Given the country's $14 trillion budget deficit, coming up with the $18 billion needed to launch a test flight of NASA's new space launch system could be a challenge, AWB President Don Brunell writes in his weekly column.
And that's just the beginning. The total price tag for the rocket program that would eventually carry U.S. astronauts to Mars is currently estimated at $35 billion, and it could cost more than $60 billion for an accelerated program.
Why spend the money?
For starters, the U.S. space program has solidified America's leadership role in the world, fostered incredible advances in science and technology, produced thousands of innovations and products we use in our daily lives, and inspired millions of American youth to pursue careers in science and math, Brunell writes.
In addition, we have a clear lead in space. So as other nations emphasize innovation as they attempt to attract research and development, America already has the space technology and R&D here.
Finally, reaching beyond our planet to the stars has long been part of our greatness as a nation.
Our struggles with debt and China's ambitious space agenda are prompting Brunell to wonder, "Do we as a nation still aspire to greatness in space and beyond?"