You Decide: Should We Spend Government Money on Space Exploration?

The Mars rover Curiosity successfully landed on Mars Monday morning to begin a mission of exploration of the planet’s surface geology and to search for traces of water and possible evidence of organic materials. This project is only one in a series of robotic and possible manned missions to the Red Planet that NASA has projected for development in the next few decades. But the cost for these explorations is a point of debate, especially now, when the economy is not strong and the country is struggling to pull out of a long-running recession. So, the question for you to decide is:

Should we spend government and taxpayer money on space exploration?


–NO–

The most common argument against continued investment in space exploration is that the money should be used to solve problems here at home. The problems and concerns obviously vary from individual to individual, but some common issues that could use money from NASA might include:

  • providing stimulus to the nation’s economy
  • inject more money into a critical federal program such as Medicaid, Social Security, or the military

–YES–

Supporters of space exploration, either manned (such as our trips to the moon or on the orbiting International Space Station) or unmanned (such as the Curiosity rover or other robotic vehicles), believe that the benefits of the program outweigh its costs. They might argue the following:

  • technology developed from these missions can lead to consumer product innovations
  • advancement in scientific understanding results in future quality of life improvements for everyone

Dig Deeper

This is only a starting point for a discussion of this topic. Use the Internet at your school or your library to research the costs of space exploration, the drawbacks and benefits of this activity, and possible people who represent either side of the argument. Gather your information and conduct a classroom debate on the topic.