In 1970, Black poet, jazz musician, and novelist Gil Scott-Heron released a poem titled “Whitey on the Moon” that protested spending on the space program when many Americans, especially minorities, struggled to pay their bills. He recites his poem to an audience here:
Americans today have mixed feelings about space exploration. Many were awed and thrilled over the James Webb Space Telescope, but some see little value in space exploration and want the money spent here on Earth.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) responds to this criticism with, “NASA spends its money on Earth, not in space. NASA employs about 17,000 people and supports the employment of tens of thousands more through contracts and grants made in every state of the union.”
Over 151,000 people worked in the space industry in 2021, which grows at about 18 percent per year. These jobs pay salaries that are higher than average. SpaceX is a good example. The average SpaceX salary is $109,000 (including $11,000 average annual bonuses). This is significantly higher than the national average of all workers at $59,428.
Worker salaries and benefits at space companies are worlds apart from the wages of Amazon warehouse workers and Uber gig workers.
NASA missions inspire students to pursue STEM careers, which benefits all industries. Multinational space missions inspire cooperation amongst countries that may be adversaries in other areas. So, space spending encourages peace.
NASA's portion of the federal budget is about 0.3% of the total. It's not space exploration that's raising the costs of drugs, gasoline, food, etc., causing homelessness and contributing to our massive social inequality.