Friday, May 18, 2012

The Space Program: What Is Was It Worth To You?

(H/T NTodd.)

AFTERTHOUGHT: Once, long ago, I wrote an app, on a sub-subcontract, a tiny standalone app that allowed NASA to track training and qualification status of Mission Control crew members for various seats. There was nothing deep or sophisticated about the app, and what I was paid was negligible. But every time I think of it, I realize that I was given an opportunity to put my thumbprint on the grandest engineering program humans ever conceived and created. What a privilege it was!

AFTERTHOUGHT: I have encountered people, mostly Americans, surprisingly often over the years who are emphatic in their denunciation of the space program, and outraged that, say, a Moon landing was ever done, because the money could have been used to save starving children. If that is what you believe, if you believe the entire program is a waste of taxpayers' money, I'm certain that nothing I can say to you will change your mind, so I won't even try. But I will correct your error of fact. As Tyson pointed out in the video, the entire budget for NASA from the beginning amounts to 0.4% of your tax dollar... that's one penny out of every $2.50 for the arithmetic-challenged among you. If you really want to discover a waste of taxpayers' money big enough to address essentially all of our social ills that can be addressed with money... look no further than the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest of the wealthy. Rescind the cuts and re-purpose the regained revenues, and hunger is gone in today's America. Of course, that happy state will continue only until the Mitt Rmoneys and John Boehners of the world (not to mention the Grover Norquists) find ways to undo your good work. You say you want to end hunger, and you're attempting to fund your effort from the NASA budget? You're not just a fool but a damned fool. Bark up another tree for a while.


  1. It's good to point out that we've advanced our technology and science BECAUSE we went to the Moon. We invented wonderful things because we challenged our minds. We wouldn't have our cell phones or non-stick pans if we hadn't. We invent things all the time when we go to war, how fantastic is it that we discovered all this wonderful stuff when we went to the Moon instead?

  2. I hate that zero sum game bullshit regarding NASA's budget. It's like saying we shouldn't invest in education or roads because people are starving. Cut out a strategic nuke or a few drones or something before you cut science, for fuck's sake. Assholes.

  3. ellroon, I've just finished reading a book titled Happy Accidents, about inventions (mostly medical inventions, since the author is an MD) that sprang from serendipity, not prior planning. In medicine as in most other fields, the goal-directed nature of today's research allows corporate managers to concentrate on next quarter's returns rather than long-term discoveries regarding the "difficult" diseases; hence most of our new drugs are "me-too" drugs, i.e., ways around existing patents on drugs already discovered.

    If space travel did anything, it forced us to invent things intended for contexts never before addressed, and possibly never addressed without facing those novel contexts. None that I've met among the bullshitters on this subject are willing to do without their cell phone or their nonstick pans; they accept them as gifts from "God"... fine with me, as long as they admit that "God" lives in Clear Lake, TX and has an engineering PhD from Rice or CalTech...

  4. ntodd, I'm afraid Eisenhower got it almost exactly right about the complex, except that it is "congressional-military-industrial." Anyone who feels more secure with drones in the sky and LRADs on the ground at protests needs the services of a good psychotherapist.

    As to the zero-sum game, the problem is that the people who make that argument are not disposed to include all the terms of the sum, or to admit that maybe their favorite toys (see aforementioned drones and LRADs) might be the best things to omit in paying for people's food. Don't get me started; I can argue this one all day...

  5. Among the great disappointments of my long years in America is the public politicization of anti-science, anti-intellectual, and regressive thinking. Destruction of our space program is typical.



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