How Much Should we Spend On Space Exploration?

geezer

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Another thread debating how much money we should spend on national defense got me thinking. Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the moon landing. But after the Apollo program ended a few years later, we never went back. We no longer have the big Saturn V rocket that got us there, and soon even the space shuttle will be shut down and retired. If we ever need to get back into space, though, we can always hitch a ride with the Russians or, maybe, the Chinese. They've always been reliable allies, right?

So, my question is, how much money and attention should be directed to our space program? Or should we just concentrate on solving all our earthly problems first, and play computer games or go to the movies when we want to dream about space travel?
 

Ken Morgan

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I think the first question you need to ask is what is the purpose of space travel?

Its cool as Hell, but what is the purpose? Is it just curiosity? Or the old, because its there adage.

Yes some of the technology benefits mankind, but you dont have to spend $100 billion just to get Tang. Most of the cross benefits could be developed for a lot less without the burden of space travel.

The US economy, and everyone elses, is in the toilet. $1trillion in deficit spending. $10 trillion in debt.

Id love to see an all out space program, but you cant afford it.
 

Carol

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The benefits have been huge, but unfortunately they are not obvious.

NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, and other international space organizations tend to be run by scientists and engineers, which is good for science, but generally terrible for real-world applications such as PR and getting the word out as to what you actually do. ;)

The benefits that we see aren't all that obvious. Smaller, lighter electronics. Seat belts. Polymers that are strong, yet have some give to them. Radial tires. Biomedical technology...

Here's a good summation as to some of the earthly benefits to a space program:

http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html
 

Nolerama

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There be dragons... somewhere out in the cosmos. And America needs to put them in their place by force feeding those foul creatures McDonalds, and make sure they spend every single dollar at WalMart, all while addicting them to Coca Cola, Viagra, and Pilsbury Toaster Streudel.

Actually, I think we need to maintain a Space Superiority presence. What if China wants to collect on our debts? I'm sure that we could spare a few satellites and crash them into Chinese sats in order to mess up their communications.

Governments (especially the US) really needs to keep an edge on space exploration. While the previous part of my post is certainly tongue-in-cheek, I do pose valid claims of Consumerism Expansion and Space Superiority.

What if Walmart decided to create its own colony on one of Jupiter's moons? Then they could hurl asteroids at the Earth if we don't buy enough of their products. That wouldn't be fun at all. Or an extremist cult, moving to Mars on their own dime and making a fool of themselves, thereby embarassing all of humanity in the intergalactic social scene. That wouldn't be cool, either.

In the very end, What Would Kirk Do?
 
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geezer

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The benefits have been huge, but unfortunately they are not obvious.

NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, and other international space organizations tend to be run by scientists and engineers, which is good for science, but generally terrible for real-world applications such as PR and getting the word out as to what you actually do. ;)

The benefits that we see aren't all that obvious. Smaller, lighter electronics. Seat belts. Polymers that are strong, yet have some give to them. Radial tires. Biomedical technology...

Here's a good summation as to some of the earthly benefits to a space program:

http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html

Thanks, Carol. I remember hearing a discussion regarding the benefits to society spun off NASA research, but being old, I promptly forgot most of the facts. Anyway one thing I do recall clearly, was that far more useful civilian stuff has come out of NASA than out of defense spending, since most of that stuff remains classified... and doesn't filter into the public sector for ages.

But my own belief in the value of supporting NASA is more along the lines of what Nolerama noted: "WWKD"... or "What would Kirk do? HA!

BTW Love your signature with "Reddy Kilowatt". Haven't seen him since the mid '60s.
 

Carol

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Anyway one thing I do recall clearly, was that far more useful civilian stuff has come out of NASA than out of defense spending, since most of that stuff remains classified... and doesn't filter into the public sector for ages.

Indeed that is true. There are certain projects that run on the space shuttle that are classified to a degree - the U.S. Department of Defense does have somewhat of a science program. However, in general, if a project was developed more in the interest of science than in the interest of defense, the applications to the general public can be realized more quickly. A complex example - the sophisticated optics that have parlayed in to medical diagnostic devices. A simple example - spray foam insulation. Yup, that ugly yellow stuff. Light, simple to use, and effective.

BTW Love your signature with "Reddy Kilowatt". Haven't seen him since the mid '60s.

Thank you very much :asian:

I'm kind of a sucker for older references to technology. I found him in an advertisement in my dad's old student newspaper...from 1947!
 

Deaf Smith

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How Much Should we Spend On Space Exploration?


As much as it takes to get us away from Obama and all his socialistic 'friends'.

With friends like Obama, you don't need enemies. So it's time for us to move before the neighborhood goes down the tolet.

We should have been on Mars 15 years ago.

Deaf
 

CoryKS

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Depends. If their guy is president, then every dollar spent on space exploration is a dollar taken away from starving orphans and puppies. If our guy is in charge, then we all need to pay our fair share so that the world will think we're wonderful.
 
