Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Understanding the Payoffs From Investing In Space Flight

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the still-waiting-on-that-holodeck dept.

NASA 264

A story at MSNBC.com explains how the technological benefits reaped from investing in the US space program are numerous, but often indirect or difficult to explain. Quoting: "NASA has recorded about 1,600 new technologies or inventions each year for the past several decades, but far fewer become commercial products, said Daniel Lockney, technology transfer program executive at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. ... 'We didn't know that by building the space shuttle main engines we'd also get a new implantable heart device,' Lockney said. 'There's also a bunch of stuff we don't know we're going to learn, which leads to serendipitous spinoffs.' ... But some innovations do not appear as a straight line drawn from NASA to commercial products. The U.S. space agency may not claim credit for computers and the digital revolution that followed, but it did create a pool of talent that perhaps contributed to that transformation of modern life. NASA brought together hundreds of the brightest scientists and engineers in the 1970s to work on the guidance computers that helped the Apollo missions land humans on the moon. When the Apollo era ended, many of those people dispersed to private companies and to Silicon Valley."

cancel ×

264 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Branding (4, Insightful)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791124)

If they were allowed to put their logo on everything they were involved in, then people would start to realize how important they are. Nothing garish, just something like the tiny UL logo you see on everything.

An ad campaign like the Army's would also help.

Re:Branding (4, Funny)

softWare3ngineer (2007302) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791164)

A budget like theirs would also help :)

Re:Branding (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791638)

Why is this a troll? The article proposes a false dichotomy: invest in space or don't invest in R&D. If you'd invested NASA's budget in materials or medical research, you'd probably have a similar number of developments. Probably more, because you wouldn't be blowing a lot of the budget on PR stunts like the space shuttle.

Re:Branding (1)

Dayze!Confused (717774) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791822)

MrQuacker

An ad campaign like the Army's would also help.

softWare3ngineer

A budget like theirs would also help :)

It's just a wild guess, but I think he may have been referring to the Army's budget vs NASA's budget.

Re:Branding (4, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791904)

If you'd invested NASA's budget in materials or medical research, you'd probably have a similar number of developments. Probably more, because you wouldn't be blowing a lot of the budget on PR stunts like the space shuttle.

Yes, and if we spent the military budget on educating the world and promoting equality (as opposed to pushing economic interests, which is what practically every military conflict ever fought has been about) we could probably achieve world peace. But we won't spend the money on that any more than our government will spend it on pure research for anything but military purposes. Alt energy research, for example, supports military goals by increasing range and the ability to project power. There is always a military objective, and it is always financially motivated. The space shuttle program was compromised by its redesign for military missions, but it probably would not have received the funding it needed to proceed without that military purpose in the first place.

It is not enough to look at what can physically be done, but what will socially be achieved. From that standpoint, NASA is utterly necessary, because we will not do the research needed to make the same advances without it, whether we are capable or no.

Re:Branding (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791356)

It's true, I think I read somewhere that for every penny that is invested in NASA, there's a full dollar that is returned and no government organization can top that. I don't know what Obama was thinking...

Re:Branding (0)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791584)

What's sickening is that while continuing to rape their funding, Obama greeted the astronauts this week (I think it was on Friday morning, when they have a song or celebrity wake them up) with a speech about how much we value their efforts and how that's why he's laid out new goals for NASA, including going to MARS.

The fucking hypocrisy of saying that at all is repulsive, much less saying it to their faces. It's like telling the division of employees you're going to lay off next week, about how important they are to you and what amazing things you have planned for them to do for the company, in your meeting this week.

Re:Branding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791656)

Re:Branding (2)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791766)

Probably one of the better cartoons I've seen lately. Too bad nobody under 40 will get it.

Re:Branding (2)

agm (467017) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791616)

I recommend shifting to a policy of "if you like what NASA does, then enter your credit card details on this site to donate" which would leave people free to choose whether the money they earn is used in this way. Surely choice like this would be a good thing?

Re:Branding (5, Insightful)

Dutchy Wutchy (547108) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791692)

People don't always do what is in their best interest. Taxation and government spending can get things done that people would not otherwise do of their own volition.

Re:Branding (1)

IrquiM (471313) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791776)

No - that's why you need government to fund stuff. People don't want to do anything unless they see the immediate return on investment. Donate to doctors / engineers without border and feel instant gratification. Donate to some science thing, and there might be something in 10-15 years being developed because of it. No, we can't trust the public to fund something that's 10-15 or even more years down the road.

Re:Branding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791460)

yeah use the old "worm" logo!

Re:Branding (5, Insightful)

telso (924323) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791492)

The US federal government has awful, awful branding. It's just terrible. How could half of social program recipients believe that they have "not used a government social program" [boingboing.net] ?

In Canada, the federal and provincial governments make sure you know what they're doing. Every advertisement/public service announcement from the feds has the Canada wordmark [wikipedia.org] , a simple "logo" with the word "Canada" and a Canadian flag above the last "a" (on TV and radio ads someone always says "A message from the Government of Canada"). But it's not just media advertising -- movies and tv shows that get tax credits from the government show it, correspondence (taxes, welfare, etc.), worksites partially paid for by government funding, and it goes on and on.

That's not to say that the branding gets to politicians' heads: our stimulus had a massive amount of advertising that many thought was flagrant self-promotion of the current government's policy, as opposed to ads which are usually along the lines of "Don't bring things across the border you shouldn't" or "Here's how young people can get help finding a job" or "Come visit our national parks". The current government even made it such that anyone who accepted stimulus money had to purchase a sign at their own cost extolling the benefits of the stimulus and the plan, post it on-site and send two pictures (one wide shot, one close-up) back to the feds before getting the money.

