Overheard: Tax dollars in space - worth it?
Should we pay to explore other planets? Readers have mixed views.
October 22nd, 2012
11:27 AM ET

Overheard: Tax dollars in space - worth it?

Comments on CNN Light Years consistently flood in about how the money spent on the space program isn't worth it. We often see the word "waste" in connection to the tax dollars that go toward exploring the rest of the universe beyond our planet.

So, we ran a story this weekend about what innovations space exploration has delivered. Examples included digital image processing used in medical scanning, GPS and state-of-the-art tires.

As expected, readers expressed a variety of opinions upon reading this story. Some were sympathetic with the viewpoint of the middle-class mother interviewed for the article, who cringes when she thinks about tax dollars going to NASA, and wishes she had more funding for her daughter's college tuition.

User 2/8 wrote:

The money would be better spent investing the future of our OWN planet, instead of floating around space, touching rocks and reporting shiny dirt.

User Whom agreed, adding:

Space exploration is a waste of time and money that should be spent on the needs of mankind here on earth, lets cure cancer first.

But others clamor for more space exploration. Tim Jackson supports the space program because he believes that our species should expand beyond our planet.

We must go into space, and soon. We need to gather more resources. We need scientific research based on the idea of getting to Luna [the moon] or Mars in a short period of time. We need all those discoveries from space age research to live better lives. We need to expand our population to live in the moon and to live on Mars.

Bill Osler expanded on this point, arguing that humans may become extinct if we restrict ourselves to Earth:

Ultimately, man must learn to live in space. At any time in the future, perhaps tomorrow, the Earth could become uninhabitable for man and every other organism on the planet. We think we have eons ahead of us, but there is also a theory that the conditions that make life possible may only exist in a tiny window of time. I cringe a little when I hear about 'space exploration'.

Exploration is important, but the primary goal needs to be survival of life itself. We need to establish self-sufficient colonies in space as soon as possible. We are the first generation to possess the technology to make it possible. If we fail to do so, we may be condemning life on Earth to extinction.

Space exploration doesn't have to involve putting human lives out there, says Sparky:

Space exploration is important. *Manned* space exploration is a waste of money.

We have had robots surveying Mars continuously for years now. More work has been done by these robots than all the astronauts who landed on the Moon.

With a manned mission, the whole point is to bring them back alive. Little or no room left for science. Robots are cheap and expendable.

Of course, there are a lot of people involved in the space program who disagree, including University of Southern California scientist Madhu Thangavelu, who wrote this commentary on the issue last year.

Reader Smartguy wrote:

Manned exploration isn't a waste. There would be a wealth of knowledge gained from health, medical, and life support. If we just ... skipped research in manned missions, we will never leave this planet.

Eventually the population and environment will get out of hand on earth will bring the need to spread out in the galaxy. Colonization is an inevitable need given enough time. Not to mention that probes and robots will be less effective at research given enough distance. The vast distances will make it difficult to control and communicate with these unmanned probes due to the limitation of the speed of light.

Several commenters voiced harsh criticisms of the mother in the article because she doesn't see the use of space exploration. RUDY respectfully responded:

She is a mom trying to keep her head above water that doesn't see the direct impact that NASA has had on her life. It is hard to see this when money is tight and you (hear) a number like $18 Billion. So while I disagree with her I understand her perspective. Let's cut her a break.

And to give us perhaps a little more perspective on the "invest at home vs. elsewhere" issue, Jim chimed in:

Way back in 1492, the average Spaniard probably argued why is King Ferdinand wasting money on Columbus sailing out over the endless sea when he/she is living in squalor and misery...

CNN's Zaina Adamu contributed to this report

What do you think about space exploration? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Filed under: In Space • Overheard on CNN.com • Voices
soundoff (64 Responses)
  1. Woabble

    We can spend millions of dollars on something stupid like a space rover and then in the first year it could just get destroyed or damaged.

    February 12, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
  2. Joker

    Space is very important to explore, bottom line. Space allows us to think outside of the box in extreme ways that we would have never had thought of before. Like many of the other bloggers noted, we have many benefits from the research and exploration of space. For those who say we dont have money for, lets get serious. The gains that we get from the space program are worth every penny. And Now because of the cuts to nasa we now have to pay Russia to send our astronauts to space at a rate of roughly 50 million per astronaut. And personally the only thing space exploration really hurts is religious creditability. We all know the church didn't like those ideas in the 1600s. but then again we do have a guy running for prez that is a Mormon........ Well I am going to go look into my magic top hat and create a new religion now.

