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NASA study estimates agency’s impact on US economy

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NASA generated more than $64.3 billion in total economic output during fiscal year 2019, while supporting more than 312,000 jobs nationwide, and generating around $7 billion in federal, state, and local taxes throughout the United States. While every state in the country benefits economically through NASA activities, 43 states had an economic impact of more than $10 million, and of those eight have an economic impact of $1 billion or more, according to the agency’s first-ever economic impact report released on September 25.

 “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,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. “With an investment of just one-half of 1% 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.”

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Scientific research at the core

The top ten most impacted sectors account for around half of total NASA impacts. Scientific research and development — which fuels advancements in science and technology that can help improve daily life on Earth and for humanity — accounts for the largest single-sector impact (16%) of the overall economic impact, and together with management consulting services they nearly a quarter of total impacts.

NASA impact on US economy

When it comes to industries impacted by labor income, scientific research and development, management consulting services, and professional and technical services are the most impacted industries by income (along with the federal government sector). The four industries together account for 44% of the total labor income earned.

NASA impact on US economy

The agency had more than 700 active international agreements in place towards a range of scientific research and technology development activities as of 2019. The biggest example of NASA’s collaboration is the International Space Station which represents 15 nations and five space agencies and has been operating for 20 years. 

Further, the spinoff technologies developed by the agency — more than 2,000 spinoffs since 1976 — also has an impact the dollars. For instance, at the onset of the pandemic, the engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory developed ventilators specifically for COVID patients in just 37 days, and made the design available to select manufacturers at no cost.

Even though the study was commissioned to better understand how the US economy benefited in FY2019 from America’s lunar and Mars exploration efforts, the assessment consists of two parts — the first part presenting the estimation of NASA impacts on the US as a whole, the 50 states, and the District of Columbia, while the second part analyzes economic impacts attributable to the M2M program on the same set of regions.

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. 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 percent of NASA’s economic impact. These figures are expected to double in 2021.