#Penny4NASA Gives Voice to Those Seeking an Increase in NASA’s Budget

By Chase Clark, courtesy of AmericaSpace.org

[See the petition at WhiteHouse.gov to at least double NASA’s annual budget to one penny for every government dollar spent.]

United by the viewing of a five-minute YouTube video posted just two weeks ago, thousands have joined a public movement to “dream about tomorrow” and demand that United States President Barack Obama and Congress double the annual budget of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, respected astrophysicist and celebrity, recently gave testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation calling for NASA’s budget to be doubled, from less than half a penny to a whole penny on the tax dollar. Such an increase would raise the agency’s budget from less than $18 billion to a healthy $37.5 billion.

Evan Schurr (aka Scrunchthethird) cut together a video of Dr. Tyson’s words coupled with images of archival space footage set to a beautifully matched score and put it on YouTube. The five-minute video (embedded above) quickly went viral and already has been viewed more than 300,000 times. While Schurr had not yet responded to a request for a comment on his ‘We Stopped Dreaming’ video by the time of this article’s posting, it is obviously apparent that he is a proponent of continuing the exploration of outer space.

However, Schurr is not the only person to have been called to action by Dr. Tyson’s words. Since that testimony one college student took it upon himself to form #Penny4Nasa, a citizen movement which has been gaining traction steadily via social media, inspiring even more citizens to actively support the message.

“After hearing the testimony that Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson gave, I was hooked,” said John Zeller, a 23-year-old pre-electrical and computer engineering student at Oregon State University. “I watched as Dr. Tyson said that if we were bold – those were his exact words – if we were bold and doubled the budget, that we could go back to the Moon and go to Mars, and do it soon. This is exactly the kind of thing that I’ve been waiting for people to shout about.”

#Penny4NASA founder John Zeller

Zeller has been interested in space, science and technology since he was barely able to walk and talk. “When I was a kid my dad really got me into science and space,” said Zeller. “I remember learning we had landed on the Moon and being confused about why we still weren’t there. The intrinsic value of space exploration has been obvious to me for as long as I can remember.”

Zeller will be interning this summer with one of the commercial partners of NASA then returning to college in the fall with plans to finish his Bachelors degree and likely pursue a Masters degree. Eventually Zeller hopes to seek a career within the private space industry.

After watching Dr. Tyson’s video, Zeller was inspired to start Penny4NASA.org and set out to create a centralized presence to demand an increase to NASA’s budget. The #Penny4NASA website went live on Sunday evening and since then #Penny4NASA has acquired a rapidly-increasing following on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

“The response has been amazing so far,” said Zeller after #Penny4NASA was featured within a blog on The Washington Post website.

“NASA’s budget currently represents 0.5% of the U.S. federal budget, and has been relatively unchanged for 25 years.” states the website. “We are calling for their budget to increase to 1% of the US budget. This website was created for the express purpose of organizing peoples around the nation to call for the increase of NASA’s annual budget to a vast, yet comparably minuscule, penny on the taxpayer dollar. Or in other words 1% of the total.”

The #Penny4NASA website includes a page with a template of a letter which supporters of space exploration may use to write their representatives and senators in Congress. Dr. Tyson’s testimony to the Senate Committee as well as videos of Tyson, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, X-Prize Chairman Peter Diamandis and Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson are featured at the site. Links to the movement’s presences on other social media websites also are listed.

In addition to the website, #Penny4NASA has started a formal petition through Change.org asking President Barack Obama and Congress to increase NASA’s budget to $37.5 billion which would be just one percent of the total U.S. annual budget. In comparison, during the Apollo program of the 1960s NASA received upwards of six percent of total U.S. government spending in one year.

In the first week the petition has garnered more than 3,500 signatures with a goal of reaching 10,000 signatures during the coming weeks.

There is also a petition at the We The People website requesting basically the same thing. That petition to date has received 7,067 of the 25,000 signatures needed by April 20 in order to receive an answer from the White House.

“This movement is growing,” Zeller said. “At some point the right people will hear our call, and they will have to listen.”

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