    October 25, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  3. cm

    Just where do you think the money for the space program ends up?

    It isn't blasted into space as part of the payload. It is spent here, paying people to make the parts, design and build components, assemble the systems, etc. THEN, those people go out and buy food, clothes, homes, cars, send kids to school.

    That doesn't even cover the knowledge gained, the innovations in technology that become the things you use and depend on everyday. Your cell phone, iPad, Tablet PC, GPS, insulation, new fabrics, all the things you touch. If we didn't have the space program, you could still be living as your grandparents did generations ago.

    The money that is spent is more than worthwhile. It leads to the future. It gives us opportunities we had not considered. And it happens right here.

    October 25, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  4. Eric S

    I have heard the arguments on both sides of this issue, but those who would argue for abandoning the manned space program in order to spend the money "here on Earth" are making an argument based upon "gut reaction" and "tunnel vision" rather than knowlege and insight. I agree with the arguments requiring that we venture accross space to establish colonies and, ultimately, save the human race from following the dinosaurs into extinction. But even that is a limited view.

    For those who want to spend the money here at home, let's look at what we recieved from our rudimentary space program already, and what we can look forward to in the future. First, because of the need for low power and small intruments and other equipmnent, it was the manned space program that let to personal computers, smart phones, cardiac pacemakers and telemetric monitoring of heart patients in hospitals . . . the list is too extensive to dxplore here, but our entire way of life would be deminished without the unexpected benefits of our manned space program. The spinoffs, however, are not the only reasons to have such a program. Next, the amount of our budget that was actually used by the manned space program was negligible. Compare it with almost any other program, and the small amount of money invested paid enormous returns. Moreover, an expanded manned program of exploration would create thousands of new jobs while keeping the United States at the forefront of both technology and military capability. Are we really going to have to "hitchhike" with Russia or China to the International Space Station while we cede the "high ground" to them? Are we really goint to leave ourselves that vulnerable both econimcally and militarily? I know space is supposed to be demilitarized, but have we really forgotten the lessons of Pearl Harbor and 9/11 that quickly?

    Finally, there is one last reason that may even supercede all others. The United States is always at its best when we have goals to reach. In my youth, our lives were made richer by the three pronged goals of Civil Rights, ending the Viet Nam war, and the excitement of out manned space program. There was, perhaps, no greater moment for humanity in general, and the United States in particular, than when Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon. Our children deserve to be handed not only a healthy and fiscally sound nation, but one whose eyes are lifted aboce the ground. We need for them to once more, regain the feeling that we can do anything we decide to do. These things are what the manned space program was and would again be all about.

    October 25, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Your Awesomeness

      I know that the minimum amount to create a space station is 167 billion dollars. If everybody is talking about how we have to eventually go off and live in space because the Earth would be inhabitable. Why don't you just take the money, and help save the Earth? Boog a loo loo

      January 10, 2013 at 9:09 am |
  5. jerry v

    if we have our world in order, no hunger,no wars ,no unemployment, no homeless people, no home foreclosers, yes maybe space exploration. until then foreget it!!!!!

    October 25, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • benhopper

      Short-sighted, narrow-minded thinking. The benefits we reap from the exploration of the unknown far outweigh our pathetic problems here on Earth. Investing in the manned exploration of our solar system and beyond would boost our economy, drive innovation in technology and medicine and tell us more about the origin our very lives. It's worth more than a half-a-penny on your tax dollar, which is NASA's current operating budget. I say double NASA's budget to a whole penny on your tax dollar, hell - triple it - and America will once again be the envy of the civilized world.

      October 26, 2012 at 4:24 am |
  6. genie_gor

    Question is not whether to spend or not to spend, but how much of the public money should be spent and on what? Currently United States is the only country with active commercial space travel program (SpaceX and more to follow). Other countries are actively pursuing space exploration. This will cause a range of issues such as regular space launch by other countries would be hard to distinguish from ICBM launch, tons of space garbage already orbiting the planet and making launches more risky, commercialization of moon and general space traffic and use regulation. Space research benefits entire humanity yet for some reason only small portion of humanity is footing the bill.

