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How the Critics of the Apollo Program Were Proven Wrong

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the on-second-thought dept.

Moon 421

MarkWhittington writes "A recent story in The Atlantic reminds us that the Apollo program, so fondly remembered in the 21st Century, was opposed by a great many people while it was ongoing, on the theory that the money spent going to the moon would have been better spent on poverty programs. The problem with this view was that spending for Lyndon Johnson's Great Society dwarfed the Apollo program, that the programs in the Great Society largely failed to address poverty and other social ills, and that the Apollo program actually had a stimulative effect on the economy that fostered economic growth and created jobs by driving the development of technology,"

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Good to keep in mind (5, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359317)

The next time we have a story about sending more humans/robots to Mars, can we all keep this historical context in mind please?

Sometimes the best way to help people is to help humanity move forward.

There is always a hidden benefit to trying things never before attempted beyond just the goal.

Re:Good to keep in mind (1, Flamebait)

taxman_10m (41083) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359389)

So there just wasn't any other way to get this stimulative effect besides the Apollo program? Manned spaceflight as a whole seems like a bust too me. Way too expensive for far too little gain. Probes (and robots) have done so much more and cost so much less. Someday maybe it will be more economical to send a man to Mars. Until then, why the rush?

Re:Good to keep in mind (4, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359411)

It will never be economical to send people into space until we start doing it regularly. The only way to make something like that economical is to keep on fixing and fiddling things to make them cheaper. And that won't happen if you don't have anything to fix and fiddle.

The 'eggs in one basket' problem is the biggest reason I want us to get off the planet sooner rather than later.

Re:Good to keep in mind (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359453)

It will never be economical to send people into space until we start doing it regularly.

Wrong. Satellites are launched frequently and it's far from cheap (it's cheap compared to launching fragile humans, though). Rockets are expensive. There's no way around it until we find a more efficient way to send things into space than blowing up tons of very expensive fuel every launch.

Re:Good to keep in mind (4, Insightful)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359525)

Launching satellites is cheap compared to the benefit. Launching humans is not, yet.

Re:Good to keep in mind (4, Informative)

Noughmad (1044096) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359531)

They may not be cheap, but they are cheap enough to be economical. Private companies launch satellites regularly. On the other hand, there were only 7 people privately in space.

Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_tourism#List_of_flown_space_tourists) says that mark Shuttleworth was one of them, I didn't know that. Apparently he had to fly in a Soyus, he wasn't Shuttle-worthy.

Re:Good to keep in mind (3, Informative)

ppanon (16583) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359619)

All of the seven private space tourists flew on Russian Soyouz. The Russian space program was pretty desperate for money for a few years. NASA don't pimp no shuttle.

Re:Good to keep in mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359897)

The issue there was that Russia was in the business of putting tourists in Space, the US weren't having it... It was big news here in South Africa though, because Shuttleworth is South African and all that.

Re:Good to keep in mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359953)

"Apparently he had to fly in a Soyus, he wasn't Shuttle-worthy."

My sister says, he's not sponge-worthy either.

Re:Good to keep in mind (1)

Vaphell (1489021) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359461)

why would you care? in 50 years fate of humans won't be of your concern.

Re:Good to keep in mind (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359479)

Why would I care whether or not my kids suffer after I die? I'll be dead, after all.

Because I'm still alive right now, and the thought of them suffering saddens me greatly. I also care about the fate of humanity even if I won't be around for very long.

Re:Good to keep in mind (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359941)

In 50 years your kids will be a lot better off than you are and will have learned from your hand wringing and sobbing that following your life style leads nowhere. So they will rebel against your whining ways and go out and build something.

Unless you convince them of your despair and they decide your koolaid is the best way out of this world.

Re:Good to keep in mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359513)

I hope to be around in 50 years! I won't be that old. I'll be only 78 and my hope is by then things will have improved (to where I can live a good life).

Re:Good to keep in mind (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359645)

why would you care? in 50 years fate of humans won't be of your concern.

Because not everyone is a self-centered selfish prick their whole lives, and actually give a damn for the well-being of others, including wildlife, and future generations.

Re:Good to keep in mind (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359729)

why would you care? in 50 years fate of humans won't be of your concern.

Because not everyone is a self-centered selfish prick their whole lives, and actually give a damn for the well-being of others, including wildlife, and future generations.

I agree, that sort of attitude puzzles me, especially when I hear it from people who have kids. Why bother to raise kids if the children's inheritance is going to be a dying cesspool of a planet? For people with that kind of an attitude raising kids seems like a gigantig waste of time when they could selfishly spend their time on more enjoyable hedonistic pursuits instead, like tearing up some remote corner of Asia in an SUV while hunting endangered tigers.

Re:Good to keep in mind (1)

taxman_10m (41083) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359467)

That doesn't seem quite right. Like if I jump up and down enough, regularly, while flapping my arms, eventually things will work out and I'll fly? No, there are things missing there that time and repetition won't solve.

How many people would need to be living on Mars in order for human race to continue to survive after an extinction level event on Earth?

Re:Good to keep in mind (4, Insightful)

Bronster (13157) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359533)

No, because there are other things blocking your body from flying. But if you get thrown in water and flap your arms around in different ways, each time seeing what worked and adding more of that - eventually you might become a pretty good swimmer.

Re:Good to keep in mind (4, Funny)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359735)

I can fly, you insensitive clod!
But my glide angle is pretty bad so I need some help slowing down for the landing.

