Chabot College - Astronomy Worksheet- Scott Hildreth

NASA's Budget

I count myself among the strong supporters of exploration, but as I've said on previous occasions, we have to be willing to pay for it. - Bart Gordon, Rep, Tennessee, U.S. Congress

We are at a point in history where a proper attention to space, and especially near space, may be absolutely crucial in bringing the world together. - Margaret Mead


Missing or Incomplete citations receive zero credit.

The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) is a very large agency within our country's government.  While most often associated with astronauts, Space Shuttle launches, and "pretty pictures from Space" taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA also is charged with many other tasks involving aeronautics, robotic and human exploration of space, and science.  But how much does NASA cost?  And what are the benefits we as a society reap from spending tax money on NASA?  Is learning about the Universe worth the cost?

Research and write a typed, spell-checked short essay of 250-500 words on whether NASA should continue to be funded at its current level, and whether expenditures on astronomical research and space exploration are really worth our tax dollars.   But before you decide upon your answer...


1) You must first research and share in a paragraph or more, about what NASA does. 

Check out What Does NASA Do? ( 
or look for other online or in-print resources that describe NASA's mission and what it does with our tax dollars.  Be sure to explore some of the links, including for more about the science NASA does, and about issues related to Global Climate Change.  You might consider looking at NASA's new marketing pages, Benefits to You, available at  "Spinoffs" website (and especially its "spinoff database" - search by "category", or the technology transfer section for businesses looking to use NASA technology in their products or processes.)

2) You must research and share how much NASA spends. 

Check out the 2018 Budget or look for other resources that describe NASA's expenditures.  Or look at NASA's budget pages ( which has a short 6-minute video clip.  If you find a similar source for NASA's budget, cite it fully.  You'll find lots of public media sites discussing the proposed 2018 budget as well,
but remember that primary sources are more reliable.  For example, the current President has made his plans for NASA's future budgets clear last May, 2017. Check out the May 2017 statement about NASA's priorities from CBS News, published at the Spaceflight Now site, or the LA Times article by Amina Khan, The President also shared his plans for NASA during the campaign.

3) You must research and share NASA's budget compared with other Federal Agencies. 

This step is
required, and if you don't include in your analysis some comparison with other agencies, you won't receive full credit.  Be sure to consider what is mandatory in the budget (we have promised to pay in the past, and cannot change for this upcoming year - it is contracted), and what is discretionary (what Congress can change year-by-year).  Check out a quick glance of the 2018 budget proposal from Wikipedia. Actual data is available at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) tables available online in "A New Foundation for American Greatness - President's Budget FY2018" (find Table S-4 to see both MANDATORY and DISCRETIONARY spending budgets.*)

The tables you'll find are not easy to grasp, though, and you might find older sources that do a very clear job of breaking down the budget by agency.  Consider The Federal Budget picture from the NY Times for the 2011 budget; even though the numbers aren't current, the way the budget is laid out can help you grasp the issue.    If you need help here, stop by Chabot's Library and ask for assistance at the reference desk. Research skills are of paramount importance today, so take this opportunity to learn a bit about answering topical questions.


Remember to document your research by including any and all works you used in your bibliography, appropriately formatted.  If you prefer to use MLA format, please be certain to also include the URLs.  And AFTER researching what NASA does, what it costs to fund their projects, and how much that represents as a portion of our overall federal spending, please now answer this question:




Is NASA worth the expense?  Would you recommend to our Congress or to our President that NASA be continued at the current funding level?  Or would you recommend its budget be reduced?  Or possibly expanded?

Consider the expenditures on the Hubble Space Telescope (over the entire project lifetime of 30 years, it has "cost" about $6 Billion.) Consider other private and public funding for telescopes like the Keck in Hawaii (about $100 Million each.) If you think funds should be cut, or diverted to other projects, tell me! What projects or programs in your opinion should get more than they already receive? (Remember, before you answer, you MUST find out what those programs already get!)

Your opinion is what matters, not whether you and I agree. But do some research first. As always with any research assignments in our class, you MUST include a full bibliographic citation for any and all resources you use (even those I have supplied, for which you should check out the actual versions.)  IF you have forgotten how to do this, check out my guide for citations for astronomy homework!

Please remember to TYPE your answers, and print a copy double-spaced and spell-checked; aim for at least 250 words (about 1 page is fine), with citations for any outside references used.  No credit will be given for any work without a bibliography, and credit will be significantly reduced for a partial or improperly formatted bibliography. 

On-line classes: Please POST your assignment on Canvas in the discussion forum directly, not as an attachment.

On-campus classes
  Please POST your assignment on Canvas if you are absent from class  by the due date, but please then bring your work on paper to the next class so that I can grade it!  I won't grade the work submitted on Blackboard.

Additional Articles of interest:

Review of Human Spaceflight Plans Committee.(2009, Oct.) Seeking a Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of a Great Nation. NASA. Accessed 10/25/09 from .  [This was from a panel that  recommendations on the future of  NASA's manned mission plans.]

NASA Benefits to Humanity. Tumblr.

Space Foundation (2006) The Case for Space Exploration.   [This includes short essays from many people, including Neil deGrasse Tyson and Neil Armstron, the first human on the surface of the Moon.]

Chow, D. (2012) How Doubling NASA's Budget Will Help Fix the Economy: Neil deGrasse Tyson. . 

Dano, M. (2012) Neil deGrasse Tyson - We Stopped Dreaming.  YouTube.  and "Dream of Tomorrow"

Niles, Laura (2015) Benefits for humanity: From NASA to Napa. Science X Network.

The History and Future of NASA and Space Travel: Neil deGrasse Tyson - Space Chronicles (2012). The Film Archives of the American Museum of Natural History. YouTube.  

Quora. (2015) What is the importance of space exploration and research? I do not understand the need to revisit places, considering the cost and danger, when there are more immediate concerns for humanity worldwide like poverty, hunger, etc.

Schlickenmeyer, M. (2014) Neil deGrasse Tyson - Scientific Literacy.Vimeo.

Moyers, B. (2014) Neil deGrasse Tyson on Why Science Literacy Matters. Vimeo

*The OMB maintains historical records as well available at its website (Office of Management and Budget).  In particular, you might want to look at:

11/17 - SH

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