But when I look south, I'm at a loss to figure out who's responsible. Is the national guard a state or federal program? Is the FDIC run by the banks, or is that freecreditreport.com site run by the government? Who funded that study I read online? And the US government's websites all look completely different, so you don't know if it's the government or some independent agency or someone else (.gov notwithstanding -- who looks at URLs anymore besides /. readers?). Maybe if people knew all the services provided by government they wouldn't hate it as much (or maybe they would hate it more, but at least they would better understand everything they want to cut). It also lets you judge information more easily based on its source (your choice whether that improves your opinion of the information or the opposite).

Up north, I see this great anti-speeding ad [youtube.com] and the Quebec flag at the end of the word Quebec and I know where it's coming from. Or this anti-fraud ad [youtube.com] . France has their wordmark/logo too [youtube.com] .

77% of people interviewed in a 1999 survey [archive.org] reported seeing the Canada wordmark, 60% in the previous 12 months. Over 85% of them reporting seeing the wordmark made them have more confidence in the information and make them "feel proud to be Canadian". And they almost unanimously agreed that the wordmark should be on websites, publications, advertisements, worksites and buildings. The key is that this doesn't happen overnight; the FIP started in 1970, and this is what they were running 10 years later [youtube.com] .

If you want people to know that the government does important things besides building roads and national defence, make sure that when you spend tons of money on an ad buy, people know who's spending it. Get some cohesion going, US government; it's in your interest.

Re:Branding (-1, Troll)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791594)

It's not enough to point out to those benefiting from government welfare that they are doing so, but that they are really benefiting from their fellow taxpayer. Maybe when you're in line for your food stamps or taking your half-dozen snot-nosed brats for free medical care, you'll have less of a sense of entitlement and less contempt for those people handing over their hard-earned money to help you the fact that it's brought to your courtesy of the rest of the people on your block is stamped on every dollar of stamps, every medical card, and every piece of government cheese.

Re:Branding (0)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791712)

Because of course people like that care where the money comes from.

Re:Branding (4, Insightful)

mean pun (717227) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791714)

Aww, it seems someone needs a BIIIIIIGGG hug here. Those poor tax payers, they always get the short end of the stick. You want a tissue? Here, take the whole box, you'll need it.

The truth is that in any civilized society everyone is a tax payer, and everyone benefits from those taxes. And yes, there will be some people that get more out of the system than they put into it, but they will be rare, especially if you average over a lifetime, and those rare cases usually have a good reason, such as a severe mental or physical disability.

Respect for your fellow citizen is always good, but people that use food stamps or free medical care also contribute to society, and also deserve respect.

Re:Branding (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791804)

Three points:-
1) Not everyone is a tax payer
2) Not everyone benifits from paying taxes.
3) Not everyone contributes to society.

other than that your statement is accurate.

Re:Branding (0)

John Bresnahan (638668) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791910)

Three points:-
1) Not everyone is a tax payer
2) Not everyone benifits from paying taxes.
3) Not everyone contributes to society.

other than that your statement is accurate.

Mod parent up!

Re:Branding (2)

The1stImmortal (1990110) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791960)

On (1) - assuming they're involved enough in the economy in question for taxation to be relevant, either they're too poor to pay taxes (in which case taxing them would make things worse) or they're rich enough to figure out a way around taxes (in which case they're cheating, morally if not technically)

On (2) - everyone in the given state/economy for which taxes are levied generally benefits in *some* way - direct or indirect. The imposition of safety regulations on products (such as food or cars?), the maintenance of public order (police and military), public safety (police, fire and ambulance services), the provision of public infrastructure (ever used a road, or a service that utilizes or relies a public road in some manner?). Pretty much everyone benefits from taxes somehow

On (3) - One problem is coming up with a safe definition of who does not contribute to society. Generally making that call or drawing that line turns out to be simply incorrect, dangerous, and/or downright evil. It's better to assume most people contribute to society in some way, even if just by providing more people or shuffling money around a bit.

People get so wound up about taxation. I'd love to see what would happen if taxation (and the benefits it brings) was made optional. That is - you can choose to pay no taxes whatsoever - but you get charged the full cost - in advance - to use anything. Roads, fresh water, national parks, police services (hourly investigation rate including all the necessary public and per officer insurances, fuel expenses, admin fees etc), surcharge on products for regulation/standards-compliance fees, military protection fees (enforced by military officers and competing with private military operators - love to see someone be late on fees here), even fresh air (recouping costs of enactment and enforcement of clean air regulations)everything. It may then become clear to people against taxation just how much benefit is derived from taxation, and how you may not notice the benefits now, but you may need them or want them later.

Re:Branding (4, Insightful)

Count Fenring (669457) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791970)

Except that only the first and third of your corrections are even arguably true, and the third is deeply disingenuous.

Besides, and this is something you "tax is theft" people never get - when you cut off social assistance, the people relying on it don't magically disappear. The things keeping them down don't magically stop, either. What happens is they get more desperate, and often turn to crime in order to provide for themselves. And, frankly, that's the rational decision, if it's between your kids starving or stealing some shit or mugging some asshole you don't know.

It's like the relationship between the dismantling of mental health support during the 80s and the increased homeless population - those patients haven't gone away, and people haven't stopped going crazy - it's just that now, when they do, they end up on the street, unmedicated.

