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How Much Does NASA Cost?

$1 of NASA Spending Is a Catalyst for $10 of Economic Benefit



IN SPACE - MAY 17: In this handout from NASA, Astronauts Michael Good (L) and Mike Massimino, both STS-125 mission specialists, participate in the mission's fourth spacewalk to repair the Hubble Space Telescope May 17, 2009 in Space. The space shuttle Atlantis' mission is to overhaul the Hubble Space Telescope in order to extend its working life.

Photo NASA via Getty Images

The Hubble telescope photographed this dying star floating in a blue haze of hot gas. The nebula is a light-year in diameter and is located 2,000 light-years from Earth. The blue is very hot helium, closest to the star. Green is ionized oxygen, farthest from the star. Red is ionized nitrogen, also farthest from the star. The gradation of color shows how the gas glows because it's bathed in ultraviolet radiation from the star, whose surface is 216,000 degrees F.

Photo By Nasa/Getty Images

If it weren't for NASA, we wouldn't even know that this is what Earth looks like from space.

Credit: Günay Mutlu/Getty Images

The NASA (National Aeronautic Space Administration) budget for FY 2015 is $17.5 billion. Congress appropriated slightly more, $17.6 billion, for FY 2014 (which runs from October 1, 2013 - September 30, 2014). Funding for both years are slightly higher than the $16.9 billion spent in FY 2013. 

What Does the NASA Budget Provide?

NASA will focus on the Space Launch System. This heavy-lift rocket will carry astronauts to the moon, Mars and even asteroids. The Orion crew capsule will be tested in 2014, the first new U.S. design to carry humans in 40 years. The U.S. will regain its ability to shuttle its own crew and cargo to the International Space Station. It hasn't done this since NASA retired the space shuttle Discovery in 2012. NASA continues to support research in the space station.

NASA will use its new deep-space system to explore asteroids so it can protect Earth from any impacts. It will identify potential asteroid threats, fly a human to an asteroid, and redirect it. It will also capture a small asteroid and place it on the moon for astronauts to study.

NASA will replace the aging Hubble Space Telescope with the new James Webb Space Telescope, planned to launch in 2018. (Source: NASA, NASA Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Request, April 10, 2014)

How Does NASA's Cost Affect the Economy?

A report by the Space Foundation estimated that the space-related activities contributed $180 billion to the economy in 2005. More than 60% of this came from commercial goods and services created by companies related to space technology. The space economy includes commercial space products and services, commercial infrastructure and support industries, US government space budgets outside of NASA (such as Department of Defense, National Reconnaissance Office, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Energy, Federal Aviation administration, National Science Foundation, Federal Communications Commission, and United States Geological Survey), and non-US government space budgets.This means that each dollar of NASA spending is a catalyst for $10 of economic benefit

That's because NASA is in a unique position to provide some of the technological innovation that drives the space economy. This created many of the goods and services we take for granted every day:

  • Heart defibrillators
  • GPS, which was developed by the Air Force for military applications
  • Weather and communication satellites 
  • ATM, which provide an immediate electronic response via satellite.
  • Other technologies developed for exploring space are now used to increase crop yields or search for good fishing regions.

A 2002 study by Professor H.R. Hertzfeld of George Washington University showed there is a large return to the companies work with NASA on its research contracts. These companies are able to commercialize the products developed and market them. The 15 companies studied received $1.5 billion in benefits from a NASA R&D investment of $64 million.

Small companies didn't receive as much benefit, because they didn't have the ability to market the technology on a larger scale. The study concludes that NASA could create greater economic benefit by continuing the relationship with the companies they work with. NASA could also help open additional financial and marketing doors for these companies.

These benefits trickle down to everyday life. Since 1976, there were 1,400 NASA inventions that wound up as products or services,such as kidney dialysis machines, CAT scanners, and even freeze-dried food.

How Does NASA Funding Compare to Other Departments?

This amount is $1 billion less than what was spent in FY 2010. It's also much less than these other departments:

On the other hand, NASA funding is larger than all other departments, including Transportation ($14 billion) Treasury ($12.4 billion) and the Department of the Interior ($11.5 billion). Furthermore, almost all departments have seen their budgets slashed to reduce the Federal deficit and debt. Although NASA's budget has been cut, its percentage of discretionary spending has actually grown -- from 1% in 2010 to 1.7% in 2015. Therefore, NASA's priority ranking hasn't dropped, even though its budget has. (Source: OMB, FY 2014 Budget, Table S-11Article updated May 19, 2014

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