In this week’s issue of The Space Review, Eric Hedman argues that the best solution to NASA’s current problems implementing the Vision for Space Exploration is to increase its budget so that it accounts for a full one percent of the federal budget, compared to its current level of about 0.6 percent. The idea isn’t new: a number of groups, like the NSS, have previously called for raising NASA’s share of the budget to one percent. As Hedman states, “Going out and backing space exploration by saying it is only one percent of our federal budget sounds to the average taxpayer not much different than six tenths of one percent.” That doesn’t sound like much of a change, but when put in absolute dollars—an increase of on the order of $10 billion to NASA’s annual budget—it makes it much harder for Congress to swallow, giving all the competing demands on the budget and the relatively low priority given to space.
That article reminds me that I forgot to discuss here an article I wrote last week for The Space Review about the new approach NASA has been taking in recent months to sell the Vision and the agency in general. This approach leans heavily on “soft power” logic: if the US returns to the Moon and makes other advances in space exploration, it will give the US geopolitical prestige. Yet, as I note, the same argument can be used for spending in other areas, such as dealing with climate change, with potentially greater effectiveness than in space. Such arguments are, on their own, not compelling enough to support government spending on civil space, particularly in a time when people are more willing to cut space spending than any other major federal program.