Re:Branding (2)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791770)

Well I would say it depends on what kind of investing we are talking about. If it is like the dawn probe which just pulled alongside vesta and will read the asteroid belt for us, giving us huge insights into not only what is out there but possibly how the planets were formed in our system? Then yes lets do this, by all means lets do this.

But if we are talking about /turns on reverb and echo/ "Meatbags in spaaace!" /end effects/ then no lets NOT do that, as it is stupid and pointless and a giant money pit. Humans need all this shielding and food and water and a shitter, cause a giant very expensive investigation if they get blown up, and are generally only really even slightly practical at LEO with current tech.

Our engine tech simply hasn't gotten far enough to make meatbags in space a worthwhile endeavor For the same price as sending a couple of meatbags into LEO for a couple of weeks one can send a probe to the farthest reaches of our system, gathering data for years or possibly even decades, learning much MUCH more than we could with even a hundred meatbags shot into LEO.

So while I believe in investing in NASA, and would much prefer it to the three giant toilets we are flushing billions into...errrm...I mean "wars for national interest" we are currently blowing cash on like drunken sailors in Vegas one needs to invest wisely to make that money count. I believe a perfect example of what NOT to invest in is the Webb telescope. It is years behind and waaaaay over budget and while whomever is building it will most likely make out like a bandit if we finish the thing, encouraging projects to look at NASA as a blank check and a way to keep a job for years past its due date is NOT the way to go.

TLDR? Invest in NASA by all means, simply be smart about it and quit wasting money on meatbags in LEO.

Re:Branding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791942)

I hope they're able to differentiate between advantageous technologies formed for spaceflight in general and for human spaceflight.

Yeah, human spaceflight is useful for colonizing new worlds*, but "regular" spaceflight is pretty awesome in its own right.

*Technically if we wanted to have humanity's genetic code perpetuate for eternity by having humans on other planets, another method would be artificial wombs and stasis locked embryos/semen+eggs on long spaceflights with robots caring for the ship and terraforming/preparing the way/raising the newborn humans. If we just wanted to harvest other planets, we could go with an entirely robot fleet.

old school (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791126)

I wrote a paper in high school about how the Apollo space program and the space race in general lead to the development of the personal computer. Trying to fit computing power in such a small space for the win.

Re:old school (2)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791214)

without the small package transistors, and integrated circuits already in development, that would not be possible

The cost of not having a space program. (4, Insightful)

softWare3ngineer (2007302) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791156)

..is measured in what we won't produce and is therefore something we will never known.

Re:The cost of not having a space program. (1)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791362)

Also missing is an ROI calculation.

Re:The cost of not having a space program. (1, Flamebait)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791576)

I guess that's why all these military actions we have going on at ridiculous expense and no benefit to humanity are so popular. We need to find a way to measure space exploration and scientific discovery in terms of dead brown people, I suppose.

Re:The cost of not having a space program. (1)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791648)

That's about the most ridiculous straw man I've just about ever seen.

Re:The cost of not having a space program. (1)

Divebus (860563) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791644)

I saw NASA get disbanded at the end of Apollo and wondered why we didn't take the talent and brains assembled and say "ok, now go cure cancer" or "solve world hunger". I bet they could do it.

Re:The cost of not having a space program. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791728)

Rocket science doesn't exactly lend itself well to curing cancer or politics (which is what's really necessary for solving world hunger). Of course not everyone at NASA is a rocket scientist, but they're not primarily known for medical research.

Re:The cost of not having a space program. (1)

Divebus (860563) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791764)

It's not just about rockets, even though that's the most visible aspect of space flight. NASA people have figured out how to keep someone alive in the damnedest environments, so they know a thing or two about the human body. NASA has 18,000 people working for it and part of them are at several medical institutes: The Cleveland Clinic Center for Space Medicine, The National Space Biomedicine Research Institute in Houston, The John Glenn Biomedical Engineering Consortium which includes medical Universities and a few others. All of them have contributed to medical breakthroughs, mostly specific to space flight but refocusing them on something else isn't beyond reason.

As for world hunger, I'm not sure where we're going to get enough food to feed 10 billion people by 2050. Somebody should start figuring that out - not politicians or agribusiness. Why not a bunch of smart people we're about to put on the street?

Re:The cost of not having a space program. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791916)

As for world hunger, I'm not sure where we're going to get enough food to feed 10 billion people by 2050. Somebody should start figuring that out

Maybe we should figure out how not to have 10 billion people. Wait, we already have... starve 'em. Maybe we should figure out a way to get some new leaders who give one tenth of one shit about human life.

Re:The cost of not having a space program. (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791400)

Whatever the Payoffs were in Investing in Space Flight, it's more than offset by the lost time spent arguing about whether all of that money should have been spent or not...

Re:The cost of not having a space program. (1)

Mal-2 (675116) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791428)

The cost of not having a space program is measured in what we won't produce and is therefore something we will never known.

It's also measured in fewer research jobs, and fewer researchers drawn to the field. If they end up in related fields anyhow, and don't miss the prestige of being a "rocket scientist", this may be minor... but again, we can't tell.

Re:The cost of not having a space program. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791462)

Technically, any time that you have a government related job (no matter what job it is), it's not a job that counts towards the labor market due to the fact that it's funded by tax money. If everyone would have a government job for example, they would be out of a job the next day. This doesn't mean it's a bad thing because we require certain services, and I hear that NASA was a profitable organization even though it's government.