Re:Good to keep in mind (5, Interesting)

wermske (1781984) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359637)

The Toba catastrophe theory suggests that the human population was reduced to 15,000, however, a paper in Molecular Biology and Evolution (15 Sep 99) intimates that the human population may have dropped to as low as 2,000 prior to the Late Stone Age.

I've seen numbers for a viable gene pool for humans that range from 80/80 distinct, unrelated males/females to 660 with a ratio of 1 male to every 2 females. Biologists I've spoken to seem to agree that the 80/80 mix that seems to be popular on the net is simply non-viable in except perhaps in a laboratory with eugenic sanctions and cleansing of (suggestive) non-viable breeding stock which is a nasty moral/ethical rabbit hole this thread doesn't need to pursue.

Regardless, cultural norms (and quasi-taboos) that we broadly hold today would be challenged. Sustaining a village of 300-800 mixed age individuals in frontier conditions is vastly different than growing an outpost for a couple dozen adult professional pioneers from a modular deployment.

Fundamental values... the essence of law itself would be unlike anything we know in civil society today.

Re:Good to keep in mind (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359659)

a few thousand, maybe hundreds. Apparently there were only around that many humans in the initial groups that migrated out of Africa and colonised the world.

Re:Good to keep in mind (4, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359441)

So there just wasn't any other way to get this stimulative effect besides the Apollo program?

Sure there was.

Just dumping the Apollo money into feeding the poor wasn't it though.

Again, to truly help people in general you must advance the human race.

Manned spaceflight as a whole seems like a bust too me. Way too expensive for far too little gain.

Now there's some thinking that will really piss off people in a few billion years should you continue down the path of isolation.

Probes (and robots) have done so much more and cost so much less.

A man on the surface of mars could do more in a single day than all the probes have done to date.

Now which is looking more wasteful... the truth is the probes are tools of caution, but they are anything but cost efficient compared to sending a human.

Your problem is thinking the human must return.

Yes, I would volunteer.

Someday maybe it will be more economical to send a man to Mars.

Not if we never try or think about it hard now.

Re:Good to keep in mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359473)

""Just dumping the Apollo money into feeding the poor wasn't it though.""

I find your dismissal of the positive effects of good nutrition alarming.

Re:Good to keep in mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359727)

If its unclassified commercial tech and privately funded go right ahead. But dont waste Nasa's limited budget on manned PR missions to mars that do not use the latest (classified) military tech.

Space program vs Welfare (1, Informative)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359477)

So there just wasn't any other way to get this stimulative effect besides the Apollo program?

Well ...

Let's compared the stimulative effects of space programs (manned or unmanned) to welfare program, shall we ?

I'll take one from each category - For space program, let's take the Hubble Space Telescope

Including all the delays and all the budget over-runs of the Hubble Space Telescope, the total cost for the entire program (some 20+ years) came to about a whopping U$ 6 Billions.

http://www.astrophys-assist.com/educate/hubble/hubble.htm [astrophys-assist.com]

On the other hand, on the welfare side of the equation --

http://blog.heritage.org/2012/04/20/welfare-tackling-the-fastest-growing-part-of-government-spending/ [heritage.org]

In fiscal year 2011, total welfare costs equaled $927 billion ($717 billion from the federal government and $210 billion from states).

http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterferrara/2011/04/22/americas-ever-expanding-welfare-empire/ [forbes.com]

Just one program, Medicaid, cost the federal government $275 billion in 2010, which is slated to rise to $451 billion by 2018.

Do I need to say more ?

Re:Space program vs Welfare (1, Insightful)

robot5x (1035276) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359517)

Do I need to say more ?

Yes you do - you promised to

compared the stimulative effects of space programs (manned or unmanned) to welfare program

but all you actually did was show that more has been spent on welfare than space programmes.
not the same thing at all.

Re:Space program vs Welfare (0)

siddesu (698447) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359527)

Yep. You could stay on topic, which is manned flight for propaganda purposes vs. meaningful space research.

The spending on Apollo -- a one-off program without a followup -- dwarfed the spending on real scientific projects and on projects with real economic effects. The program ate up 60% of the NASA budget for years. If you read up on the real economic and scientific effects of NASA projects and spinoffs, you'll see that the programs with the largest scientific effects were the studies of space (space-based observatories and solar system studies by robotic spacecraft), and the programs with the largest economic effects were the meteorological satellites.

Imagine how many more benefits could the US have received if that kind of money was not used up for a stupid political competition.

Re:Space program vs Welfare (5, Insightful)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359601)

Imagine how many more benefits could the US have received if that kind of money was not used up for a stupid political competition.

Look at it this way ---- The US would have received a total of nada, zilch, zero, if the money that was spent on the Apollo program (or any other space program, manned or unmanned) was spent on welfare checks
 
The one spinoff that you guys have failed to take account of --- the brand value of the "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA"
 
It is precisely because of Neil Armstrong's landing on the moon, it is precisely because of the WHOLE WORLD get to witness that particular landing, and it is precisely because of the combined AWESTRUCK of the human population from the entire planet, watching the black and white image of a guy in a very fat suit, bouncing up and down on a rocky / sandy surface, that the BRAND VALUE of the United States of America shot up !
 
The effect is tremendous.
 
Ever since the moon landing (back in the 60's) millions of very bright people emigrated from their homeland to America.
 
It is precisely because of those bright minded people that America leads the world in term of technology, economy and might.
 
