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Former CIA Clandestine Operative
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Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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What NASA Really Does

Question: How is NASA’s shrinking budget affecting your work?

 

Heidi Hammel: Well, NASA’s budget has not really been declining. It’s been stable, and it’s been a very, very tiny but, you know, stable fraction of our government’s budget. I think that there’s a lot we can do with the NASA funding now. Certainly it could be more if we had more, but we’ve got a lot of things going on in our country. I don’t think I could advocate for increasing NASA’s budget by a factor of two or ten, because I want us to have good roads in our country. I want us to have good education in our country. And NASA’s budget is part of a discretionary budget, and we can’t make that bigger without taking away other things. And so I try to be pragmatic about that and, you know, we just have to do with what we’ve got. What that does mean is that those of us who are space scientists need to be very realistic about what our expectations are. We need to be very thoughtful about how we propose to spend the money that NASA does have for space exploration. And we need to be clear that there’s the human spaceflight part of NASA, and there’s the science space part of NASA, and there’s also aeronautics. Those are all very different things that NASA does. The space-science part of NASA, the part that’s launched the Hubble Space Telescope, and put the rovers on Mars, that’s about one-third of what NASA does. And it’s been a really productive one-third of what NASA does. Should it be a bigger part? Should it be half? I don’t know. Maybe the third is the right amount. But we need to be very thoughtful about what we propose to do and recognize we’ve got limited resources. We can’t do everything, so be careful.


 

 

NASA's funding goes into exploration, science and aeronautics, explains Heidi Hammel.

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
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Credit: Adobe Stock, Olivier Le Moal.
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Ernest Hemingway Holding His Son 1927 (Wikimedia Commons)
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Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?

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Ethan Miller/Getty Images
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Hollywood has created an idea of aliens that doesn't match the science.

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  • "Don't give them claws," says biologist E.O. Wilson. "Claws are for carnivores and you've got to be an omnivore to be an E.T. There just isn't enough energy available in the next trophic level down to maintain big populations and stable populations that can evolve civilization."
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