Re:The cost of not having a space program. (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791658)

Why do you think there would be fewer research jobs? If you spend all of NASA's funding on research, there'd be a lot more research scientists. NASA does a lot of research, but it's a tiny amount of their actual budget. The research project that I was on as a PhD student paid 3 PhD students, 2 research assistants, and some percentage (around 20%, I think) of the time of five lecturers, for three years. It cost about 1% of one shuttle launch. Skip one shuttle launch and you can fund enough research projects to get 500 researchers working for 3 years.

Re:The cost of not having a space program. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791560)

the guys who would have worked on it still exist though and those inventions might still be made, even if nasa didn't fund. because of the nature of nasa money though if you'd have anything that's even slightly related to space tech you would go and ask them for money, making them involved even if they just provide the coffee and cookies. advanced re-breathers, many materials, the computer chips etc. would have had other funding too if nasa didn't exist, so to say that they wouldn't exist without nasa is nasa doing marketing, to get more money, yet for a while they haven't known what would be the best place to dump that money. but they still have a pr budget. now what they should have done in 70's and 80's would have been to "invent" and publish some computer ui's to make them non-patentable.

This is a lack of PR from NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791160)

NASA needs better propaganda to fight the screaming ferals who scream at every turn "but there is some kid starving with no blanket" , the trouble is it's very difficult to argue with this logical because those making those sort of arguements don't care about the empirical reality that without technology USA would be a mongolian swamp and not only that kid would have no blanket, but all his friends would also have no blankets.

Any Americans more in the know than me, what are the chances of saving the James Webb? I really get the feeling if that literally gets scrapped then it's more or less the end of NASA for several decades because it's the one incredible project in the works in terms of awe enspiring results it might bring.

Re:This is a lack of PR from NASA (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791186)

JWST is doomed. The Republicans are too busy cutting spending so they can give the tax money back to their Fat Cat overlords. Meanwhile they haven't the attention span or the forethought a NASA project requires - anything farther in the future than the next election cycle simply doesn't exist for them.

Re:This is a lack of PR from NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791244)

JWST was doomed because they lied about the budget and lied about the technical readiness of the technology to build it. Just like Hubble, but we learnt that lesson the hard way and we're not going to allow it again.

Re:This is a lack of PR from NASA (4, Insightful)

GameMaster (148118) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791388)

Yes, because Hubble was such a horrible failure. Why would we ever want to repeat that...

Re:This is a lack of PR from NASA (1)

John Bresnahan (638668) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791936)

Yes, because Hubble was such a horrible failure.

Hubble was enormously more expensive than it needed to be. For what we spent trying to shoehorn it into the Shuttle program (the most outrageously expensive and dangerous launch vehicle ever developed) we could have built and launched a whole series of Hubble Telescopes.

Just because something has value, it doesn't follow that it's worth what it cost.

Moore's Law (2)

tspaghetti (2341496) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791166)

From the article: "But signs exist all around us in daily life. For instance, NASA's need for smaller, lighter electronics in space has helped drive the greater trend toward shrinking smartphones and other miniaturized gadgets. " So, NASA invented Moore's Law, too?

Intel didn't start until 1968 (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791482)

Yes, NASA and the aircraft industry before it among other things. Moore just adopted it as a business plan later but the trend was already well under way before Intel existed. In fact Apollo 7 was in a late stage of assembly before Intel was founded (July 18, 1968) and Intel didn't have a commercial microprocessor until the Apollo program was nearly over (1971). Fred Hoyle had an evil megacorporation called Intel in a SF novel but that was long before the real Intel was founded.

Re:Intel didn't start until 1968 (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791588)

nasa is just a tiny, tiny, tiny factor in driving microchip miniaturization. they just buy what chips are available and that's mostly dictated what chips are produced for others, and those "others" is the market that's been worth of trillions of dollars in commercial profit. and well, the apollo guidance computer was built from discrete circuits - and it seems it's design was influenced by ICBM guidance computer built before it. not many apollos were built but a shitload of minutemens were. the nasa funding money though what was available for that design is dwarfed by the amount of money that went into commercial microchip miniaturization for purely commercial purposes - we would have them without nasa. (and a lot of agc funding went to building the core memorys, which aren't cool, which are labor intensive to make, which are quite non micro.

Tax cuts are all that matter (-1, Troll)

kawabago (551139) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791188)

America will continue to decline until "tax cuts" no longer wins elections. You can't run an empire with no gold.

Re:Tax cuts are all that matter (0)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791212)

You can if you aren't constantly going to war and handing over trillions of dollars to any overstuffed suit who puts on a sad face.

Re:Tax cuts are all that matter (1)

Count Fenring (669457) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791980)

You can run it on less gold then. Not as little gold as we currently collect, but less.

Re:Tax cuts are all that matter (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791318)

Sometime around 350 AD the Roman Empire was in dire straights. The Emperor sent his young nephew to be Ceasar of Gaul. The first order of business for this young Ceasar was to smash pockets of rebellion, the second was to collect desperately needed taxes.

This young Ceasar did smash the rebellion. He also _lowered_ taxes, and focused on collected a reasonable tax from everyone. As a result, the Gauls loved him and paid their taxes. Tax revenue not only went up, it virtually exploded. This young Ceasar found himself both rich and loved by both his troops and his subjects, who pushed him to declare war on his Uncle and take over the empire. This he did, aided by his Uncle's untimely death just days before combat at the gates of Byzantium.