America gets to be so strong not because of Americans alone.
 
  Without new ideas from those who moved into America, based on their perception that America being the BEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD, America wouldn't be able to churn out so many wonderful inventions, from electronics to bio-tech to many other fields, and it is precisely those inventions and the value of those IPs (intellectual properties) that have propped up the living standard of America.
 

Re:Space program vs Welfare (2, Insightful)

siddesu (698447) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359643)

Ridiculous. People did not emigrate to the US because of the brand value of the Apollo program. People emigrated to the US because the US was a rich country, which could pay much more than any other place in the world post WWII -- a circumstance that is largely due to the excellent way FDR lead the country into and out of WWII.

Re:Space program vs Welfare (4, Informative)

bickerdyke (670000) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359885)

And what was so special about the moon to create that brand value? As compared to:

first man made object in orbit
first animal in orbit
first man in space
first woman in space first

and I'm going to copy&paste the rest from wikipedia as I'm too lazy to type:

The first man-made object to escape Earth's gravity and pass near the Moon was Luna 1; the first man-made object to impact the lunar surface was Luna 2, and the first photographs of the normally occluded far side of the Moon were made by Luna 3, all in 1959. The first spacecraft to perform a successful lunar soft landing was Luna 9 and the first unmanned vehicle to orbit the Moon was Luna 10, both in 1966.[43] Rock and soil samples were brought back to Earth by three Luna sample return missions.

Getting a man on the moon was the only "first" the US ever scored in the space race. (What's even wors as mpst milestone swere pretty much arbitrary)

Re:Space program vs Welfare (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359819)

Neil Armstrong died today
(with Sambo on the dole)
He’s done picked up and gone away
(and Sambo’s on the dole)
We can’t afford no moonshots now
(with Sambo on the dole)
Ten years from now we’ll be broke still
(with Sambo on the dole)
The man jus’ upped my taxes
(’cause Sambo’s on the dole)
No roads, no parks, no space program
(but Sambo’s on the dole)
I wonder why he’s uppin’ me
(cause Sambo’s on the dole?)
I paid over 50 grand last year
(with Sambo on the dole)
Taxes takin’ my whole damn check,
Gangstas makin’ me a nervous wreck,
The price of food is goin’ up,
An’ as if all that crap wuzn’t enough:
Neil Armstrong died today
(with Sambo on the dole)
He’s done picked up and gone away
(but Sambo’s on the dole)
Was all that money I made las’ year
(for Sambo on the dole?)
How come there ain’t no money here?
(Hmm! Sambo’s on the dole)
Y’know I jus’ ’bout had my fill
(of Sambo on the dole)
I think I’ll sen’ the taxman’s bills,
Airmail special
(to Sambo on the dole)

--Gil Not-Heron

Re:Good to keep in mind (4, Insightful)

AchilleTalon (540925) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359547)

I agree, the manned spaceflight were nothing more than the response to the Cold War running wild. It was all about the national chauvinism and proving you can get there before the adversary. It wasn't about the economy, neither about innovation, etc. All these were necessary things, but were never ever the goal.

I do not believe the money would have been better spent on poverty, I believe it could have been better spent for scientific advancement in other fields. As manned spaceflight today do not have all the virtues ones would like to attribute to them. Probes, robots, rovers, satellites are doing better cheaper. The cost to send a single man into space could be better spend on direct scientific research. But I guess the taxpayer doesn't buy this. It's manned spaceflights or don't pick a penny from my pocket.

The reality is the government isn't able to sell science to taxpayers because it isn't convince itself, on another hand increasing national chauvinism has a direct return for the governing party.

Re:Good to keep in mind (5, Insightful)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359869)

I think you're only seeing one side of it.

people are happier, work harder and pull together more when they feel they're part of something bigger, doing something grand.

the race to the moon was just that. Something remarkable.

A generation of kids grew up wanting to be astronauts or to build rockets: something of huge value when so many young people don't really know what they want to do or be.

a bigger telescope or a some slightly better motors might be of more scientific value but they only make a rare few dream of being anything or doing anything.

Re:Good to keep in mind (4, Insightful)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359575)

So there just wasn't any other way to get this stimulative effect besides the Apollo program?

Spending is spending.

If you can find work for people to do, and then pay them for honestly doing it, and that work can in some way have some sort of positive benefit it will be better than just giving people things and hoping they stop being poor.

Now that means you have to recognize education as a form of productive work, it means you have to be willing to capitalize on under utilized labour, it means you have to have valid benchmarks for achievement. Hiring 1000 random people off the street and asking them to be teachers in classrooms with 100 students each might but 100 000 kids in school but it's unlikely to give them a useful education. It means when you have an under utilized labour market you have to be willing to tax or borrow the money to get something out of that labour and so on.

