American Society and Its Influence on Funding of NASA Essay Example

  • Category: United States, World,
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  • Published: 22 August 2020
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This paper explores if American’s approval of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has had any impact on the funding over the course of its existence. A graph of NASA’s funding from the 1960’s to 2018 was used to determine if there was a direct relationship (NASA Aeronautics and Space Reports of the President, 2019).See Table 1. Five published sources were used to analyze NASA’s achievement in different eras and whether American’s approval influenced the branch's funding. The articles demonstrated that Americans are fond of NASA and support an increase in funding during the Space Race and in the wake of recent scientific discoveries on Mars in 2015. However, a detailed analysis of the graph determines that American citizens played no role in NASA’s funding.

The Nation and Its Influence On NASA’s Funding

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is considered the most influential branch of government, as it paved to scientific discoveries only seen and mentioned in Science-Fiction genre books. It has captivated Americans for more than 50 years and is admired by many. Although society has moved on from the lunar landing of 1959, it is important to question whether American’s were stakeholders and influencers of NASA’s funding during the Space Race and in current Space Exploration programs (Harris 2012). According to NASA’s Budget history, NASA’s funding during the Space Race peaked 32 billion dollars and has dropped to a mere 19 billion USD (NASA Aeronautics and Space Reports of the President, 2019). See Table 1. This paper examines whether American citizens overall view and approval on NASA has impacted its funding over the years.

NASA during the Space Race

NASA was founded July 29, 1958 during the Eisenhower administration as a response to the Soviet Union's launch of the Sputnik late 1957 (NASA 2015). At the time the administration failed to fuel funding for the program as it was years behind in research in comparison to the Soviets. In 1959, NASA was given 2.2 Billion dollars, measured in FY2018 dollars, most of the money was used on intel to catch up to the information gathered from the Soviet Union on rocket propulsion systems. The following year NASA received 3.5 Billion dollar (NASA Aeronautics and Space Reports of the President, 2019). Refer to Table 1 At the time, space meant nothing to the nation since they weren’t the ones achieving what the Soviet Union was during Eisenhower’s presidency. However, History says otherwise. 

On November 22, 1961 John F. Kennedy was elected as the 35th president of the United States. He ultimately became the man who helped captivate the nation with the promise of space achievement and helped fund the space exploration initiative (NASA 2015). If it were not for him, the lunar landing of 1969 would have not been possible if it weren’t for an everlasting speech, he made at Rice University in September 1962 that still echoes in American Culture to this day. He said, “There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, flew the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? 

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too” (DeSante 2017).

He sent the dire notion to graduates and the American people to shift the nation’s attention to space program as it was the foundation for peace a brighter future. After his speech, the space exploration program was highly looked upon amongst the young. But at the time, many older citizens questioned whether the funding was truly necessary and didn’t support the investment in NASA. With approval from the branches of the government, Kennedy allocated 11.8 Billion dollars, in FY2018 dollars, to the space program to help fund the development of technology to allow human spaceflight (NASA Aeronautics and Space Reports of the President, 2019). 

The following year, NASA received 23.5 billion dollars in funding. His demise didn’t stop the United States from funding the space program. After his assassination, the budget of NASA climbed to 32 Billion dollars in 1964 and 1965 (NASA Aeronautics and Space Reports of the President, 2019. 

The very man who has come to symbolize hope for space was initially not a firm believer in the space program. In 1962, Kennedy held a meeting with his advisors and NASA administrators about a countermeasure to best the Soviet Union. When brought up the topic of space, Kennedy simply replied “I’m not interested in space” (Garber 2012) He was reluctant to fund the space program because of the high possibility of failure, especially since technology was so primitive and a huge percentage of funds would go just into researching the physics of rocket propulsion.  

Historian Richard Collin states that Kennedy, “could not be convinced that all rockets were not a waste of money and space navigation even worse” (Garber 12) Another meeting with his advisors helped changed the former presidents on space with the topic of a lunar landing with astronauts, who at the time were role models to many Americans as they symbolized hope and bravery. With a lunar landing, Kennedy saw America and humanity on the path to a brighter future. 

He urged that, “the dramatic achievements in space which occurred should have made us all, that the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere, who are deciding which road they should take… Now it is time to take longer strides — time for a great new American enterprise — time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways hold the key to our future on earth” (Scoles 2012).

Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 did not alter NASA’s funding. The funding was well above 30 billion US dollars for the 3 years following the Kennedy Administration. However, NASA’s high budget soon tanked from 29 billion USD in 1967 to 21 billion in 1969. Refer to Table 1.

In 1969, the whole world witnessed US Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin land on the moon. Over 600 million people around the globe tuned in to this event televised (Harris 2012). This televised program was the largest viewed event in history and captivated families all around. This American triumph was what Kennedy envisioned back in 1962 (Harris 2012). Many Americans came to support NASA and its scientific research after witnessing this. Many thoughts NASA’s funding would increase in the wake of this human triumph, but it didn’t. NASA’s budget faced a budget cut of 2 billion dollars the following two years leaving it at a low 12 billion dollars by the end of the Space Race in 1975. 

Americans Approval of NASA

Over the course of NASA’s existence, the program has always had a special place in the American culture for its most notable achievement: The Lunar landing. A survey conducted on Americans about this federal branch shows how important NASA still is to Americans in the 21st century.

