response to the percieved will of the people.
Different countries citizens want different things and so infrastructure, defense spending, research, environmental protection, peoples rights spending and so on fluctuates according to that changing will.
NASA is an agency of the government like any other.
The point of any government is, in theory, to represent the will of the people. Due to a phenomona known as the ‘agency problem’. The actual objective of the government is to fulfill the will of the people in such a way so as to stay in power.
This conflict is what has lead to the wild fluctuations in space funding over time. As seen below (source).
That blip in time where the budget reached over 5% was the Apollo era. It’s when a nationalistic competitive goal set by JFK led to the most productive period of space exploration in human history.
NASA went from launching monkeys
NASA strapped monkeys to V2 rockets, gotten from the Germans as WW2 reparations in the late 1940’s. To having a mans footsteps mark the moon in 1969.
The moon wasn’t reached for science.
Or for the good of humanity. One group of people wanted to prove themselves ideologically superior to another, that’s why the moon was reached. It was reached because a country could only see the good of itself when it was beating another.
The USSR ultimately dissolved and the US won, temporarily. They ran out of people to compete with. The people’s spacebound dreams faltered in response to this lack of competition.
Without anyone threatening to get there first, why bother going?
So they didn’t.
Thus as the above chart shows funding dwindled in response.
I won’t dismiss the achievements of NASA and its stalwart staff during that time.
But without the massive budget and all-consuming mission many small victories took the place of the moonshot.
Things today are different. As seen below there are now two other nations spending at least a third of what NASA does, and several more spending a respectable fraction.
These competing nations have goals. They’re making plans to reach other solar bodies and to achieve firsts for mankind.
NASA has noticed.
They’ve announced plans to explore asteroids by 2025 and orbit Mars by 2030. The moonshots returned (source).
There are two conclusions to draw from all this.
- Space agencies are funded by the will of the people.
- The direction of these funds is directed by the trajectories of other countries.
What does this mean for us?
- Every voice adds dollars away from needless projects promoting isolationism and partisanship and redirects them towards projects that promote the well being and future of us all.
- If every country pursues goals of unity and progress for humanity, harmony results. A harmony of symbiotic relationships and achievements for everyone.
- If the people of the world grow together, they grow together. That will make the world prosper by more than we can imagine.
Think about that. People doing what’s right leads to change that benefits everyone on a global scale. Change happens because we ask for it.
Not enough people are asking.
So raise your voice, share what you believe and never let someone louder than you tell you something wrong is right.
You have the power to spark great change. Your voice and beliefs have value and they deserve to be heard. Speak up and be the catalyst the world needs to realign itself with visions of unity, progress and sustainability.
It begins today.
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