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NASA sheds light on economic impact of space industry

Stephen Kuper

NASA has released a report into the economic impact of the agency’s renewed space exploration efforts, with programs like the Artemis moon mission and planned Martian exploration stand out performers, and satellite and telescope launches equally important economic drivers.

NASA sheds light on economic impact of space industry
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The report shows that, through all NASA activities, the agency generated more than US$64.3 billion in total economic output during fiscal year 2019, supported more than 312,000 jobs nationwide, and generated an estimated US$7 billion in federal, state, and local taxes throughout the US.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine explained, "In this new era of human spaceflight, NASA is contributing to economies locally and nationally, fueling growth in industries that will define the future, and supporting tens of thousands of new jobs in America."

The agency commissioned an economic impact study to better understand how the US economy benefited in FY2019 from America’s lunar and Mars exploration efforts.

The study found the agency’s Moon to Mars exploration approach generated more than $14 billion in total economic output and supported more than 69,000 jobs nationwide in fiscal year 2019.

Additional key findings of the study include:

  • Every state in the country benefits economically through NASA activities. Forty-three states have an economic impact of more than $10 million. Of those 43 states, eight have an economic impact of $1 billion or more;
  • The agency’s Moon to Mars initiative, which includes the Artemis program, supports more than 69,000 jobs, $14 billion in economic output, and $1.5 billion in tax revenue. The agency’s Moon to Mars programs provided about 22 per cent of NASA’s economic impact. These figures are expected to double in 2021;
  • NASA has more than 700 active international agreements for various scientific research and technology development activities in FY2019. The International Space Station is a significant representative of international partnerships – representing 15 nations and five space agencies and has been operating for 20 years; 
  • NASA spin-off technologies provide an impact on American lives beyond dollars and jobs. The agency has recorded more than 2,000 spinoffs since 1976. For example, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory developed, in just 37 days, a ventilator specifically for coronavirus patients and, after securing an emergency use authorisation from the Food and Drug Administration, made the design available to select manufacturers at no cost; and
  • Scientific research and development – which fuels advancements in science and technology that can help improve daily life on Earth and for humanity – enjoys the largest single-sector impact, accounting for 16 per cent of the overall economic impact of NASA’s Moon to Mars program.

"With an investment of just one-half of 1 per cent of the federal budget, NASA generates significant total economic output annually. This study confirms, and puts numbers, to what we have long understood – that taxpayer investment in America’s space program yields tremendous returns that strengthen our nation on several fronts – a stronger economy, advances in science and technology, and improvements to humanity," Bridenstine added. 

The study was conducted by the Nathalie Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement at the University of Illinois at Chicago. UIC has worked with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on economic impact reports conducted for the center and the Voorhees Center is widely recognised as one of the foremost organisations conducting economic impact studies for corporations, communities, and government agencies.

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