    October 25, 2012 at 1:27 am |
  7. Marine57

    It is my opinion that had the same effort of engineers and scientists been applied to Earth problems (such as the giant whirl pool of plastic trash in the ocean) we would have benefited 10-fold more (including jobs for people) than what we have gained through the space program and, in the end, not been trillions of dollars in debt.
    Our government has no more right to ignorantly borrow itself into bankruptcy than a citizen who ignorantly borrows himself into bankruptcy. Governments and people are accountable for acting responsibly.

    October 24, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • Paul B

      Who is going to be the Judge that over see's our bankruptcy?

      We have the gold, we make the rules.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  8. Brent

    Funny how people are debating the space program on a medium that would never have been possible without research that was originally done for and by the space program. If not for space related research, you would be reading this story in a newspaper and typing this letter on a typewriter. All modern electronics since the transistor is directly related to the need for faster and more reliable electronics, enabling integrated circuits and so on. Imagine the eight billion vacuum tubes it would take to supply just the 4GB memory in your pc, not even considering the processor.

    October 24, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • genie_gor

      actually transistors were developed in 1950s. The Appolo program accelerated their development through extensive use but they would've been developed and commercialized sooner or later.

      October 25, 2012 at 1:34 am |
      • benhopper

        That's your assumption - not a fact. The truth is the Apolllo program drove technological advances across the board. You haven't done your homework.

        October 26, 2012 at 4:27 am |
    • Paul B

      I was thinking the same thing.

      I wonder how many people were complaining from their cell phones.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  9. Andy

    Why are people under the impression that space programs eat up a large chunk of the budget? I guess it's because people assume that all that future-y stuff is expensive, and it is, but the government really doesn't spend much on it in the big picture. For example, we spent more money on the air conditioning in military facilities in the middle east in 2011 than we've spent on the entire Curiosity mission so far–from planning to liftoff to landing on Mars to maintenance now. Space exploration is probably the only government-funded activity that doesn't need to be cut down; if anything, pump it up! It really is an investment in future quality of life. So many things we now take for granted were just pipe dreams in the era of Apollo.

    October 24, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  10. Charles B

    I was born about the same time the space race started. Periodically during that time the question is funding space exploration worth it. My opinion is it is. Manned exploration is needed the earth is getting crowded, in history there were always places for excess population to go most probably died on the way but that was a way to decrease the surplus population sending the malcontents off to explore, conquer or what ever needed to be done. But in the modern world its no longer politically correct to do things the way they have always been done. Hence the need for sending those of us willing to go on one way missions of space exploration, sending back signals of progress and what ever else we find. Moon bases would be first start and then Mars, mining asteroid belt, things I read about and would be willing to try if given opportunity. Space exploration needs to be a combined earth effort as it is too expensive and redundant for different nations to be doing the same things.

    October 24, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • genie_gor

      Speaking of overcrowding, perhaps we should start develop and sell real-estate on garbage island in Pacific? Moon property has been selling forever, so why not garbage island? It's more accessible than moon

      October 25, 2012 at 1:38 am |
  11. Gene Grubb

    I too think that space exploration is "neat," and I know there are some scientific side benefits to it, and I believe it fosters national pride. But I also believe there is some bad pride at the root. I believe that to some degree we are spending gazillions of dollars to try and find out what we could learn by reading Geneis 1.

    October 24, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Me

      "What we could learn by reading Genesis 1"? You mean, that bronze age myths are almost entirely wrong?

      That's only a small fraction of what we've learned from NASA, and I agree that it's a very important thing to have learned. Unfortunately there are a lot of ignorant people that have not yet learned that, and those people have a tendency to try to stop scientists from improving the lot of the rest of humanity because they think there's an ounce of actual truth in Genesis.

      October 24, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • benhopper

      Genesis doesn't tell us anything about where we came from.

      I'm glad people like you aren't responsible for approving NASA's budget.