This new Emperor become known as Julian the Apostate by the Christians, or Julian the Helen by the Jews. Flavius Claudius Julianus knew more about taxation and running an empire than our current President, or the parent of this thread for that matter.

Re:Tax cuts are all that matter (4, Insightful)

Count Fenring (669457) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791992)

So, hey - it turns out that the problems of widespread rebellion and overtaxation are different in kind from the problems of under-taxation and repressive government policies. Who would have thunk that different problems require different solutions?

I mean, I could quote any number of irrelevant historical situations - but shit, who has the time for worthless endeavors. Short version - in our own history, the same trends we're seeing now (rampant power transfer to corporate entities, drops in collected revenue, reduced regulation) during the Gilded Age led directly into the worst depression the country has ever suffered. OH SNAP IT'S A RELEVANT HISTORICAL PRECEDENT! RUN! IT'S GOING TO GET YOU!

Re:Tax cuts are all that matter (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791410)

You can't run an empire with no gold

Empires are run off the gold of the subjugated peoples. That's the main reason for wanting them.

Re:Tax cuts are all that matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791424)

How about there being no empire? Just an idea... the same idea as when the country was freed from the empire it came from.

Re:Tax cuts are all that matter (2)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791534)

Then stop spending all the fucking gold you bring in, plus more that you aren't bringing in. Spending more rather than spending wisely is a pretty fucking idiotic idea.

Re:Tax cuts are all that matter (2)

LibRT (1966204) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791592)

"America will continue to decline until "lavish spending promises" no longer win elections. You can't run an empire by spending more gold than you take in."

FTFY.

Also, don't confuse "tax rate" with "tax revenue" - they are not the same and do not move in lockstep. For a good example, see capital gains taxes: when the rate has been reduced, revenue has increased.

Re:Tax cuts are all that matter (2)

IrquiM (471313) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791782)

A commentator in Norway said that "American politics seems more like two groups of teenagers battling it out between each other, than two political parties", which I think sums it up greatly.

NASAs place in the budget constrained reality (3, Interesting)

macpacheco (1764378) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791194)

I agree with NASAs contribution to research. However I don't agree with their day to day involvement with launches and maintenance of space vehicles.
We need NASA to continue doing research, creating cutting edge technology and building solutions like the Mars rover.
However the space shuttle didn't deliver on their main objective of affordable space launches.
The larger issue at hand is to end each and every lie to the cost of government projects. This applies to defense, space and other technology government projects.
If a project goes 20% over budget, there should be a huge fine that someone in the private sector pays for. Something that spells a full and complete end to cost overruns.
Trillions of dollars have been wasted in the last 20 years due to projects being priced at 50% or less of their real cost. This applies to the F-35 program, space shuttle, for instance.
The larger question is how to instill cost awareness into traditionally cost insensitive government workers.
There should be an end to all open cost projects. Everything should be fixed cost. Split it into stages.
One example of success is the SDB and SDB phase II bomb programs. The SDB bomb came on budget and ahead of schedule (something more like in record time) and is already completely functional helping the US military win the war on terror.
One example in the space arena is the SpaceX project that is almost ready to replace some of the space shuttle features to resupply the ISS. A contract that is completely fixed budget, with transparency standards that are causing serious concerns on the traditional space suppliers like Boeing, Lockheed-Martin and others.

Re:NASAs place in the budget constrained reality (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791552)

The financial rewards for commercial space exploration are so fucking far off that I don't see things like SpaceX becoming useful for a very long time. If we depend on commercial enterprise to get us somewhere - where space is concerned - we are doomed for the foreseeable future. I agree with the notion of private industry over big government every day of the week, but space is an endeavor that won't benefit commercial investment in the time-frame that commercial enterprises expect returns on those investments. It's an endeavor that speaks to who we are as a species and it's a shame we're trying to reduce it to pointing the finger at "commercial enterprise" and saying "well, they'll probably do it for us" as an excuse to maintain the "fix potholes durp durp durp!" attitude.

All of these billionaires like to float daydreams in the media about space hotels and space travel. None of that is going to pay the bills for our lifetime or the next generation's or the one after that. In a world of companies only looking forward to the next quarter, just how likely is it that a company is going to sink infinite resources into developing things like relaunchable spacecraft (that can do more than just skim the edge of space) in the expectation that they'll be able to start making real money in a century or two?

Re:NASAs place in the budget constrained reality (1)

macpacheco (1764378) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791948)

SpaceX isn't about space turism. It's about doing what before only governmental space agencies done, by the private sector, much, much cheaper. Even the chinese spend more on a similar launch than the SpaceX solution (acknowledged by them).
And I have the absolutely disagree with you, billions of dollars is way too much money spent to inspire people... Spend that improving USA's elementary education, much, much better return.
I don't see the slightest economic sense in sending men to Mars or even back to the moon anytime soon. But I do believe in unmanned missions to advance scientific knowledge and technology.
Far more important that relaunchable spacecraft is scramjet propulsion, and white knight / spaceshiptwo two craft system.
Most rockets spend half their fuel in the first two minutes of flight, exactly at the stage where supersonic turbofans would do much better.
A spacecraft designed to be launched at 60000ft close to mach 1 (with scramjet doing the bulk of its propulsion work) is soo much more efficient than todays rockets.
Scramjet will happen, the military wants it, so not much need for NASA to get involved.
I'm not a Republican, but I do believe there's way too much government in the USA. And way too much waste as a result. Most programs don't need to be axed, they need to be optimized, brutally optimized.

