The Trump administration recently unveiled their 2019 fiscal budget proposal. In addition to increasing military spending and adding $984 billion to the federal deficit, the $4.4 trillion plan trims spending from many domestic agencies and is defunding NASA’s educational programs. The programs, which creates grants and scholarship programs for students, serve as a pipeline for future NASA employees. Without them, it will be much harder for space-interested kids to follow their deep-space dreams.
The administration announced that it will terminate NASA’s Office of Education in order to “prioritize NASA funding toward supporting an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners.” As The Verge reported, this is part of the administration’s efforts to move NASA away from primary maintenance duties for low-orbit projects like the International Space Station, in order to focus on efforts like getting humans back to the moon and landing on Mars. The administration doesn’t want to abandon the ISS totally; rather, as The Washington Post reported, they want to turn it into a “kind of orbiting real estate venture run not by the government, but by private industry.”
Without NASA’s educational programs, thousands of kids who relied on the funding the develop their interest in space travel may not have those kinds of options moving forward. Despite this, the administration feels that NASA has effectively tracked how many people they’ve served with the programs, but believes “outcome-related data demonstrating program effectiveness has been insufficient to assess the impact of the overall Office of Education portfolio.”
Now, the budget is merely a proposal. That said, here are a few of the dozens of programs on the chopping block.
Earth Systems, Technology, and Energy Education for MUREP (ESTEEM)
ESTEEM is a national “competitive project “ that encourages climate and Earth science systems literacy. The program aims to increase the number of minorities pursuing careers and educational opportunities in the field of science. As it stands right now, more than 50 percent of the jobs in science and engineering are held by white men.
Dropping In a Microgravity Environment (DIME)
The DIME program is a National Program meant for students in grades 6 through 12 and is essentially a competition that challenges teams of students to develop compelling microgravity experiments. Microgravity is the “weightlessness” that astronauts experience once they leave the atmosphere, and understanding it more deeply is a vital part of long-distance space travel to Mars for example.
This is a contest where kids from grades 9-12 are paired with robotics professionals to try and solve complex robotic, engineering, and design problems. NASA’s robotics division has long bolstered interest in participation by providing grants to high school teams as well as sponsoring FIRST regional competitions.
All Internships at NASA’s Glenn Research Center
Available to seniors in high school and people pursuing a higher education in science, the Glenn Research Center offers 10-week Summer and 16-weeks Fall and Spring Internships where interns “work at NASA’s Glenn Research Center facilities under the guidance of mentors while engaging in authentic NASA-related, mission-based R&D and career-related activities.”
Endeavor Science Teaching Certificate Project
Geared towards K-12 educators, the Endeavor Science Teaching Certificate Project recognizes that to improve STEM performance, a change is needed in the way the subject is taught. In this program, educators are taught to integrate STEM pedagogical strategies geared towards enhancing personal knowledge of the subject as well as improving the way students take in the information.