Governments are largely giant insurance systems - that's good, healthcare, police, army etc. are all basically forms of insurance. But they are also able to create markets for products and drive investment and innovation, that's good too (and in fact is in many cases a part of their spending as an insurance system, think police cars and fire trucks - innovation and demand for a new product to serve a useful roll, also, they aren't reinventing the wheel when they don't have to). Governments, as giant insurance systems, are actually a good place for risk. If any random company lost 40 billion dollars tomorrow (including Apple or Exxon) it would be a disaster for that company, big enough companies can survive of course, but a lot of investors would lose a lot of money and so on. Just about all of the western governments, including greece, could lose 40 billion dollars tomorrow and it would be inconvenient but not catastrophic (well, except that greece is trapped in the Euro but lets not get into that, they could survive an added 40 billion in debt, they'd just be stuck with 8-12% interest on it). It's also very hard for a government to actually lose 40 billion dollars in a rich country, it can very inefficiently use 40 billion dollars, but 40 billion dollars trying to build a tunnel to china and failing would still have put people to work for 40 billion dollars and driven up consumer demand for all the stuff they bought, so the government would have spent 40 billion, taxed back 15 or 20 billion, and benefited some from the spillover effect. And be left with a hole in the ground that goes no where. If the apollo programme had been a complete failure (all the rockets blew up for example), or if it turned out that for whatever reason you could never actually get any equipment that would be functional on the moon (people or otherwise) then at least all the people put to work trying would have had jobs, no small subset of the population would have borne the burden of eating the lost investment.

There are more complicated layers of course, about what to do in various states of employment, when just giving stuff away is the right course of action (emergencies for example), there's spending money to prevent disasters rather than recovering from them, which then looks like you've wasted money on a problem that never materialized. And sometimes you are only putting enough money into a problem to prevent it from getting worse.

Re:Good to keep in mind (1)

Eraesr (1629799) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359755)

You seem to forget that in the 1960's, the technology to build robots like Curiosity didn't exist yet. And we do hear the same complaints about the Mars rovers (it costs too much, etc) these days as well.

Re:Good to keep in mind (0)

Eraesr (1629799) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359757)

Oh damn, that was supposed to be a reply to this post [slashdot.org] :-/

Re:Good to keep in mind (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359915)

So there just wasn't any other way to get this stimulative effect besides the Apollo program? Manned spaceflight as a whole seems like a bust too me.

Perhaps reading TFA would have answered your question?

How can yo complain about the cost in the same paragraph that you ask about a stimulus? Are you daft, or being deliberately dense?

They didn't load the rockets with money you know. They spent it all here on earth give jobs to everyone from the burger flipping kid to the actual rocket scientists, and everyone in between.

And the benefits aren't in what we learned or what we brought back, but rather what we achieved and the spin off tech that we built along the way

And yet still today there are people running around saying that trickle down doesn't work, and has never worked.

Re:Good to keep in mind (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359439)

Fill my moon pussy with yams.

Re:Good to keep in mind (2)

siddesu (698447) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359447)

Actually, the article doesn't provide the context you're hoping for. If anything, it makes two points: that the Apollo mission was a political success and that the arguments of its critics -- a majority of the scientists at NASA, it would seem -- have been forgotten. There is nothing in the article that would give substance to the claim that the Apollo program had an economic effect that exceeded its costs.

Re:Good to keep in mind (2, Interesting)

wermske (1781984) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359503)

It is an old dilemma... do philosopher kings use the carrot, the stick, or some combination incentive. Very often possibility is better expressed as probability. Put another way, how well is a destination communicated to a mob, how well is a mob moved to action, and the persistence (and consistency) with which the mob continues to be shepherded.

This when said mob consists of a minimum N+1 political fractures (population samples) with a minimum N^N^X+1 combinations of orthogonal, parallel, and skewed agenda.

In short, possibility is not the limiting factor... charisma, communication, and the shepherd's crook controls what can be achieved. Just because something is perceived as right when looking through a prism just so...while holding the tongue just thusly -- doesn't mean that everyone in everyplace having walked in every shoes also perceives the same to hold true. Perception is reality. Making reality (measuring what can be or has been achieved) is one of the hallmarks of exceptional leadership. Historians have the luxury of analvision. Their visual acuity doesn't necessarily mean revisionist hypothesis have or hold any value except for philosophers. That is, unless they can alter perception!

INAM - But, I'm confident my finger-in-the-wind is measuring the right direction.

DRINK! (1)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359323)

Is this some sort of drinking game? Because, AWESOME!

Re:DRINK! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359341)

Tang drinking game?

Re:DRINK! (2)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359367)

Tang drinking game?

A Carson remark about cooperation in space with the Russians: They can bring the vodka and we will bring the Tang.

it's called a false choice (3, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359345)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma [wikipedia.org]

you can do both

Re:it's called a false choice (0)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359421)

Ahh, so you spend a dollar on the Apollo program, and then that same dollar on a poverty reduction program? How does that work? Do you counterfeit it or something? Won't that cause inflation?

Re:it's called a false choice (-1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359501)

are you trolling or stupid?

Re:it's called a false choice (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359625)

No, I don't think he's stupid. Are you?

Did you actually understand what it is he wrote?

Let me clear it up for you: "You cannot spend the same money twice".

You could give half the money to the Apollo program, and half to the poverty reduction program, but you cannot give them both all of the money.

Did that clear it up?

Re:it's called a false choice (0)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359785)

what we've cleared up is you are definitively stupid

Re:it's called a false choice (1)

wermske (1781984) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359739)

are you trolling or stupid?

Subject line irony... survey says -- Yes!

Although, I bet he chooses Stupid for 100, Alex.

Re:it's called a false choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359569)

You take that dollar from defense spending, because if those dollars weren't used for Apollo, they certainly would not have been used to feed the poor.

Re:it's called a false choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359685)

Insightful? If you have a certain amount of money, you can divide the money up any way you please so that you can tackle more than one problem at a time.

It happens all the god damn time! There might be less money to use on a specific project, but more than one problem is still being tackled.

