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Last sync:2019-06-13 10:30
In which Hank talks about the 0.45% of the federal budget devoted to space education, and what NASA is doing with that money.

Just an aside, my friends often say that we shouldn't be spending money on space when we have so many problems here on Earth. And I understand that argument. But I think that mentality is flawed. We can't wait until all of our problems are solved (which they will never be) before doing amazing, inspiring, ambitious things.

If we have nothing great to aspire to, nothing great to fight for, then what do we have? Will we spend the time and energy necessary to make the world a better place if we don't have great things to aspire to?

I know it's a complicated issue, it's almost like talking about the psychology of an entire planet. But I know what drives me to make the world better, and it isn't knowing how horrible it is. The greatness of the world is what makes me want to make it better, and NASA has done more to uncover and create awesome than any other government agency.

That's just how I feel.

Thanks to NASA for their help with this video, it was really amazing to work with them.


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A Bunny
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Good morning, John. I just recently, along with most Americans, wrote the government a big fat check, because that’s what life is. Uh, nothing is certain except for death and taxes. Uh, and also the speed of light in a vacuum, and actually, now that I think about it, many universal constants are more certain than death and taxes, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Taxes! Ah, while I’m not precisely happy to be rid of my money, I am in favor of government and all that jazz. And most of the 16,000 freakin' dollars that I just sent to the US government is going to be used to decrease suck in some way: making sure that people who lose their jobs don’t become immediately homeless, education for people who wouldn’t otherwise be educated, and healthcare for people who otherwise couldn’t afford it. All of these fantastic things! But when it comes right down to it, not a lot of the money that I just gave my government is going to be used to do cool stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally in favor of reducing suck, but like my grandfather always said, “using the awesome power of the United States government to reduced suck without ever increasing awesome is a little bit like using the Starship Enterprise as an interstellar shipping barge.” But for people like me, I am happy to announce that deep in the budget there are a few percentage points dedicated to increasing awesome. For example, the money that the government spends on science and technology. This is a graphical representation of the United States budget. It’s divided up, and you might think: this, this, this, maybe some of these things are the science, no. No, the science is down - it's that little thing down there! And less than half of that is my very favorite government agency, NASA. Now if I magically shrunk the United States budget into a dollar and then split that dollar into a hundred pennies, I still could not show you NASA’s relative budget because it would be smaller than one half of a penny. But despite that fact, it still is a relatively large amount of money, about 18 billion dollars, and this begs the question, "What is NASA doing with all that money?" Besides maintaining a five-bedroom house in outer space that has been constantly inhabited for over ten years, a space station that provides our first permanent foot hold in space and a literal and scientific and metaphorical stepping off point into the exploration of the rest of the solar system. A place where so much science is done that I literally cannot even show you the names of all of the studies that have been done there. Besides launching what amounts to pretty much a remote-controlled SUV onto the surface of Mars with ten times the scientific payload of any interplanetary mission so far. A remote controlled laboratory that will help answer questions about Mars, including whether it once harbored life, and help prepare us for manned exploration of the Red Planet. Besides creating a worthy successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, allowing astronomers to see further than it had ever hoped to see before and allowing humanity a first glimpse at the very origins of the universe. A telescope that can see 13.4 billion years into the past. Besides inviting the private sector into the space industry, offering them patents on technologies developed for NASA and fostering the growth of an entirely new sector of the economy. Besides placing the first artificial satellite around Mercury. Besides making air travel faster and safer and more environmentally friendly. Besides building the first telescope capable of capturing high resolution X-ray images. Besides adding three more climate monitoring satellites to the already existing fleet that will help us understand our changing climate and how to react to global climate change. Besides creating frameworks and technologies and challenges that will help inspire the next generation of engineers and mathematicians and scientists. Besides identifying thousands of planets outside of our solar system, many of them apparently Earth-like, with liquid water. Besides watching the final two Space Shuttle missions while simultaneously developing a new multipurpose crew vehicle, capable of visiting not just the orbit of the Earth, but possibly the Moon and Mars and Venus and beyond. And besides being the best chance that we have of answering fundamental questions about ourselves and our place in the universe. Besides that, I guess NASA doesn’t do much with that 0.45% of our tax dollars. I’m happy to give my money to NASA because I want my government to be doing awesome things. I believe in my country's ability to be awesome. I’m afraid that more and more we’re just focusing on maintenance and not on the amazing things that we can do when we combine our efforts, and that, really, is what government is about. So thank you to NASA for doing such great awesome and exciting with our money. It’s strange to say this, but I can almost not wait to give you my money again in 2012. John, I’ll see you on Monday.