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geezer

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We should have been on Mars 15 years ago.

Or how about a permanent base on the moon, and a "real" space station--you know a big orbiting ring like in 2001 a Space Odyssey? Both of those are technologically achievable and would allow groups of people to live comfortably and conduct research off-planet. And such acheivements would be a great inspiration to our youth. As it is, the only vision of the future our government is promoting is one of gloom and doom. In spite of my "liberal" tendencies, I must admit that that attitude does remind me of the Carter years. I'd prefer to see some more inspiring goals set... like JFK's call to reach the moon by the end of the decade (of the 60S). Are you with me?
 

Carol

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With India and China bringing manned space programs online, a large program such as that would be a fantastic opportunity to work together, for a common benefit of science.

Instead, I am worried that their space programs may bring about another type of cold war or arms race.
 

elder999

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We should have been on Mars 15 years ago.

Deaf

For a variety of reasons, this is not quite technically feasible, and certainly wasn't 15 years ago. Short answer: radiation and shielding. A safe trip to Mars and back would completely use up an astronaut's alloted lifetime radiation dose, due to exposure to cosmic rays-this is without the required stay on the planet, which would have to be relatively long due to the relative orbits of Earth and Mars. This stay would ensure that their lifetime dose allotment would be exceeded-this effectively limits the possibility of such a mission to nil, barring advancements in space flight (faster travel time) and material science (better, lightweight shielding) or the possibility of some sort of underground facility to use the planet's soil itself as shielding. These same factors also limit long-term stays on the moon, though building an underground facility ther is somewhat more likely.
 

Phoenix44

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I think we should spend a lot, so when we make our own planet uninhabitable, we can find someplace else to live.

I wish I were being facetious.
 

Carol

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Considering the air purifier from the space shuttle are used to make toll booths safer for human workers, we are already needing space technology to try to keep this planet inhabitable.
 

Archangel M

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For a variety of reasons, this is not quite technically feasible, and certainly wasn't 15 years ago. Short answer: radiation and shielding. A safe trip to Mars and back would completely use up an astronaut's alloted lifetime radiation dose, due to exposure to cosmic rays-this is without the required stay on the planet, which would have to be relatively long due to the relative orbits of Earth and Mars. This stay would ensure that their lifetime dose allotment would be exceeded-this effectively limits the possibility of such a mission to nil, barring advancements in space flight (faster travel time) and material science (better, lightweight shielding) or the possibility of some sort of underground facility to use the planet's soil itself as shielding. These same factors also limit long-term stays on the moon, though building an underground facility ther is somewhat more likely.

Perhaps why we are focusing so much on robitic exploration...have the robots dig and build then we just move in....
 

Big Don

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Anyway one thing I do recall clearly, was that far more useful civilian stuff has come out of NASA than out of defense spending, since most of that stuff remains classified... and doesn't filter into the public sector for ages.
Much of defense spending being focused on weapons could have something to do with that too...
Let private companies go to space. Let their customers foot the bill.
 

Carol

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They already are, to some degree. Funding for many shuttle missions has been provided by satellite launches. Some are public, some private.

There are also secondary and tertiary payloads, often called "hitchhikers" because they are experiments small and light enough to hitch a ride in the shuttle bay while still leaving room for the main payload, such as the UV-STAR experiment that was a joint venture between the University of Arizona and the University of Trieste (Italy).

http://www.gsfc.nasa.gov/gsfc/missions/sts95/ieh-3.htm

Neither branch of the armed services "owns" NASA, yet all of the branches utilize it to some degree. Basically, the feds have the ability to keep some missions somewhat clasified and other missions available to commercial/scientific/private interests.
 
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geezer

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Much of defense spending being focused on weapons could have something to do with that too...
Let private companies go to space. Let their customers foot the bill.

I hope we see more of that in the future. But right now, it's too big an undertaking for one country to take on alone, much less one private company. As Carol pointed out, there has been some involvement of private enterprise with Nasa, not to mention a few rich guys buying passage to space on Russian rockets. Eventually, I would like to see much more private involvement, even if the government still plays a big role, as it does in other forms of transportation (think highways, railroads, etc.). I don't think you will ever see space travel get very efficient until you get more profit-minded private sector involvement.

BTW I still hope that we don't let our Apollo Moon missions end up being an isolated, and inconsequential historical blip like, say Leif Eriksson's journeys to "Vinland" (North America) five centuries before Columbus and the rest.
 
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I'd be a lot happier with NASA's budget if they saw more value in unmanned missions. The cost of putting a person in space is pretty expensive for such a short mission, whereas unmanned missions are generally cheaper and have longer durations. Too often, missions which could help answer questions about the evolution of the universe or the possibility of life on other planets are shelved in favor of putting another astronaut on the ISS. I realize, for NASA, that they only have so much money to work with and they have to prioritize. I just disagree with their priorities.

Oh, and I'm still pissed about Terrestrial Planet Finder getting cut.
 

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