Re:it's called a false choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359811)

> Ahh, so you spend a dollar on the Apollo program, and then that same dollar on a poverty reduction program? How does that work?

It's quite simple... you take a dollar out of cosmetics spending.

Re:it's called a false choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359591)

You're right - it is a false choice. How about the government spending money on neither since neither the war on poverty nor the space program are part of the proper role of government.

Re:it's called a false choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359651)

+1

Except, if we get rid of patents and stop the government (you know, get rid of it) from tampering arbitrarily with the free market, businesses would be incentivized to continue innovating technologically just to incentivize their customers to keep upgrading.
And on and on.

Solving poverty doesn't mean more money (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359347)

The argument over whether or not money would be better spent helping the impoverished always comes back to the same basic question: Are we not spending enough to fight poverty, or is it just that the money we're spending not being put to good use?

Frequently, throwing more money at a problem doesn't solve the problem any better or faster.

Still a muscle flexing contest (1)

dorpus (636554) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359351)

The space programs were still a way to distract attention from poverty in both the USA and USSR.

If we throw more money at NASA, will they think of ways to build public housing projects for poor people in space? At what point does NASA become something more than a jobs welfare program for unemployed engineers?

Re:Still a muscle flexing contest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359405)

Better question would be, if we tasked NASA to design public housing projects for poor people, what would the result be?

Re:Still a muscle flexing contest (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359577)

Better question would be, if we tasked NASA to design public housing projects for poor people, what would the result be?

Ghettos on the moon?

Re:Still a muscle flexing contest (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359621)

NASA invented charcoal water filters, smoke alarms, ear thermometers and countless other pieces of technology that save lives and improve the heath of millions every day.

True then, True Today.... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359369)

The Great Society programs are, quite literally, bankrupting our country. Meanwhile, the advance of technology has afforded that even the poorest of our poor (in the US) has cable televisions, cellular phones and a beater car to drive.

Re:True then, True Today.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359391)

The Great Society programs never worked. Unlike many places in the world, people never were starving in the US. They were poor then and after spending trillions and trillions, there are still poor. But like you said, at least they have cable tv.

Re:True then, True Today.... (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359437)

If they are bankrupting our country, playing world cop must be killing it outright.

Re:True then, True Today.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359787)

Regarding the US, until the last few years, payroll taxes where bringing in more money than Social Security and Medicare were spending. Now the are both a bit in the red. They will become more in the red over time (theoretically funding themselves by selling their securities in their trust fund back to the government rather than buying securities from the government when they were taking in more taxes than was goning out).

To put things in perspective, the trillion dollars spent on Social Security each year is similar to the trillion dollars spent on defense, and similar to the trillion dollar deficit.

Some of the othe big Federal spending items are debt interest ($230 billion), TANF/EITC/disability ($187B), unemployment ($120B), educatIon ($113B), Food assistance ($103B), transportation ($93B).

Re:True then, True Today.... (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359587)

The Great Society programs are, quite literally, bankrupting our country.

Got any evidence for that?

Re:True then, True Today.... (2)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359781)

Seriously. The GP talks as if the money went into a black hole. It goes back into the economy, right away. The recipients are those who most urgently need money for basic necessities. They might even pay down some debt, which means the loan sharks, credit card companies, and other lowlifes who prey upon the poor won't be raking in quite so much money at 30% plus interest.

Johnson supported both (4, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359385)

Johnson supported Apollo and the Great Society. I ran across this quote about the Great Society:

We are going to assemble the best thought and broadest knowledge from all over the world to find these answers. I intend to establish working groups to prepare a series of conferences and meetings—on the cities, on natural beauty, on the quality of education, and on other emerging challenges. From these studies, we will begin to set our course toward the Great Society.

Imagine if we did the same today, to solve our problems. Then readjusted them once we found out what worked and what didn't. Read the whole speech [utexas.edu] , we don't have any politicians today who are anywhere near as eloquent. We are the generation of incompetent politicians.

Re:Johnson supported both (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359471)

Wait, solving problems? The problem with that is the political party dedicated to the idea that government doesn't work and that out should ultimately be abolished.

Re:Johnson supported both (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359543)

Both parties are dedicated to the idea that government doesn't work.....by enacting crappy policies, and trying to repeal the crappy policies of the other party.

Neither party is saying, "let's figure out what our biggest problems are and try to solve them." Oh yes, both say they are, but they aren't.

Re:Johnson supported both (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359695)

Here, let me clear-up the confusion for you since you apparently spend too much time on daily kos...

The Republicans are not ..."dedicated to the idea that government doesn't work and that out should ultimately be abolished", they are just realistic about human nature. Humans are, by nature, imperfect and lazy. Give humans a guaranteed job and most of them will under-perform. Don't hold them accountable for their work, and most humans will do shoddy work. As a result, most Republicans think that when you setup big government programs with lifetime positions, guaranteed retirement packages, power-over the customer (as opposed to accountability to the customer) and no competition you are likely to get bad performance, waste, inefficiency and poor customer service. All the empirical evidence we have before us with every part of our government pretty-much confirms this viewpoint.

Republicans tend to support some parts of government (like the military) not because they think these parts are better than the other parts but because [1] they are absolutely essential [2] they are required by the constitution [3] there's no practical alternative.

