NASA Funding - Too Much or Not Enough?

NASA logoWith the successful landing of the "Curiosity" rover on Mars and the subsequent images of the "Red Planet" that have started to trickle back to Earth, the debate over the amount of funding that NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) receives has flared up once again.

On one side you have the people that contend that space holds the key to the continued existence of mankind and that NASA doesn't receive nearly enough money from the US government every year.

On the other side you have the people who contend that NASA is largely a waste of money and that the government would be better off diverting the funds somewhere else.

I thought that it would be interesting to look at the history of NASA funding and how the money that is allotted to the agency has fluctuated over the years.

According to (, a total of $526.18 billion dollars was spent on NASA between 1958 and 2011 (NASA was formed in 1958).

The agency received a total of $89 million in funding in its first year of existence (1958), which works out to roughly $500 million in 2012 dollars.

In the current fiscal year, the agency will receive just under $18 billion.

One of the first interesting things to note about NASA's funding is how much money the agency received in the years leading up to the Apollo 11 mission. Apollo 11 was the first manned mission to land on the moon, and this took place on July 20th, 1969.

One of John F. Kennedy's mandates was to land a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s, and the United States was able to accomplish this after significantly increasing their spend on NASA.

Let's take a look at the country's spending on NASA during the '60s:

1960 - $401 million
1961 - $744 million
1962 - $1.257 billion
1963 - $2.552 billion
1964 - $4.171 billion
1965 - $5.092 billion
1966 - $5.933 billion
1967 - $5.425 billion
1968 - $4.722 billion
1969 - $4.251 billion

These are nominal dollar amounts - inflation adjusted, the USA was spending well over $30 billion per year on NASA between the years of 1964 and 1967.

These numbers really start to pop when you compare them to the total federal budget at the time. For instance, in 1966, 4.41% of the US budget was being spent on NASA. In 2012, the US government will direct roughly 0.48% of their funds towards NASA.

Some more figures that should jump out at you - the stagnation of spending on NASA after the fall of the Soviet Union. In 1991, the United States spent $13.878 billion (nominal dollars) on NASA - by 2000, this number had actually DROPPED to $13.428 billion.


What's your take? US government funding of NASA:

1) not enough
2) just right
3) too much

Source: - NASA Funding

Filed under: General Knowledge

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