I can think of a few innovations... (3, Interesting)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791198)

I can think of a few NASA innovations, such as:
Edible toothpaste, Infrared ear thermometers, freeze dried food, scratch resistant and UV blocking eye-glasses, memory metal (flexible) eye-glasses & anti-scalding showers, silver ion bacteria-resistant home water filters/softeners, eco-friendly water treatment plants, carbon monoxide detectors, wireless headsets, air-chambered sole "athletic" footwear, liquid metal/metallic glass (stronger than titanium), temper foam, shock absorbing foam (for helmets, etc), cordless vacuums, high performance solar cells, the list goes on, and on...

Re:I can think of a few innovations... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791242)

I can't imagine how hard life must have been before edible toothpaste.

Re:I can think of a few innovations... (1)

Elbereth (58257) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791278)

The sad thing is that I think that list was not meant ironically. Up until the point at which he mentioned carbon monoxide detectors, I was pretty sure it was ironic. Maybe it's because he led off with edible toothpaste and followed up with freeze dried food. After that, almost anything sounds like it's part of a joke.

Re:I can think of a few innovations... (3, Funny)

mark_elf (2009518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791260)

Did you really just think of all those things? You are aptly named, sir.

Re:I can think of a few innovations... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791270)

Don't forget Fisher Space pens...

Re:I can think of a few innovations... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791720)

The space pen was not developed for NASA, it was sold to NASA. It was a private invention trying to cash in on the Apollo publicity by affiliation.

Re:I can think of a few innovations... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791328)

...Tang

Terrible Reasoning (1)

Goragoth (544348) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791208)

Sure, throw a bunch of money at technology R&D and you get nice shiny things out. The problem is, if you invest all that space exploration R&D money straight into Earth-centric engineering and technology research you get a far better bang for your buck in terms of real, usable products. Now I'm a huge fan of space exploration for the scientific value of the research and because it inspires people to be involved in science but the neat little spin-off products are just a bonus, not the main reason for doing it. Not even remotely.

Re:Terrible Reasoning (3, Insightful)

JoelKatz (46478) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791252)

If you're going to credit NASA for all the things the people they trained did after they left NASA, you also have to count against NASA all the things those people would have done had they not worked for NASA. True, if you're going to weigh the costs of the space program against the benefits, you have to include all the benefits. But you have to include all the costs too. NASA drained the country of engineering and scientific talent that could have, and would have, done many other things.

Re:Terrible Reasoning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791752)

This would be a good argument, if it wasn't for the fact that currently the best & brightest seem to be working for Facebook on marketing strategies, an for Goldman Sachs on high frequency trading.

So maybe "draining" them away from those pockets of brilliance was the right thing to do.

Yes: The question is efficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791272)

Space is fun, but it's not an efficient way to develop technology for terrestrial applications. Pour 100 billion into any technical project and you'll get some spinoffs. Pour 1 billion into a focused terrestrial project and you'll get tangible results. Heck, DARPA's $1 million grand challenge for automated cars made a huge impact that has resulted in google driving real cars in real environments in only 5 years. That's the comparison we need.

Re:Terrible Reasoning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791296)

There is a military payoff too. Space is the ultimate high ground, and if one superpower is able to be the one with the satellites with the large metal rods used for kinetic energy weaponry, even nukes wouldn't do the trick. Especially if a hostile country decides to start exploding space junk in the LEO, triggering the Kessler Syndrome. This would make ICBMs impossible to launch.

Well, it didn't happen *quite* like that. (4, Interesting)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791220)

"NASA brought together hundreds of the brightest scientists and engineers in the 1970s to work on the guidance computers that helped the Apollo missions land humans on the moon."

No they didn't. NASA contracted with MIT Instrumentation Laboratory to develop the Apollo guidance systems. (The Instrumentation Laboratory then turned around and based the design on one the USN had paid for - the Polaris guidance computer.) NASA's main contribution was oversight, review, and general bureaucratic paper shuffling. They didn't even program the damn thing - that was done by the Instrumentation Laboratory as well.

Not to mention, it's not really a MSBNC story linked to above - it's an MSBNC rewrite of what amounts to a NASA press release.

Re:Well, it didn't happen *quite* like that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791280)

Oversight, review, and general bureaucratic paper shuffling is generally what people mean when they say something like that.

Re:Well, it didn't happen *quite* like that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791402)

NASA's main contribution was oversight, review, and general bureaucratic paper shuffling.

And money?

Re:Well, it didn't happen *quite* like that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791414)

I know a guy who made the guidance system work; he was bright, very driven, and in the right place at the right time. The same guidance system was used for nukes, which bothers him.

Re:Well, it didn't happen *quite* like that. (0)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791450)

They commissioned it, they bought it so they own it.
However I'm biased - NASA even contributed a bit to pay for my education in Australia in the 1980s because they funded about half of the engineering department I studied in.

Re:Well, it didn't happen *quite* like that. (1)

physicsphairy (720718) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791756)

He was responding to the contention that NASA should be patted on the back for bringing that pool of talent together, the point being that they were already working together when NASA got around to contracting the group. Their "ownership" wasn't in dispute.

None (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791294)

There are no payoffs; only neglect of the most vulnerable among us. Space 'investments' fund the aerospace industry and its wealthy owners. When we indulge the rich military industrial complex we starve our nation of the investments in education and healthcare it needs to be competitive.

