As government agencies go, NASA is perhaps the most recognizable. The moon landings, the shuttle program and the International Space Station, are some of the most amazing technological advancements in human history.

But NASA is not just about going to space. What they do down here on Earth is perhaps the most important work they do. In 2011 alone, NASA spent $10.5 million in Wisconsin. Specifically NASA spent $15 million on six small Wisconsin businesses from 2001-11. On a national level, economists estimate that for every dollar spent on NASA, the United States gets $7 to $14 back. That makes NASA a pretty solid investment to say the least.

UW scientists fight for NASA dollars to study outer spaceHundreds of millions of dollars flow into University of Wisconsin each year for research on planetary and Earth sciences, as a Read…

The University of Wisconsin also has major ties to the space agency. In the 2014-15 academic year, UW received $108,921 in funding for multiple research projects. UW also gets access to NASA to be able to do a lot of their research. UW has worked with NASA on projects including growing plants and food on the International Space Station and monitoring arctic ice levels with NASA satellites.

UW researchers use NASA satellites to find reason behind Greenland’s melting iceUsing NASA satellites, University of Wisconsin researchers were able to measure the impact of the cloud coverage over Greenland’s melting ice sheet and Read…

With the amount of projects NASA is apart of, most Americans believe NASA takes up a much larger portion of the national budget. This is not the case whatsoever, as 0.5 percent of the national budget goes to NASA. If a dollar represented the national budget, NASA would get half a penny. The space agency’s budget is equal to the amount of money that goes toward agriculture subsidies and research.

Really, it’s amazing NASA does what it does. Getting to Pluto last year, discovering evidence of running water on Mars, testing the next generation of manned rockets, discovering thousands of new exoplanets, testing the human body for future trips to Mars and investing an incredible private space industry — all on the budget of half a penny for every tax dollar.

‘Space screws up biology:’ UW botanist grows plants in NASA space stationTaking his research and questions to space, a University of Wisconsin faculty member now works closely with NASA to study how Read…

NASA captivates, inspires, invests and innovates. From the level of small businesses to university research projects to the computer or phone you are reading this on, NASA played a hand in it.

Perhaps, though, the most underrated thing NASA brings to the world is its ability to captivate. NASA does things no one has ever done before, in ways no one ever thought possible. It does all of this on a discount budget that gets meddled with in the politically partisan U.S. Congress.

There really is not a problem facing this country that NASA cannot help play a role in solving. But on a running budget lower than the entirety of the 2008 bank bailout — it’s amazing it has done what it has in the first place.

Luke Schaetzel ([email protected]) is a sophomore that is a majoring in political science and journalism.