      October 26, 2012 at 4:29 am |
  12. Phil

    Space exploration has provided many benefits to people on Earth. However, most of the benefits came from robotic exploration, not human exploration of space. There is a place for human exploration of space, but more emphasis needs to be placed on robotic exploration first. Far more is accomplished that way. Also, there is a misconception that NASA is just a space agency. That is far from true. The name of the agency tells you it also does aeronautics research. In fact, it does almost all true aviation research in the country, especially civilian research. Much of what is credited to defense "research" is often development based on NASA's research. Sometimes it is just DoD spending a lot of money publicizing their duplication of NASA's earlier work. I'd like to see more funding for NASA aeronautics research, too.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  13. siam

    Democracy is not about asking housewives if we need a hadron collider or if it worth spending money to develop a relativity theory. A layman can’t see beyond his immediate needs and if we follow him we will go back to caves. Our whole civilization is about one and only one thing: science and technology, the rest is secondary or derivative. No intelligent life can be named a Civilization without it. Any artificial restrains on developing science will lead to a rapid degradation. The only debatable thing is that the robotic space exploration can be given a temporary priority but we need both human and robotics for sure in the future.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  14. Me

    "Tax dollars in space" is misleading. The tax dollars are spent here on Earth, funding research, engineering, industry, and education. R&D spending is one of the best types of spending that the government can do, since it not only supports domestic economy, but also improves the economic infrastructure over the long term in a way that no amount of unemployment benefits or farm subsidies can.

    Worldwalker and similar others have it right.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  15. Jason

    These meta stories are counter-productive pieces of trash written by lazy journalists on tight deadlines. Their popularity is bolstered by those who naively hope to have their comment highlighted on the national stage but have nothing profound or accurate to say. This is exactly what's wrong with the media as a whole. Instead of reporting comments without fact-checking, how about we use the comments to identify ignorance and write real stories that try to inform the public?

    October 24, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  16. Buck

    Personally, for the sake of 'scientific entertainment', I think our tax dollars are well-spent on demonstrations in space. It's up to NASA and the Soviets to find our interstellar origins, and someday, if we keep pumping money into the boondoggle, we'll make contact with ET. Even if we have to 'stage' a type of encounter, it will be well worth it......


    October 24, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  17. Harvey

    If I am going to send a dollar I want put it somewhere that generates two. The space program has done that many times over. The weather satellites alone have saved far more in money and lives that has spent on the entire space program. Many of the things you use every day have their roots in the space program. Everything from the torque less screw driver in your tool box to the high tech insulation in your winter coat was developed for some purpose related to the space program.

    In my opinion, the space program is one of the best things this country has ever done. The benefits that have come out of the space program makes it one of the best investments this country has ever made.

    For those of you who say we shouldn’t be spending money in space need to realize we have not spent a dime up there. It has all been spent down here. Read that as high quality jobs.

    Also realize the government spends NASA’s entire annual budget in nine days on welfare, food stamps, etc. Even if you abolished NASA and used it all to help the poor; it wouldn’t make a whole lot of difference.

    I don’t know about you, but I would want to spend my tax dollars on something that generates a return rather than flushing it down some welfare rat hole that returns nothing.

    October 24, 2012 at 6:58 am |
  18. spacetek1

    NASA, unfortunately has never been treated as the National Treasure that it is. Since the NIxon years it has been set upon by the political vultures from both sides of the aisle. Though born out of the slog of the cold war, many marvelous technologies have come from NASA, and now it has been forced to settle into low Earth orbit. If Apollo had continued on and evolved into other programs, we could already have an infrastructure on the Moon and Mars with even more benefits to humankind. Robotic spacecraft are great, however, they can only do so much. They lack that human need to see, touch, and feel what it is like on another world. I indeed hope that we can get NASA back on track, but until we all see that this one program, explores beyond our own planet, produces technologies for the population around the world, AND does so through peaceful means, we will lose it forever and future generations will call us fools.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:59 am |
  19. gggg

    Space exploration, and that include manned space exploration are now requirements for two reasons:
    1) Since we've essentially (apparently) given up on the environment we're going to need a place to go and a means of getting there.
    2) With an expected population of 9 billion by 2050 and the planets reduced means of food production because of our environmental challenges, we're going to need another planet just to supply all the people with natural resources. You know, like food and water.
    Of course, the alternative to space travel would be to get China and India to obliterate each other. That might buy us some time if they would at least restrain themselves from using nukes. Given the choice, I'd go with the space travel thing.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:00 am |
  20. ArdDruid

    Every penny spent on, in or about space is worth it. A lot of our medical and technical advances over the last 60 years are a direct result of the space program.