As for NASA, we have a spectacularly successful moon landing program (pushed to completion by shoveling tons of cash through the inefficient government) followed by 30 years on low earth orbit with failed program after failed program to replace the shuttles. This would be like some government agency a hundred years ago buying five Wright Flyers and then operating them for 30 years without agreeing on a follow-up airplane... NASA has started and cancelled more manned programs in the past 30 years than it has actually completed...and when they do robots, they spend more time and money making one-off unique machines than any business would ever consider... converting these into jobs programs for scientists and engineers. Spend a decade building a unique new lander, six years operating it and another four writing reports about it and analyses of its data and you have a nice career. A business would setup an assembly line for a single standardized design, build a bunch of identical rovers, and send them to explore many places. This would not create full careers for guys who design rovers... but there's a certain clarity of purpose in that difference.

Re:Johnson supported both (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359595)

Actually, Johnson did not care about the space program itself... he cared about the prestige it provided him. As a senator from Texas, he saw the new agency Eisenhower created (NASA) as a new source or pork and prestige. As Kennedy's VP, he was assigned to oversee NASA and he used his muscle to get the astronauts and mission control into his state (hence the "Johnson Space Center"). The reality, however, was that for the long-term, Johnson saw the social spending as vital to future Democrat electoral dominance and when given the choice between the two, he gutted NASA.

Most people do not realize it, but it was Johnson rather then Nixon who cancelled the production of Saturn V moon rockets. By the time Neil Armstrong put that first bootprint in the lunar soil, the Saturn V production line was already shutting down. By the time Nixon was sworn in, it was as impossible to build more Saturn V moon rockets as it would be now to re-start shuttle operations (which is to say "not absolutely technically impossible" but so expensive to bring-back workers and re-open production lines of all the components that no politician would be willing to spend the money)

Re:Johnson supported both (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359893)

Johnson supported Apollo and the Great Society. I ran across this quote about the Great Society:

We are going to assemble the best thought and broadest knowledge from all over the world to find these answers. I intend to establish working groups to prepare a series of conferences and meetings—on the cities, on natural beauty, on the quality of education, and on other emerging challenges. From these studies, we will begin to set our course toward the Great Society.

Imagine if we did the same today, to solve our problems. Then readjusted them once we found out what worked and what didn't. Read the whole speech [utexas.edu] , we don't have any politicians today who are anywhere near as eloquent. We are the generation of incompetent politicians.

He was eloquent, ok... [youtube.com]

Really? (2)

aglider (2435074) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359435)

I wouldn't consider any "moon program" a must have for a single nation. Maybe for a world-wide international organization.
While fighting the poverty, the illiteracy, the lack of food and water and so on, should be a must have, and a no.1 priority, for every single nation and for every international organization.
IMHO.

We Stopped Dreaming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359483)

Obligatory Neil DeGrasse Tyson clip: in my opinion, he hits the nail on the head. Mankind's progress is founded upon the nurturing of the vision created by our scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and technologists. We can spend all we want on programs for easing poverty, but when we starve our minds and hearts to feed our bellies, we mortgage our future.

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=6b4_1337136397

The real outrage is that as things have stood for the past few decades, the choice isn't even about funding science and space exploration versus social welfare. The choice has been whether or not we continue to lower taxes on the wealthiest of Americans, who have reaped all the benefits of our scientists' hard work, and whose bottomless avarice has been responsible for manipulating the system to make them even more wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

Critics of the Indian space program... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359489)

...should take note of this article. Every time there is news about India's space initiatives, there are howls of protest - mostly in the Western media, including on Slashdot about how we should focus on poverty alleviation instead of such "wasteful" expenditure.

In the long run, investment in our space program is going to pay off for India. Actually, it has already started to pay off for us - better connectivity, better weather forecasts, getting a greater number of young people interested in pursuing a career in science etc, besides bringing in money from commercial space launches for foreign countries.

The critics are being proved been wrong.

Re:Critics of the Indian space program... (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359579)

I howl and protest about India's space programme, but not because they should spend money else where, because they can't even build cars that don't catch fire. How can they be expected to build rockets that don't explode?

The Great Society did what could be expected (1, Troll)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359493)

The problem with this view was that spending for Lyndon Johnson's Great Society dwarfed the Apollo program, that the programs in the Great Society largely failed to address poverty...

That's not true. I was a little kid at the time, but I remember Johnson announcing the "Great Society" and even then I realized that it would cause a lot more poverty. And I was sure right. What the author ignores or fails to understand is that the "Great Society" was designed to increase poverty, not eliminate it. It did exactly what it could be expected to do.

Programs like the space race improved a lot of things for everyone. Programs like the "Great Society" only siphon money from worthy projects, and make poverty seem more attractive.

I realize this will seem cynical, but I can't help notice that the Democrats' voting base has long been the poor. They benefit by having more poor. The Republican's voting base tends to be the better off, those not looking for handouts from the government and generally wanting less government, not more. They tend to understand that they actually have to pay for anything that the "government" gives them, and passing that money through several greedy hands in Washington before getting some of it back isn't very efficient.

Re:The Great Society did what could be expected (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359585)

The flaw in your argument: you think the poor are only poor because they have responded to incentives that lead them to be poor. Change the incentives, and voila! They will make themselves rich.

For a lot of poor people, this is not true. They just aren't very good at responding to incentives, or making themselves rich. Turns out everyone is different. Some are not as smart as others. There is no reason to suppose a modern economy will provide a neat, well-suited "job" for everyone. The function of the modern economy is to eliminate labour costs as fast and as creatively as possible. Jobs are increasingly the preserve of only the smartest people.

