The Money We Waste On NASA's Space Program Would Be Better Spent On Space Programs For The PoorCommentary • Opinion • science • space • ISSUE 45•48 • Nov 26, 2009 By Ed Perry So, the United States just sent another multimillion-dollar shuttle out into space to do God knows what. Yet all the while, back here on Earth, men and women are living so far below the poverty line that they can't even obtain the most basic of necessities, let alone ride aboard the Atlantis out of our planet's atmosphere.It's a travesty, really.Every time NASA launches a shuttle, it's $450 million right up God's great blue chimney. Think of all the good that money could do if it were instead used to put disadvantaged inner- city youths into orbit. Or how many single mothers struggling to get by that money could strap into a large, spinning gyroscope that tests the effects of g-force on the human body. Or what a difference we could make for our countless homeless citizens, who more than anything else need a space station to call their own.It boggles the mind to even contemplate it.Do the math, sheeple! We cannot, as a country, justify sending our elite, middle-class, Cal Tech–educated astronauts into space while there are so many who spend each day wondering where their next hot meal will come from or where they're going to sleep tonight or whether they'll ever do a space walk without having to first stand in some humiliating, government-run unemployment line.I spoke to an economically disadvantaged child the other day—we'll call him Calvin—and he had never tasted a tube of dehydrated chicken. Not even once. I tried to explain to him what it was and that it had been to the moon, but his life is so different from mine or yours that he had no context in which he could understand what I was saying. That's the point we've gotten to. That's how bad it's become. All I could do was look at him and shake my head and wonder how we can even call ourselves Americans anymore.Because we live in two Americas now: The America for those who are trained as pilots or engineers and eventually become astronauts who go on missions in space, and the America for the poor.The time to put our most vulnerable and our most needy in space is now. We can't keep running from this problem, hoping it will go away. They have just as much of a right to live in dignity and urinate in a specially designed suit built to withstand incredible heat and cold while protecting the human body from violent and sudden changes in air pressure as anyone else.Look, I'm perfectly aware that some scientific good has come from spending billions and billions of dollars on NASA over the years, and the brave astronauts who pioneered the program should be applauded. But the Cold War's over, people, and NASA's usefulness has run out. So let's look to the future and start moving money from this obsolete relic of the past into a meaningful, fully operational space program for the poorest 1 percent of Americans.In other words: a space program for the people who need a space program most.And for you hardcore businessmen and capitalists out there, there's a practical application in this, too: Why pay highly trained astronauts to go to the International Space Station and test the effects of unfiltered ultraviolet radiation on bacteria when there are plenty of eager young teenagers who would jump at the chance to do the same thing at a cost that wouldn't break the bank?Think about it.I'm not talking about a handout, I'm talking about a hand up—up 20,000 miles into space, where our nation's most desperate and destitute can gaze down on this big blue marble ball of clouds and dreams and be inspired to lift themselves out of poverty.It just might be our only hope.