    October 23, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
  21. Space Cadet

    We spent $113 billion dollars last year on illegal alien invaders all of whom represent a net loss to the United States. With the children they breed and bring add billions more. NASA got $18 billion and can no longer launch an American into space on an American vehicle. But, all of those illegals can see $2 billion dollar orbiters at one of several museums around the country. We're such a great country!

    October 23, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
  22. MashaSobaka

    Cut the military's budget in half, and we can fund a space program AND higher education for those who struggle to do so themselves. Tax dollars spent on space exploration are not the program. Tax dollars spent wastefully on the military are the problem.

    October 23, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • Amused

      Masha – You are absolutely correct! We waste BILLIONS of dollars on useless military projects that only yields more expensive ways of killing people! Whereas Space Exploration has generated FAR MORE useful technology that is now responsible for nearly each and every high tech device we use today! If you are reading or commenting on this topic, then you too are experiencing the benefits of Space technology! Space technology has propelled America and the western world into a new era of unprecedented improvements in technology of EVERY kind! Reducing our investment in this HIGHLY lucrative endeavor would be the WORST DECISION we could possibly make!!!

      October 24, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  23. hilary

    if we can spend billions of dollars a year to fund a pointless war, then we can spare some cash to explore space. space exploration is preparing for our future, not a waste of money.

    October 23, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  24. Nasa Mohawk

    Finding evidence of life will be the biggest accomplishment of the human race. Time will be divided before this discovery and after this discovery. The fact that only 18 Billion dollars is being devoted to this is sad.

    October 23, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  25. Patrick

    We live in space...right now. Exploration outside of Earth is just understanding where we live and the universe around us. If people waited for everything else to be fixed before doing something bold, we would never have gotten anywhere. Milling about trying to get the next best car or material item can't be all humankind is here to do.

    October 23, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  26. Scott Smith

    Investment in the space program is not a waste. It is a good way to advance our technology and to create good jobs. Manned space exploration is valuable to the human spirit as well. What is the purpose of living if we have nothing to live for?

    October 23, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  27. palintwit

    There would be nothing more exciting than exploring a distant planet and discovering the remains of an ancient trailer park. Proof positive of a long extinct race of Tea Party Patriots.

    October 23, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  28. rkhalloran

    That money's being spent right here on Earth in tech, engineering, medical monitoring research etc etc ; compared to what we drop on useless regulations, it's a rounding error. And I don't see kids getting inspired by career bureaucrats vs. astronauts. When you stop growing, you start dying: it's the same for cultures as individuals. Space gives us something to reach for, somewhere 'on the edge' to explore and learn about. Someone's comment above says the NASA budget works out to about $5/month for everyone; I think I can live with that much to stretch our boundaries past the here-and-now.

    October 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • kls817

      well put

      October 23, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  29. criticalbuddhist

    To recap some of the points already made: NASA has a $15 billion dollar budget out of a $3.8 TRILLION federal budget for 2013. This is less than 0.4% of the total budget. This comes to $48 a year per person in the USA. It’s a joke. I won’t bother cataloguing the list of jobs and innovations that come from this paltry expenditure, but I would like to note that tens of thousands of scientists (not to mention regular people such as moi) around the world are inspired by the vision of what is possible in space. I would also like to point out that a civilization is defined as much by what it believes is possible as it is by what it has already done—and with space exploration the sky doesn’t even qualify as the limit. By investing in science and exploration we learn about who we are, what life is, the nature of things. I’m talking not simply about knowledge but spirit, inspiration, enthusiasm. Imagine if you lived in a cave and one of your fellow cavemen/women said “I think we should leave this cave and explore the forest, the plains, the mountains and see what’s out there.” However, if leadership then said “We have to solve all our problems here first: the arguments, the bad food, the short life spans, and all that kind of thing. After we’ve solved these problems we’ll go explore.” If we had done that we’d still be living in caves like ignorant fools. So, how about we stop spending trillions to fight wars and build bombs and spend a fraction of that on doing something new and interesting, like space exploration?

    October 23, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Jude Brummett

      I completely agree. Yes we do have a lot of problems here on Earth, but if we continue exploration into space, we might find solutions to some of our problems out there.

      October 23, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Tennessee

      People who think that space is a waste of money should think about the technologies made possible due to space exploration.
      LEDs, infrared ear thermometers, artificial limbs, invisible braces, scratch resistant lenses, anti-icing systems for aircraft, better tires, chemical detection, temper foam, freeze drying, water purification, solar energy and many, many others. I believe the benefits FAR outweigh any cost of the space program for these things alone. Plus, several of you are right, we will need to expand sometime in the future, but we don't need to wait until it's too late.

