Policy Analysis

Wonder and Awe for Cheap: New Horizons

July 14, 2015

Three billion miles and nine-and-a-half years ago, NASA launched the New Horizons spacecraft to explore our solar system. Today, New Horizons will snap close up pictures of Pluto and send those pictures back to earth, a journey that will take four-and-a-half hours at the speed of light. And the world is tuning in, with huge amounts of media coverage. The Internet, including the popular website Reddit, is exploding with news.

We are all very excited about New Horizons! But that excitement is coupled with wonder about what the future will bring and how NASA will manage to generate wonder and awe with an ever decreasing budget. Case in point: Construction on the New Horizons spacecraft began in 2003, when the NASA budget was $18.9B in constant 2014 dollars. And now? NASA’s budget has shrunk by more than a billion dollars to a projected $17.6B in 2016.

NASA has a great history of doing awe-inspiring science. To pass down that history to future generations, Congress must chart a new, upward course for NASA’s budget.

Policy news and viewpoints for the physics community. The analysis and opinions are those of the APS Office of Public Affairs and do not necessarily represent the entire Society.