NASA’s budget for the fiscal year 2021 is $23.3 billion. But what if it had the US military’s $600 billion budget?
NASA has gained a special place in people’s hearts since the ’60s when it achieved the seemingly impossible. Landing humans on the Moon.
The entire cost of the legendary Apollo program was just $136 billion (compared to 2007 dollar rates) in 13 years or $10 billion per year.
Since then, NASA has colonized Mars with its robots as well as flown by every planet in our solar system.
It has done all of this on a tiny budget.
The US spends more on space exploration than any other country in the world. A big chunk of this investment goes to NASA, the country’s leading agency for space exploration. But the entire budget of NASA and the National Science Foundation, combined, is only ~$25 billion. That’s about 4% of our military budget.
Imagine if the government gave NASA hundreds of billions of dollars a year like what they give the US military.
What would the space administration accomplish if it had the US military’s $600 billion budget? Would people be spending their vacation on the moon? What about visiting other solar system moons?
Some years ago, a Redditor took this question to NASA’s administrator Charles Bolden. His answer was very simple. He said NASA wouldn’t add any project or attempt to speed up the timeline on current projects. Instead, they would use the money to increase the reliability/safety of NASA’s current projects. He mentioned how there are things that you just can’t rush, and that “throwing money” at them doesn’t really make it better.
This probably isn’t the answer you were looking for, but after all, this was the opinion of the man himself.
But the reality could be much more fascinating than this.
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Let’s take the International Space Station as an example. Since it launched in 1998, over 200 people have lived and worked in the largest artificial satellite that has ever orbited the Earth.
The space administration wants to defund the International Space Station after 2024 when the US’s commitment to the multinational project expires.
And now, China is set to begin constructing the new space station this year.
However, with another $100 billion, NASA could afford to keep doing research on the ISS for at least another 20 years. This would also allow them to send more astronauts there.
Back on the earth, NASA would be able to install futuristic mechanical upgrades to allow faster transmission of data from various space missions. With more advanced probes and satellites into orbit, there would be new and fascinating discoveries more frequently than ever.
Also, the James Webb Space Telescope, which, after so many delays, is finally set for a launch by the end of this year, would probably be operating in space by now.
And then there’s Mars. The military’s budget would pay for a crewed mission to Mars with tens of billions to spare. NASA estimates it would cost about $450 billion to land the first humans on Mars by the late 2030s or early 2040s.
If we talk about numbers, with the US military’s $600 billion budget, NASA would be able to send 40,000 people over a period of 10 years.
With such a budget, humans would be able to build a colony on the moon, turning it into a base for our trips to deep space.
NASA’s Europa Clipper which is set to launch by the end of 2024, would probably launch this year. This mission is designed to conduct a detailed analysis of Jupiter’s moon Europa and investigate whether the icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life.
Also, with such financial backing, NASA would be able to research each planet in our solar system simultaneously.
These are only just some of the things NASA would be able to do if it had a military budget. But we could also talk about dedicated orbiters around each planet and moon and heaps of funding distributed amongst aerospace start-up companies and universities researching new materials. Humans would also experience huge improvements in air travel, clean energy, the expansion of our species into outer space, and our understanding of physics and the genesis of the cosmos.
Long story short, in just a single generation, an investment of this scale in science and technology could transform our world in a way we’ve never seen before.