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Human space exploration is exciting. Robotic explorers can venture great distances from Earth without concerns for safety. Robotic space exploration is much less expensive. Should space explorers be human, robotic, or both? As a start, discuss your views including whether one is more appropriate now and another at a later time when technological improvements and innovations have been realized. Read NASA articles concerning robotic vs. human space exploration and some of the benefits of the space program by browsing through the NASA websites http://www.nasa.gov/ and http://www.nasa.gov/externalflash/MedicalBenefits/main.html. Keep in mind, however, on January 14, 2004, President Bush gave a speech in which he announced the cancellation of the Space Shuttle program. One issue that John McCain (R-Ariz.) joined by Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and David Vitter (R-La.), raised was that “Once the space shuttle is retired, Russia stands to possess the only means of transporting astronauts to and from the space station.” Currently that is the case – the United States is no longer able to launch its own astronauts to space. So now what? According to space agency representatives, some astronauts will simply stay on the ground to help with the planning and design of future missions and vehicles. Others will accept rides aboard Russia’s Soyuz space capsules to and from the International Space Station (ISS ), where they’ll work. According to Chris Buckley, ISS Flight Controller since 2006, “On March 14, 2011 NASA made a deal with the Russian Space Agency (RSA) for 12 trips to ISS at $753 million ($63 million/seat). This new set of trips will support US astronauts through 2015.” Russian Soyuz spacecraft now ferry astronauts to and from orbit and apparently will do so until private U.S. spaceships become available or NASA has the funds to develop future missions and space vehicles. These efforts cost money, though. “NASA’s budget has generally been approximately 1% of the federal budget from the early 1970s on, but briefly peaked to approximately 3.3% in 1966 during the Apollo Moon program. Recent public perception of the NASA budget has been shown to be significantly different from reality; a 1997 poll indicated that Americans who responded thought on average that 20% of the federal budget went to NASA. The actual percentage of federal budget that NASA has been allocated has been steadily dropping since the Apollo program and as of 2012 the NASA budget was estimated to be 0.48% of the federal budget. In a March 2012 meeting of the United States Senate Science Committee, Neil deGrasse Tyson testified that “Right now, NASA’s annual budget is half a penny on your tax dollar.” NASA’s 2015 budget was less than half a percent of the federal budget (0.45 percent to be more accurate) per professional astronomer and writer Phil Plait. He stated, “To give you a sense of scale, take a one dollar bill, and a pair of scissors. They’d better be sharp: Slice off a sliver just 0.7 mm wide off the end—that’s about 1/40th of an inch. That’s the total amount of NASA’s budget compared with what we spend overall. A slice that narrow won’t even reach the ink printing on the bill.” Since NASA is paid for by tax dollars, its budget is made public as are all of the space photographs and information/data gained through its missions. For example, all Hubble photographs are free for public use, including you. However, this would not be the case if the Hubble Space Telescope was privately owned and controlled. 2016 Update – According to The Atlantic science archive dated Dec 17, 2015: NASA is About to Have Its Biggest Budget in a Decade! If Congress passes the spending bill it’s now considering, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will be able to spend $19.3 billion next year, an increase of more than $1.3 billion

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