America (A country that I love more than anything.) is a place where people are easily divided. Politically, ethnically, religiously, too often we are separated and without a unifying idea to guide society forward. This weekend, I’m going to see a film that presents a fictional story of a unifying moment. I speak of The Martian and a journey to the red planet we’ve longed to visit.
For those not in the know, The Martian began its life as a book self-published by Andy Weir. In the story, an astronaut is marooned on Mars after a storm forces the rest of his crewmates to leave the planet early. Presumed dead, he begins to work on contacting NASA in order to get himself rescued, captivating the national media back on earth in the process. I won’t spoil the ending, but the story is awesome, gloriously accurate (Weir went so far as to calculate the orbital paths in the story.) and exactly the kind of thing we need to be doing in the non-fictional world.
Of course, this isn’t likely to happen. A disturbing number of people in the United States think the piece was based on a true story and, according to a story published in 2007 on The Space Review, most think NASA gets around a quarter of the U.S. national budget every year.
In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
This year, the agency that is supposed to be made up of America’s best and brightest minds will receive less than one half of one percent of federal spending. This is pathetically embarrassing.
To those who are curious, during the space race era, the agency received a much larger portion of the fiscal pie. In 1964 and 65, the agency received 4 percent of the federal budget on average.
In order to mount a manned mission to Mars, the organization must have its budget drastically raised. In my view, they should be receiving a minimum of ten percent per year. We will never get to the red planet with $18.5 billion. Maybe back to the moon if we’re really fortunate. Or, at this rate, perhaps somewhere that is still within our atmosphere, a lackluster low earth orbit.
Now, of course it will be hard. But this is something that we as a society only stand to benefit from. The space race of the 60’s gave us the Dust Buster, Satellite Television, Smoke Detectors and the Joystick. Imagine what an actual robustly funded mission to Mars could provide? As a technical guy, I shamelessly salivate at the prospect. I urge you dear reader, call your Congressman and Senator (It’s not like they do much anyway.) and tell them you want this to happen now.
Hell, maybe they could take some money out of the Anti-Daesh program that has so far proven to be a colossal waste of money. I can only dream my friends; it takes massive action from all of us.