      October 23, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  30. Michael Hall

    Although I am a proponent of space exploration I was curious and Google'd "Benefits of Space Exploration". There were many websites that appeared, listing the tangible results in terms of technologies, products, and services that have been directly derived from our space program. It has truly been an excellent return on investment.

    October 23, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  31. Worldwalker

    Anyone who says "we shouldn't waste money on space; we should spend it on Earth" has no idea what they're talking about. They apparently think bales of dollar bills are loaded on rockets and shot into the sun.

    That money goes to buy hardware from companies in the aerospace industry. It keeps production lines open and skills sharp, and provides jobs for Americans. It keeps tech jobs in the US. In NASA itself, it pays the salaries of everyone from engineers and scientists to janitors and cafeteria cooks. They spend their paychecks on groceries and gasoline and gadgets, the same as anyone else, and that money cycles through the US economy.

    Politicians keep talking about how the US should regain its edge in innovation. They talk about how we should train more technical workers, more engineers, more scientists, and have jobs for them once we do. They talk about how we should produce high-tech hardware like we used to, not just import it from China. The space program is HOW we do these things.

    October 23, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • JeramieH

      > They apparently think bales of dollar bills are loaded on rockets and shot into the sun.

      +1. People don't realize this money is being spent on American jobs.

      October 23, 2012 at 11:49 am |
      • Keith124c41+

        + 1 more... Every penny is spent ON EARTH.

        October 23, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  32. MOCaseA

    The exploration of space, both our immediate neighbors and the more distant solar systems, is as important to the human race as the research and development of new medications and treatments for killer diseases. The technologies developed for these explorations increase our knowledge of our immediate physical world, for what is our physical world but a scale model of the rest of the universe?

    The gravity we experience on Earth is just a scaled down version of the gravity the affects the whole galaxy. The way that air moves and flows in our atmosphere reacts similar to the gravitational wake and heat/radiation effects we see in the largest of spacial nebula. The things we learn on the grand scale can be directly applied in the minutia here on Earth.

    Space exploration is as critical to advancing the human race as a whole as every other branch of research and development today.

    October 23, 2012 at 4:17 am |
  33. boost

    The budget numbers are so rediculius and easy to find that it is not worth mentioning them. I would like to think smart entrepreneurs like Elon Musk are not just in it for the fireworks. The rechnological advances required to make space travel possible were the foundation for a better life on earth. Open up your eyes!

    October 23, 2012 at 3:08 am |
  34. CJ

    I love the 'cure cancer' comment.

    Yeah it will be much better if we spend 12bil a year funding research that MAY...not will....only MAYBE...will allow a drug company to patent a cure, price it so high that for the first 25 years only the rich can be cured of cancer. That would be money much better spent rather than MAYBE finding evidence of life on other worlds.

    October 22, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • Allen N Wollscheidt

      CJ - I am indeed soooo very sad for you - The gift of Life is entirely wasted upon you - AND likewise upon so many others of your ilk ! ! !

      Do you EVER stop in your little mini-life to wonder, " WHY ? " or " HOW ? "

      The purpose of the gray jelly in that jar on top is NOT just that of worm food ! !

      Oh, but I INTEND to be condescending to such as you ! ! !

      October 23, 2012 at 1:23 am |
      • criticalbuddhist

        I do not understand your answer. I don't understand the need for the sarcasm.

        October 23, 2012 at 11:19 am |
      • JeramieH

        That made absolutely no sense. Perhaps you should use that gray matter a bit more on your next post.

        October 23, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  35. The Man With a Pen in his sock

    Space exploration is worth far more money than it is receiving. Even though colonization is important, the desire for knowledge is paramount to all of humanity. If any sufficiently advanced technology can appear as magic to someone less learned, then why do we worry about such petty fights when we could put a large amount of money into technology, and in a few years, we could destroy our enemies before they can so much as scratch us. We could live on any planet that we choose and ride out any Earthly storm. Human's, given sufficient time have always found a solution to a problem, there is no evidence to the contrary.

