Back to the future with NASA
NASA’s launch of Friendship 7, the first American manned orbital space flight, in 1962.

Back to the future with NASA

Curiosity once enabled our nation to perform miracles, and with a new space age, we could do it again

BRATTLEBORO — The state of our country has seen marked improvement over the last year.

Unemployment is at its lowest level since before the recession, the stock market is setting record highs, and a manufacturing sector has added jobs for the first time in nearly two decades.

But we're working to regain lost ground while neglecting the importance of innovating, creating, and aspiring - the very aspects that once made our country great.

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Throughout the '60s and '70s, America was the planet's premier superpower. Despite the threat of an aggressive U.S.S.R. looming on the horizon, campus unrest, the conflict in Vietnam, and the civil rights movement playing out in confrontations on the street, we found time to dream about tomorrow.

The engine of this growth was the relentless advancement of science and technology. Our crown jewel, NASA, was among the most powerful agencies the world had ever seen, and promised us a future full of plenty.

We didn't outsource jobs, because no other nation could do what America could. We spawned entire industries built around new inventions. And most importantly, we gained a technological edge, strengthening our military, infrastructure, and economy.

MRIs, GPS receivers, cochlear implants, Lasik surgery, catalytic converters, the first fuel cells, cordless tools, cell phones, and the microprocessors that enable our lives are all direct results of our first forays into the abyss of space.

Due to our curiosity, hundreds of thousands of lives were saved. Patients who were born deaf were given the ability to hear. The blind could see. The environment was restored in numerous and invaluable ways, and communication became constant and universal.

Curiosity enabled our nation to perform miracles.

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Unfortunately for our nation, NASA was formed in the midst of a panic induced by the launch of the Soviet Union's Sputnik. Once our American government saw that the U.S.S.R. wasn't ready to go to the moon, we ceded the push to move forward.

Today, NASA's spending represents 0.49 percent of our federal budget. This half a penny off the tax dollar pays for all of NASA's operations: the International Space Station, Hubble telescope, Curiosity rover, all the astronauts, and more.

With only a slight increase in funding, we could go back to the moon, send people to Mars, and journey on to explore asteroids and alien worlds.

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The incentives for raising NASA's budget are diverse, powerful, and irrespective of party.

As well as providing an opportunity for our government to assume a leadership position, the economic stimulus that accompanies a revived space industry would create new jobs, the technologies developed would improve our lives, and the cultural shift that occurred in the '60s and '70s would once again become the norm.

Students would aspire to become scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and technologists. We as a nation would reclaim our former spot at the very forefront of innovation. And America would reap the benefits of an educated, industrial, and forward-thinking workforce.

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