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Defunding NASA

I'm Peyton Priest;y, Last month NASA celebrated its 55th birthday, though I doubt many of its employees felt like celebrating. Most of them had been sent home due to the government shutdown. And you know what? Most of the American public probably didn't even notice. The space agency has an annual operating budget of roughly 16 billion dollars, give or take. But it's hardly an essential service. And at a time when budget disputes lead the headlines, it seems to me that the money could be better spent elsewhere.

Now don't get me wrong. It's human nature to look up at the skies and wonder what else is out there. I'm not saying space exploration should be discontinued indefinitely. But when you think about it, it's kind of crazy that the US government is spending billions of dollars every year on space exploration when we haven't even finished exploring our OWN planet. For instance, the ocean.

It's stunning to me that in the year 2013, mankind has only explored 5-percent of the ocean floor. Five percent! Nearly three-quarters of our planet is covered in water. Oceans play a major role in shaping the Earth's climate. Wouldn't it be worthwhile to put funding into learning more about the process, and trying to figure whether we can do anything to influence these weather patterns.

Not only that, but the ocean is believed to hold cures for a wide variety of diseases and ailments. For instance, examining the eyes of certain types of fish has led to breakthroughs in treatments for blindness. Experiments on sea urchins led to the development of test tube fertilization. Many scientists are convinced that if there is a cure for cancer, it might come from coral reefs and bacteria located on the ocean floor.

And then there's the whole issue of drinkable water. By the year 2025, almost a quarter of the Earth's population will face severe water scarcity. Learning how to desalinate ocean water on a scale large enough to provide for large populations will eventually become crucial to our survival. I know, it isn't quite as sexy as finding alien life on some distant planet. But to me, that makes a lot more sense than spending billions on finding water on Mars.

I'm not saying to end space exploration, I'm just saying that we've still got plenty to explore here on Earth. Leave the galactic missions to private companies like SpaceX and Virgin. At least for a little while. Space may be the final frontier, but before we get there, we should consider solving some of the problems that are a little bit closer to home.

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