According to a survey conducted in January 2015 by the Pew Research Center, NASA topped all other US federal agencies in favorability amongst Americans, which lies at 68% ( Motel 2015). Refer to Table 3. The survey determined that NASA is appreciated the most by educated Americans due to the scientific data it collects and its hope for a future found commonly in Science Fiction novels. For the following data, refer to Table 3. 78% of Americans who have received a graduate degree approve of NASA (Motel 2015). 71% of Americans who have graduated and are currently attending college favor NASA (Motel 2015). 61% of students attending high school or less approve of NASA (Motel 2015). A huge percentage of political parties also approve of NASA, independents lay at 70%, democrats 68% and Republicans lay at 63% approval (Motel 2015). 

Aside from favorability, members of the American Association for Science (68%) and the American public (64%) said that the funding given to NASA has been a good investment for the United States, as it makes the country one of the largest contributors to scientific research (Motel 2014).Refer to Table 4. Towards the end of the year, the approval went up a total of three percent in each category as NASA released images of Mars terrain being terraformed by the erosion of water. Aside from higher approval ratings, NASA’s funding did increase, but nothing close to what was seen during the Space Race.

NASA and the Mar’s Program

John F. Kennedy once said, “I tell you the New Frontier is here, whether we seek it or not. Beyond the frontier [Earth] are the uncharted areas of science and space.” Sixty years later, the new frontier NASA seeks is the neighboring planet Mars (Scoles 2014). In 2015, NASA’s budget was laid at 18.9 billion, approximately 4.6 billion USD was used by the Mars Exploration Program.

Within the last decade, NASA has collected more than 140 gigabits of raw data by the Mars Exploration Program’s Curiosity rover located on Mars (Scoles 2014). In 2015, Mars was considered a dead planet largely due to the lack of evidence of life within photographs taken from distant satellites. But this didn’t deter the hundreds of scientists committed to researching this planet. Nardine Barlow, a Mar’s expert and professor at Northern Arizona University Flagstaff found that, “Orbiting spacecraft suggested that lower layers of a mound contain minerals formed in the presence of ancient water” (Scoles 2014). 

While on route to one of these mounds, Curiosity detected terrain anomalies on the planet’s surface. Further analysis concluded that the inconsistency in the terrain was mineral erosion created by the flow of water (Scoles 2014). To ensure their findings were correct, scientists made Curiosity drill within a rock located in the streambed. The elements sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen and carbon were present in the mineral (Scoles 2014). All the elements, including the evidence of water erosion, suggests that life could indeed survive. “A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitual environment. From what we know now, the answer is yes,” according to Michael Meyer, lead astronomer for Washington D. C’s NASA’s Mars Exploration Program (Scoles 2014).

Another study by  Chalanti, Barbanti and Farine (2017) have determined that Mars colonization is no longer far fetched as it used to be. NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX are currently cooperating in the development of aerospace aircrafts and life pods that could help bring humans to Mars.  The partnership has raised over 300 million dollars to fund life supporting technology as microbes, early forms of complex life, have been found on the planet's surface. SpaceX and NASA calculated the distance from Earth to Mars and ultimately determined that it would take humans approximately 7-8 months to hit the planet's atmosphere (2017). 

Upon further analysis, Chalanti et al. 's (2017) may have found the indirect lying cause for this push for Mars and it is likely due to the overwhelming data collected on earth that show that it is facing an environmental crisis, is overpopulated and is witnessing never seen natural disasters. In addition to this, the American culture is always fond of new discoveries as it lays the basis for a new possible future, one that wouldn’t be deemed possible if it were not for such discoveries such as those collected on Mars.

Americans were once again captivated by NASA’s discovery on Mars and supported NASA as an entity. Many educated Americans demanded that NASA’s funding be increased in order to learn more about the planet. As the funding did increase by 2 billion USD, the Mars Exploration Program faced a cut of 500 million dollars. The decrease in funding halted research programs and even drove NASA to partner up with SpaceX in order to receive additional funds to operate daily research operations.


While the graph demonstrates the fluctuation of NASA funding throughout the agency’s existence, there are no concrete correlation between American perception of NASA and their influence in its funding.

Limitations of Studies

While all the sources used throughout the paper are all peer-reviewed and published by credible organizations, many limitations rise from the lack of information gathered during the Space Race. There are no databases that contain surveys conducted during the Space Race on how Americans perceived NASA and how they felt on its funding. Rather the information presented by the articles are as credible as the writer themselves. Further studies revolving human psychology is needed to fully comprehend how Americans truly feel towards NASA since feelings are abstract and can only be estimated by charts that “portray” their emotions.


Through careful analysis between NASA's budget history and the organization's scientific breakthrough, it has been concluded that American citizens do not have a pivotal role in NASA’s funding. Articles help demonstrate that many citizens are captivated by NASA’s achievements and triumphs in the pursuit of knowledge. The Federal Government of The United States is the only “being” that ultimately decides the funding given to NASA.


Calanchi, A. Farina, A. Barbanti, R. (2017) An Eco-Critical Approach to Mars Colonization. Forum for World Literature Studies

DeSante, C. (2017). They Chose to Go to the Moon. How Birth Coherts Shape Opinions on Funfing for Space Exporation. Social Science Quarterly, 98(4), 1175–1178.

Garber, M. (2012). Kennedy, Before Choosing the Moon: “I”, Not That Interested n Space’. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

Harris, P. (2012). Man on the moon: moment of greatness that defined the American century. The Guardian. Retrieved from’

Motel, S. (2015). NASA popularity still sky-high. Retrieved from

NASA (2015) John F. Kennedy and NASA. [Press release]. Retrieved from

Scoles, S. (2014) Curiosity’s latest findings from Mar’s. Astronomy Vol. 42. Kalmback Publishing Company.



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