    October 22, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  36. Ray

    Put the $18 billion in perspective. It is 0.5% of the Federal budget. Back in the Apollo moon shot days, when NASA's fraction of the Federal budget was eight times (!!) that, at a bit over 4%, Americans spent more on potato chips in one year than on space exploration – of all kinds. My point being that $18 billion seems like a lot of money, but for a nation of 300 million it comes to about $60 (yes, 60 dollars) per person a year. And for that our nation benefits greatly, both in the young people it inspires to pursue science and engineering, and the very real economic benefits it produces in terms of new technologies, accelerated development of computers and other devices (like better batteries), and products that American companies export to the world.

    October 22, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
  37. jameswalker601

    Yes, Who wouldn't want the government to pay for their education. It is easy to point the finger and ask why is $18 billion being spent on the future of humanity and not on my daughter today? Well here is my view on it.. This planet only has a limited amount of resources, Gold, Oil, what have you. What do we do when we run out? What do we do when we lack the resources to make that step out in the last unknown? What has the exploration of space done for you?? Would the Cold War have ended so smoothly for US if the Russians had won the race to the moon? Velcro, Plastics, GPS and i'm not sure but i think Duct tape might count as well.

    The Future of our civilization is in space. Why wait. Stop wasting time. If i had my way we would cut the defense spending budget in half. Give $350 billion to NASA to have a base on the moon in 10 years and constant presence on mars in 20.

    October 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • john

      ok i did not get much of what you said but i think so to

      sorry about the spelling

      October 22, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  38. DomP

    For human kind to truly prosper as a whole we absolutely need to have an efficiently way to break that 9.8 barrier. Solid fuel is terribly expensive way to propel ourselves away, as most of the energy is lost as heat. The frontier is looking bright as nano technology is making strides in way we design the materials around us. This is leading me to my point of space elevators.

    When this technology becomes viable the whole space industry will explode. Space craft will be built in low earth orbit, we will have the chance to harvest minerals from comets and asteroids, and many other advances will allow us to play in our small solar system. To achieve this, we as a race have to start somewhere. It will take time and research.

    There are several companies that are already looking at the potential of making absurd amounts of money by taking advantage of resources outside of our own little paradise. To cut funding to NASA would kill dreamers, those dreams of exploring, learning, understanding, questioning, and everything good that's human.

    If the defense budget would cut even 2% and move it to NASA the world as a whole would be a much better place.

    October 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  39. Ben

    If we don't go, somebody will. I would like to see the US engaged in bold manned space missions, but I'd rather see the Chinese take the lead than see human exploration of the cosmos die. Perhaps optimism about space is a luxury afforded to rapidly-growing economies. In any case, I'm of the (perhaps anachronistic) mindset that long-term survival of the human race depends on aggressive space exploration, and I'll be pulling whole-heartedly for any nation's attempt at a manned mars mission.

    October 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  40. anon

    We spend $711 billion on defense spending every year and yet people complain about NASA's $18 billion. It's pathetic. NASA inspires people and pushes the boundaries of human ingenuity, challenging us to go further, to tackle problems in new ways, and above all else, explore. Last time I checked astronauts inspire children to be engineers and scientists, not defense contractors dreaming up the latest way to kill other people.

    October 22, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Allen N Wollscheidt

      anon - YES, It IS pathetic : The American Dream has slowed to a crawl and is about to drop out of the sky as a shapeless sputtering MEAN blob - The mere fact that we have this discussion proves that.

      The THING that is pathetic is the current edition of the American Public : I am deeply ashamed of them all - most of them are simply MORBIDLY OBESE dumb and useless stumblebums - Perhaps we can view them as Emergency Oil Reserves ! ! ! . HOW on Earth did we let THIS come to pass - Well, voting Sicko-GoPer-Kons too many times had a LOT to do with it ! ! . Here in Arizona, it is REALLY bad, utterly DISGUSTING ! ! !

      October 22, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • genie_gor

      You lose the army–you lose the nation. Simple as that. Byzantium Empire de-emphasized their military and has collapsed due to external enemy activity and internal power struggles. Your own army is your most competent and trusted ally, your lever of influence and protection of freedoms. Your shield from the enemies and your sword of justice. It may be misused by politicians, it may be used at the wrong place and the wrong time. But if it's not used at the right place and at the right time, you can kiss your homeland goodbye.

      October 25, 2012 at 1:53 am |


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