Get rid of welfare, and you'll eventually find out what all these dumb people are good at: getting confused, angry, voting for Chavez, smashing things they don't understand.

Welfare is a bargain.

Re:The Great Society did what could be expected (1)

Jello B. (950817) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359597)

They tend to understand that they actually have to pay for anything that the "government" gives them

That's why they turned a surplus into a deficit with unfunded tax cuts and wars. Great insight, dumbass.

No, the Democrats don't benefit by creating poor people. Poor people are still so frustrated with the state of the economy that some are even willing to ignore all the progress we've made in the last few years and elect members of the other party, the one that nearly ruined us. The fact that the economy is struggling is absolutely a bad thing for the Democrats.

Re:The Great Society did what could be expected (1, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359613)

The Republican's voting base tends to be the better off, those not looking for handouts from the government and generally wanting less government, not more. They tend to understand that they actually have to pay for anything that the "government" gives them, and passing that money through several greedy hands in Washington before getting some of it back isn't very efficient.

LMAO.

Oh, wait - you were serious?

Did we achieve anything with the war on poverty? (1)

tranquilidad (1994300) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359529)

I've often wondered if we could have shown Johnson the results of a fifty year war on poverty if it would have still been pursued.

On the one hand we've created multiple generations dependent on government with no clear avenue of escape. On the other we've created a strong voting bloc for liberal candidates.

While I don't think either of these outcomes was Johnson's goal it's hard to argue that the massive dollars thrown at the problem have achieved the type of economic mobility and freedom originally envisioned.

Re:Did we achieve anything with the war on poverty (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359631)

Interesting question. Here is something Johnson said in his inaugural address:

I do not believe that the Great Society is the ordered, changeless, and sterile battalion of the ants. It is the excitement of becoming-always becoming, trying, probing, falling, resting, and trying again--but always trying and always gaining.

Do you think that matches America today?

Give a man to fish... (5, Insightful)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359565)

... and he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and you've fed him for a life time (or until the fish run out).

Same applies to poverty. Give a bunch of poor people aid and they'll be forever dependent on you. Give them all jobs and they'll forever be a source of tax revenue.

Re:Give a man to fish... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359623)

Give a man religion, and he'll pray for fish until he starves to death.

Re:Build a man a fire... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359627)

...and he'll be warm for the night. Set a man on fire and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.

Re:Give a man to fish... (4, Funny)

trold (242154) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359957)

... Teach a man to fish, and you've turned him into a habitual liar.

Usual NASA tech progress bullshit (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359567)

This is the usual bullshit about how NASA advanced semiconductor and computer technology. About the only real advance to come from NASA was NASTRAN, the first finite-element analysis program. The paper talks about "space and defense". It was DoD, especially the USAF, that pushed semiconductor and computer technology hard. SAGE, the Atlas Missile Guidance Computer, the Navy's nuclear submarine program, and the various huge missile and radar programs of the 1950s and 1960s all advanced computer and electronics technology.

NASA was a consumer of those technologies, and in terms of units purchased, not a big one. NASA bought a few tens of rockets a year; at the peak, missile programs bought hundreds to thousands.

NASA was big on materials and weight reduction, and some interesting materials came out of NASA. But more of them came out of the USAF. At the time, much of that was classified. The SR-71 was a titanium aircraft flown in the 1960s. Lockheed's Skunk Works actually pioneered the use of liquid hydrogen as a propellant, although NASA took the credit. Heat shield materials came from missile nose cones.

NASA was #1 at public relations, and still has a huge PR operation. DoD and the USAF were trying to keep the USSR from finding out what we had. So NASA got to take the credit for a lot of stuff they didn't pioneer.

After all, Alan Shepard went into space atop a Redstone ICBM booster. John Glenn went into space atop an Atlas ICBM booster. The Gemini program used modified Titan II ICBM boosters. Only Apollo had its own booster.

Re:Usual NASA tech progress bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359641)

NASA was #1 at public relations, and still has a huge PR operation. DoD and the USAF were trying to keep the USSR from finding out what we had. So NASA got to take the credit for a lot of stuff they didn't pioneer.

I think NASA gets to much PR for the research it does. It is quite successful at fooling the average person.

Re:Usual NASA tech progress bullshit (4, Informative)

wienerschnizzel (1409447) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359709)

NASA invested its money and brainpower into many things to push them to higher durability and power and lower size and weight.

The first practical integrated circuit was developed on the order of NASA for the use on the Apollo guidance computer. (And yes DoD pitched in too on that for their ICBM).

They worked with Black and Decker on modernizing their first generation of battery operated power tools.

They contributed to research and funding of countless computing systems to make them smaller and more robust.

As well as developments of new lightweight durable fabrics and materials for the spacecraft as well as the devices and clothing.

The list goes on - optics, food preservation and purification, robotics, guidance systems etc. etc.

Re:Usual NASA tech progress bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359761)

"NASA bought a few tens of rockets a year; at the peak, missile programs bought hundreds to thousands. "

Yes, well, if the government funded NASA the same way the funded their military, perhaps they'd be able to afford the same amount of rockets.

Re:Usual NASA tech progress bullshit (1)

mccabem (44513) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359909)

Without going and digging up all the proof, my understanding is that 2/3 of Shuttle missons were military in nature. Pretty consistent with what you are saying. The PR neither was nor is just for Russians me-thinks. :)

-Matt (re-remembering that Eisenhower quote.)

