Posted by: Opey | June 16, 2007

NASA: Hall of Innovation or Blackhole in US Budget?

I admit, I was one of the millions, if not billions, of young children who grew up with dreams of becoming an astronaut.  I imagined being able to walk and live on the moon and I hoped to be one of the first people to walk on Mars and travel beyond our solar system.  Those were innocent times, weren’t they.  Now a dark cloud hangs over the realm of space.  Over the past few years, NASA and space exploration has been dealt several blows, from the two shuttle tragedies, failures of several systems, and now the failure of Russian computer systems jeopardizing the future of the once-promising International Space Station.  All of these setbacks, along with the economic recession and downtimes, have brought the value of space travel and exploration into question.  In it’s founding, NASA served the dual purpose of uniting the nation against the Soviet Union and fostering scientific development and innovation.  Well, the USSR is no more and private and public entities appear to be innovating and creating just fine without the pushing of NASA or others.  So, what tangible benefit does this massive mark on the US’s budget bring?  Sure, they launch satellites and perform functions related to that, but is there anything beyond that?  Does sending people into space provide enough benefit to justify both the monetary cost along with any possible costs in terms of human lives?  What exactly are they doing on the International Space Station that will affect our lives in the near future?  I frankly do not care about a rather mid-level innovation that comes years down the road.  There needs to be direct and relatively immediate benefits to justify further space exploration, at its current level.  I am not advocating scraping the whole of NASA, but there should be not be any moon missions, Mars missions, or even a space station.  Dramatically cut back on funding and instead shift that money over towards education, saving social security, or some other more worthy and beneficial program.  Let NASA continue their satellite operations, but cut back on staffing.  We have other areas of the economy where we could use funding and these great minds in order to maintain economic competitiveness in the era of globalization.

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Responses

  1. Just make some time to take a look at the Nasa Spin-offs for last year only (> 100 pages) document available on their site.
    Don’t be so narrow minded …

  2. Forgot something … you can count on the fingers of one hand NASAs failures … how many airplanes crashed last year only?

  3. You’ll have to link me to the “Spin Offs” report, I can’t seem to find it. The failures though are different for two reasons. One, the airlines are private entities and, as such, do not waste tax payers money on their failures (I know there are subsidies and kickbacks which I am not in favor of either). Two, the failures have a larger symbolic value for NASA than they do for the airlines. As callous as it is to say it, there are more things at stake than just a simple calculation of human casulties such as budgetary and symbolic values.


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