Re:None (3, Informative)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791474)

...except that the entire amount that NASA has ever spent since it was formed is less than the current wars or bailouts.

citation [wikipedia.org]

Eh (4, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791326)

You have to look at the opportunity cost with things like this. All new research and development has unintended benefits. And NASA has been such a pork loaded boondoggle lately, it's hard to believe the money couldn't have been better spent. I realized today that the entire I405 improvement project cost as much as 1 space shuttle launch. And no new science comes out of launching the space shuttle, they've been doing that for 30 years. To put it bluntly, there's no way the cost of 115 space shuttle launches could have been worth benefits.

Re:Eh (2)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791562)

Wow, you're taking the "we ain't got no reason ta' be explorin' no space when there's goddamn potholes in fronta muh house" thing literally.

When it comes down to it, exploration is what has kept our species alive, so far. It's who we are and it's what will keep us from expiring. We have one planet. One home. No backup. If something goes down here, it's the end for every last one of us. To put it bluntly, I'll take furthering our reach into space and eventual ability to leave this festering shithole to strengthen our chances as a species into the future by even one-ten-thousandth of a percent over expanding or repairing a road for a bunch of fat fucking SUVs to slodge fat asses from one city to another any day of the week.

Re:Eh (4, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791678)

"And NASA has been such a pork loaded boondoggle lately..."

The problem is not the "pork" it's human beings underestimating realistically how long it will take to achieve the next advancement, people want advancements tomorrow but there are often huge speed bumps in the advancement of knowledge or technology. Intel thought we would have 10 Ghz processors today but it turned out heat and leakage disrupted those plans and we have multi-core processors instead. One can look at all the boondoggles of the private sector to see natural laws often rub up against our naive beliefs in progress.

There are tonnes of things like that, that the average human being doesn't understand because they don't understand the immense undertaking it is because of their ignorance.

Re:Eh (4, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791884)

You have to look at the opportunity cost with things like this. All new research and development has unintended benefits. And NASA has been such a pork loaded boondoggle lately, it's hard to believe the money couldn't have been better spent.

The argument has been made that without NASA the money wouldn't be better spent.

I realized today that the entire I405 improvement project cost as much as 1 space shuttle launch.

And yet, it is essentially evil; the interstate highway project was about control, not about any of the bullshit excuses you may have heard. The freedom of automobile ownership is illusory since your vehicle and indeed your right to use any vehicle on public roads can be revoked at any time and for any reason including none and you still have to take a bus or get a ride to the hearing to get your license reinstated... and indeed, your vehicle can be seized at the least provocation, and you can be fined outrageously for its storage, and incarcerated if you do not pay the fines.

To put it bluntly, there's no way the cost of 115 space shuttle launches could have been worth benefits.

To put it bluntly, without NASA that money would have been spent by the rich on luxury yachts and there would be no benefit to technology at all.

BULLSHIT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791378)

US military R&D has turned out more applications than NASA. Hell, I'd argue the manned space program was driven by PR and the desire for a successor to the U-2 spy plane. Since the SOVIETS launched the first satellite into orbit, the United States followed their legal precedent of putting satellites over enemy territory. Instead of a manned U2 spy plane, you had a manned spy space station, which was killed off when unmanned spy satellites did the job better.

Titanium use was pioneered by airplanes for the military. Missiles and jet fighters drove demand for early computers. A 1950s ICBM was probably the first compact, electronic computer. ARPANET was desired to work after a nuclear war. Materials science was driven greatly by demand for high temperature materials in fighter jets, jet engines, and demand for body armor, and tank armor.

Opportunity cost (4, Insightful)

Goonie (8651) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791394)

One of the problems with this argument is it ignores the very simple concept of "opportunity cost". That is, what else could we have done with the hundreds of billions of dollars invested in the space program over the last few decades? If it's commercially useful technologies you want, for instance, I strongly suspect you'd get a whole lot more of them by simply giving the National Science Foundation a whole lot more money to fund scientific research, rather than funding the development of technologies specifically related to space flight, only a small fraction of which will find commercial applicability elsewhere. Space science and engineering, particularly that relating to crewed missions, should be funded or not funded on its own merits, rather than relying on arguments about better toasters and pacemaker batteries. They're a useful bonus, and advocates should treat them as such.

Re:Opportunity cost (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791454)

Yeah, opportunity cost. For the money spent on NASA in the last couple of decades, we could have prolonged another useless war for a couple of weeks. Think of the children of the military-industrial complex!

Seriously, if you want to slash spending, start with the real parasites, and not with science.

Re:Opportunity cost (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791982)

And if we're having an honest talk about pure-dollar ROI, you'd have to figure out how much technology came out of the military for that war.

A lot of the replies on here (almost all, in fact) are missing a key fact. NASA didn't bring these teams together -- for the most part all of these companies and teams existing *and were already working on most of the technology*. These were all defense contractors and sub-contractors. They were focusing all the tech and development on the moon shot, but we were still in the heat of the cold war. The teams would've been building the tech for the military *anyway*. (Hell, as an extension of the cold war, arguably Apollo was nothing but a military operation in civilian clothes, anyway -- as witnessed by the complete lack of any interest in science until the very end of the program!)

The vast majority of the technology people attribute to NASA are really attributable to miltary expendatures. GPS, miniaturized electronics, rugged electronics, cryptography, vast swaths of material science, engine efficiency developments, jet planes, computers, the Internet, the technology behind rocketry, pressure suits, velcro, even things like long-shelf life food, a huge swath of medical technology -- those are all *miltary* funded innovation.