Job creators (5, Interesting)

br00tus (528477) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359573)

The double-think which one has to perform to try to understand talk about job creators is mind-boggling to me. I can barely wrap my head around what mental gymnastics I'd have to do to buy into this nonsense. I look out my window and see birds flying around and eating food. They are free and need no one to "create jobs" for them, yet we humans seem to supposedly need heirs like the Koch brothers and others to create jobs for us. There was a poster in during the strikes and near-uprising in 1968 France (one fifth of France's population was on strike, de Gaulle fled the country) that said "Le patron a besoin de toi, tu n'as pas besoin de lui", but in this day and age of low VC investment, longer hours, boring work, high unemployment etc., people seem more enslaved to the heirs and their broken system then at any time - at least in the USA anyhow. In other countries they're trying to burn down US embassies as I type.

You used to be able to go to the federal government's BLS and see inflation-adjusted historical average hourly wages, but they removed that functionality, perhaps because it looked so bad. Here's a fellow who did it [blogspot.com] back in 2007, with links to the Federal Reserve and BLS data. As you can see, the hourly wage in the US was higher in the early 1970s then it is now. In fact, it was higher for the whole decade of 1968-1978 then it is now. All of this wonderful economic growth and job creation - what has it done for the majority of Americans over the past decades? Absolutely nothing. It all goes to the 1%, the majority of whom inherited it, if you're to believe the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances, Forbes 400 richest list etc.

Political scientists, historians, astronauts etc. are also pretty much in universal agreement that if communist parties had not come to power in Russia, China, eastern Europe etc. in the 1960s, that there is no way Congress would have ever financed the moon shot. Sputnik and the advancements in science and engineering in the Soviet Union are what loosened the purse strings in the US - the Soviets were winning the Space Race from Sputnik up until the end of 1968 where they were still winning the moon race. By that time the USSR was busy with Poland and Czechoslovakia and the like and Apollo 8 did its moon flyby, the first time the US really pulled ahead in the space race, which was followed by the next important US achievement, Apollo 11. It took the US over a decade to catch up and finally surpass the USSR. Then after a moon flyby and landing, that was pretty much the end of any major space spending. I don't see the point of The Atlantic talking about ancient history - it's not like if the US had any leftover money it would spend it on a project like that, not that it has any spare money.

Re:Job creators (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359677)

Hourly wages do not include benefits. Inflation adjusted total compensation, counting wages and also benefits such as health insurance, has risen. Over the past forty years compensation per hour and output per hour have moved almost in unison. Productivity rose 110% since 1968, and total compensation rose 103%.

Re:Job creators (0)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359753)

if communist parties had not come to power in Russia, China, eastern Europe etc. in the 1960s,

Wah?

Russia, 1917
China 1949
East Germany, 1949
Poland, 1952

1960s?

Re:Job creators (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359937)

was there a point you were trying to make in there?

So the answer is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359633)

Send all the poor people to the moon?

Who are your heroes (4, Insightful)

wienerschnizzel (1409447) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359657)

Neil deGrasse Tyson mentioned that in a Science Friday episode that at the time the Apollo program was the biggest thing out there. Every kid wanted to be an astronaut - or at least work in the industry. It inspired a whole generation to be scientists and engineers - that might be even more valuable than the technologies that were directly developed by the program.

Nowdays there's no such thing in the US. Instead the space program is big in China [wikipedia.org] and a generation of science hungry kids is growing up there.

Poverty is not a social ill (1, Insightful)

Maimun (631984) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359691)

Poverty is an inevitability, not a social ill. What is social ill is the attempt to eradicate poverty at any cost -- since people's capabilities are vastly different, the stratification of a free society is inevitable, so 1) it takes a huge (and unnecessary) effort to bring the so called minimum standard of living to those that are incapable and/or lazy, and 2) the said effort decreases the overall freedom.

Re:Poverty is not a social ill (2)

mccabem (44513) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359917)

Platitudinal thinking will get you nowhere...

What a load of crap (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359803)

So if you do something poorly and something else well (maybe on purpose), it follows that the thing done well would be better by itself and not by how you did it? What a load of nonsense.

Lipstick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41359833)

Less was spent by the USA on the Apollo program than on lipsticks during the same period.

Countering the Argument (4, Interesting)

guttentag (313541) | more than 2 years ago | (#41359845)

The Apollo program's critics said that the massive sums of money that were being spent on going to the moon could be better spent solving problems closer to home, and there's this perception that NASA somehow proved those critics wrong because they achieved something amazing (landing men on the moon). But what benefit has that really imparted to society? Hope? Pride? Entertainment? If that's all it was worth, that's what we have major league sports teams for. That is the argument you will get from critics.

To counter that argument, let's talk about what else society got from the Apollo program:
  • Integrated circuits [wikipedia.org] benefited from the development of the Apollo guidance computer. Without integrated circuits we wouldn't have personal computers, cell phones, DVD players, video games, GPS and a lot of other things.
  • Fuel cell [wikipedia.org] development got a boost from Apollo funding, but it may be harder to convince the general public of their usefulness because there aren't any commercially-available fuel cell cars on the market, but they're apparently widely used in forklifts at Coca Cola, Whole Foods, FedEx and others where they are cutting down on emissions.

What else owes its development to the Apollo program, and how does it benefit society? Please, add to this list so we can rebuff the people who say money spent on space is wasted.

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