CON

Srinidhi Seshadri

As seen through Vice President Mike Pence’s statements at the first meeting of the National Space Council on Oct. 5, the Trump administration is determined to increase the push to send astronauts to the moon in order to build a stronger foundation for future expeditions to Mars, ultimately prioritizing U.S. dominance in space. With recent domestic issues demanding the nation’s time and money, however, the government should put space exploration on the back burner until higher priority issues have been solved.

From August to October, the American Atlantic and Caribbean was severely pummelled by a series of hurricanes, the most notable being Harvey and Irma. These hurricanes have impacted Texas, Puerto Rico and Florida where thousands of people remain displaced after homes and communities were destroyed by the rain. Puerto Rico was also affected by another storm, Hurricane Maria, which added to its existing struggles. About 75 percent of Puerto Ricans do not have power, and around a third of the population still does not have access to clean water.

Similarly, the west coast of the U.S. has been struck by a different type of natural disaster: wildfires. Throughout Northern California, these fires have burned thousands of homes and buildings and displaced many from their homes. Thus, the government’s top priority at the moment should be to find immediate aid for the victims of these natural calamities, instead of focussing on exploring space.

One excuse that has been given for the lack of action being taken to help Puerto Rico is the fact that it is an island, isolated from the mainland of America, thus making it difficult to send supplies to the U.S. territory. It is hypocritical for the government to claim difficulty in sending aid to a small island over a relatively small body of water but still be able to send millions of dollars of equipment to explore space, a completely unknown territory.

Since the hurricane affected areas require billions of dollars to finance relief efforts, the U.S. should be using funds to help those who require it immediately instead of pouring the money into space expeditions that can be pursued at a later time. Furthermore, NASA’s current budget for the fiscal year of 2017 is over $19 thousand million, an immense amount that could be spent to resolve other issues on land.

The Trump administration’s reasoning behind increasing the push for space exploration is not well supported either. According to Vice President Mike Pence’s statement in an opinion-editorial of the Wall Street Journal, “America must be as dominant in the heavens as it is on Earth.” Pence’s claim proves that the government aims for space exploration to be a way to display U.S.’s power, instead of a way to gain knowledge and find out more about the cosmos. With more pressing domestic matters at hand, gaining political power should not be a primary concern for a first world country with a leading economy.

Moreover, the country’s current diplomatic relations with countries such as North Korea where the threat of a nuclear bomb is prevalent, establishing power and leadership in space is ineffective. With North Korea rejecting the U.S.’s diplomacy, the tension between the two countries has worsened, making the threat of a nuclear war more imminent. The government needs to work with other countries such as China, Japan and India, in an attempt to stabilize the global political climate and promote denuclearization instead of trying to assert dominance over these countries. Furthermore, the U.S. should attempt to balance international powers instead of seeking to gain more individual power through space exploration.

Although space exploration may be beneficial in furthering current scientific research, the U.S. must shift its focus from trying to gain more power as a country to paying attention to more pressing domestic problems such as ensuring that victims of natural calamities are receiving the aid that they need. Certain domestic issues require immediate efforts that the government should be attempting to provide instead of its fulfilling its desire to be a dominant figure in space exploration.