I'm as against this mess we're in in Iraq and Afghanistan as anyone, but its intellectually dishonest to act like any given 15b spent on NASA will have greater ROI than that $15b spent on the military. Our economy is the size it is right now *precisely* because of the results of 50 years of military spending. Not because of NASA spending.

(And, I'll admit, I'm in the camp of "NASA is a giant waste of money"... not space flight, or space research, but just NASA... its one of the worst, most wasteful government organizations, and the Shuttle/ISS corporate-welfare program for the last 40 years has been the *real* problem. Not Congress' budgets. That was a third-of-a-trillion dollars that could've been massively better spent!) You need to remember that NASA has largely *never* been about science. Its been about sending money to congressional districts to keep critical defense contractors in business. Pure science is (and always has been) a small sliver of NASA's budget.

Re:Opportunity cost (1)

physicsphairy (720718) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791790)

Would the directed investment really have a higher payoff? I'm not so sure. There's the part of technological progress that involves applying what you already know, isolating the optimum test cases, taking a problem and just staring at it for a while. Then there's the part that involves sheer inspiration. It's the reason all the most brilliant minds in the world can putter about unable to make any great progress on a particular problem in physics, until some random guy points out that maybe energy can only exist according to certain quantizations. Yeah, in many cases, that guy is a genius as well; but it's not the lack of brain power that keeps humanity back, it's that everyone keeps attacking the problem the same way.

So it's not a given that the technologies the space program developed, which were co-opted into the private sector, would have been developed in any reasonable time span by engineers working on the problems to which the technologies were eventually applied. It may be that the "intellectual pathway" to the technology did not have a parallel existence outside of the space program. Impossible to prove definitively, of course. But it seems perfectly reasonable to me that a small portion of our R&D should be directed to difficult, multifaceted problems like space exploration, sheerly for their tangential influence, with a larger majority going to the real, concrete problems.

A fire mostly involves collecting together logs and kindling--but to get it going, you also need a spark.

Re:Opportunity cost (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791912)

One of the problems with this argument is it ignores the very simple concept of "opportunity cost". That is, what else could we have done with the hundreds of billions of dollars invested in the space program over the last few decades?

That is a stupid question because we live in the real world and you are ignoring that. The real question is what else would we have done with the hundreds of billions of dollars. The probably answer is bombing brown people [youtube.com] .

If it's commercially useful technologies you want, for instance, I strongly suspect you'd get a whole lot more of them by simply giving the National Science Foundation a whole lot more money to fund scientific research,

Oh good, maybe then we'll get more wonderful things like water carried in PVC pipe, or wire whose jacket must be PVC by code. Thanks, NSF!

What if they'd spent the money on other research? (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791396)

While those discoveries and innovations are nice, they were simply side effects of the primary intention, so can't really be used as a justification for it. Merely as a rationalisation after the fact (which is exactly what they ARE being used for). If the space programme had declared "we are going to do all these space-y things AND develop the following new technologies that will have some real benefits" then that's a different goal. But they didn't.

What we will never know is what would have happened if the same money, talent, resources and political will had been used in directed towards stated, non-space related problems. Since we won't ever know, there's little point in speculating.
<sadly my suspicion is that it would just have been used for another pointless war, so for that reason alone the space programme was probably a good thing>

The one question that should be asked is "If we knew back when it all started, how much (or little) usable science and benefit to humanity would come out of the programme, would we have taken the same route?" But since we can't go back and ask that, the question is moot - as is trying to retroactively justify the programme on the back of some random discoveries and development it happened to make.

Re:What if they'd spent the money on other researc (1)

Mycroft_VIII (572950) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791506)

NASA is not a for profit business. It's in part about research (mostly in theory).
Since research IS about discovery and invention you absolutely must include all the spin off techs in determining it's value, they're much of the point.

Mycroft

Are you seriously asking that? (1)

Lanteran (1883836) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791412)

To get the alpha centauri victory of course!

Conclusions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791436)

So what you're saying is that now that the Space Shuttle program has ended, we're going to reap the benefits because some bright people are finally going to come to Silicon Valley? And if we invest in more space flight programs, then it'll only be another couple of decades before we reap even more benefits?

Fucking Bullshit (1)

z-j-y (1056250) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791458)

If the astronomical funds are diverted from NASA to other research institutes, the result will be better.

Re:Fucking Bullshit (1)

klkblake (1705410) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791654)

"Astronomical" is a bit of an exaggeration, no? NASA's funding is a minuscule fraction of the government's revenue.

Article is kind of TOO DAMM LATE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791468)

We have no more space program. We spend more per year keeping our troops cool while they shoot people.

Priorities... Ours... are all fucked up.

RKI Claims Specialists, LLC (0)

tcbinc123 (2298224) | more than 3 years ago | (#36791520)

RKI Claims Specialists, LLC is a National IME and Diagnostic scheduling company for Workers Compensation, General Liability, Federal and Automotive claims. We constantly strive to exceed the client’s expectations. See for yourself why we are different from other IME/Diagnostic scheduling companies. http://rkiclaims.com/ [rkiclaims.com]

Potential payoff vs definite payoff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791850)

I'd take the definite payoff of lower taxes over some unmeasurable potential payoff!

Enlightenment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791940)

Why should there be a an economic payoff? Isn't enlightening the world with new knowledge of our universe, and pushing the boundaries of what man can do and where he can go not reason enough? Plus how would Bruce Willis have saved the world from Armageddon if we hadn't had the technology to put humans in space?

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>