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Can Manned Spaceflight Save the Economy?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the space-race-of-the-21st-century dept.

Space 224

Barry asks: "Driving home last night I was listening to a particularly goofy AM talk station. Just before the syndicated UFO talk show 'Strange Days... Indeed' came on, the discussion turned to the Mars Rovers and George Bush's newfound love of space exploration. The interesting thought was that a large number of American political leaders were about to join Bush in endorsing a new manned space program because it would generate 'millions of jobs'. Given that manufacturing jobs are being shipped offshore, and high tech jobs are following, this almost made sense. A primarily unemployed population could mean big trouble. So I am wondering how many people were employed during the height of NASA's glory days, and what kind of economic impact would we expect if a similar program - a Mars mission for example - were launched today?"

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ummm flawed logic? (4, Insightful)

BFedRec (257522) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959481)

Is it just me or is that the most crazy financial logic heard in a long time. You're going to have a government agency employing people so they have jobs? Their money coming from tax dollars... which would be coming from the population at large. You're not going to save an economy by employing MORE people from the tax dollars. It just won't work. Basically you're just recycling money, quickly the funding would dry up. Build up the deficit even quicker than it is now.

CharlesP

CharlesP

Re:ummm flawed logic? (2, Interesting)

twistedcubic (577194) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959533)

Actually, your definition of "saving the economy" is probably very different from GW's and the economists who love him. Nevertheless, since space exploration is where the money is going to be, might as well transition into that career change :)

Re:ummm flawed logic? (4, Insightful)

Your_Mom (94238) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959556)

Oooh! Oooh! I get to use my macroeconomics course! My professor would be so proud.

There is always a finite amount of money in the system, not everyone has it at one time. NASA give out a $1e9 contract. Company A wins it. Company A subcontracts certain aspects of the contract to companies B and C. Now, companies B + C buy frobs and gizmos from company D, E, and F. Now, what happens here? Companies A-F all prosper as they have people needing their goods and services, and the employees of said companies prosper, as they have jobs. Life is good. *waves little flag*

If you ever have a chance, take a course in macroeconomics, take it, really interesting stuff.

Re:ummm flawed logic? (2, Informative)

El (94934) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959589)

It's called "the multiplyer effect". As near as I can tell, it implies that in a truely frictionless economy, where money is loaned or spent instantaneously as soon as it is available, there is an INFINITE money supply! Something about the multiplyer effect always smelled like bullshit to me...

Spend money we don't have to go where there is... (2, Insightful)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960290)


"Something about the multiplayer effect always smelled like bullshit to me..."

Any lie to get re-elected.

Borrowing money from our children may be a good strategy in times of extreme emergency. Borrowing money to explore dirt and rocks in space is not an extreme emergency.

Re:Spend money we don't have to go where there is. (1)

Spock the Baptist (455355) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960497)

"Borrowing money from our children may be a good strategy in times of extreme emergency."

Humm...

My children are to young to work, thus they have no money. That being the case then there is no way for me, or anybody else to borrow money from them.

Re:Spend money we don't have to go where there is. (1)

penguinboy (35085) | more than 10 years ago | (#7961035)

My children are to young to work, thus they have no money. That being the case then there is no way for me, or anybody else to borrow money from them.

Not quite literally true, but truer than you assume..

To raise money, governments can sell bonds to investors for a given price, which are redeemable for a certain greater price at some given future date. When they come due, the difference has to be paid back - if your generation is retired by then, the next generation will be paying for that through taxes.

Re:ummm flawed logic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7959600)

But, you can't make (much) money from space exploration. Besides tourism, launching satellites, etc, there aren't many people willing to pay to move things in and out of space. Your only hope is that technology developed in such a program would have huge benefits outside of space that your country (through taxing the companies that sell it) could benefit from. Otherwise, the parent post is correct, and at best, you're recycling money. But, generally, you won't be doing that 100% efficiently (money will flow out into other countries) so it will hurt your country.

Re:ummm flawed logic? (1)

El (94934) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959683)

It's called "spin-off benefits". You know, like microprocessors (you're using one right now) and Tang. Arguably our heavy investment in NASA in the past contributed to our winning the Cold War and to our current dominance in most technology related fields. We flat out give money to other countries anyway; as long as they reinvest the money in the U.S., it's still a win for our economy, so I wouldn't worry about investment "leaking" into other countries. Perhaps if the countries in the Middle East got some NASA contracts, there would be fewer unemployed people with nothing to lose by becoming suicide bombers? Yes, the downside is that you're borrowing against your childrens' futures by running up a deficit...

Re:ummm flawed logic? (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959692)

And you just described how offshoring is bad for the US economy.

Thanks.

Re:ummm flawed logic? (1)

Your_Mom (94238) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959828)

Eh, on the macroeconomic scale, offshoring is a little blip on the radar. If anything it's the 'US economy' starting to shift and integrate into the 'World Economy'.

One could probably think of a couple of agruments for offshoring using macroeconomics. But I'm tired and I want to go to bed.

Re:ummm flawed logic? (3, Insightful)

Fat Cow (13247) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959977)

The money that NASA gives out didn't come from the air, it came out of the pockets of the citizens. If NASA hadn't taken the money, they would have spent/invested it in something else. If you're measuring economic benefits, you have to compare the Mars mission to the alternatives.

I don't think it will be beneficial economically - at root, economic growth comes from using and accessing raw materials in a more efficient way. You actually have to come up with better ways of doing things and making things.

Of course, there may be other benefits of people going to Mars, but they aren't economic.

Re:ummm flawed logic? (4, Insightful)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960393)

I don't think it will be beneficial economically - at root, economic growth comes from using and accessing raw materials in a more efficient way. You actually have to come up with better ways of doing things and making things.

Actually NASA in the 60's and 70's at the height of their spending was great for the economy...Lots of cool stuff was developed that has found it's way into YOUR house. Everything from ink pens, to velcro, to advanced methods of metallurgy [which you don't see, but companies that make your stuff do] Another real push for a space program would do wonders for US technology...as long as it was prevented from being outsourced!

Re: finite amount of money? (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960209)

Why not just print more money? A politician here in Australia suggested this so it must be possible.

Of course, she did jail time not long afterwards so maybe her comments should be taken with a bucket of salt.

Re: finite amount of money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7960272)

lol, printing more money means inflation

Re: finite amount of money? (2, Informative)

Zugok (17194) | more than 10 years ago | (#7961486)

uh, that's what happened in Germany before the rise of the Nazi's. Inflation was sky high, money had no value and was worth les sthan wallpaper.

Re:ummm flawed logic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7960403)

I did but I failed...

I am supprised you did not... No Economics teacher I ever met would have been impressed with the number 1e9

Re:ummm flawed logic? (1)

uncoveror (570620) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959614)

Going back to the moon certainly won't help all portions of the economy. Think of that all that green cheese [uncoveror.com] Bush wants to bring ack will do to Wisconsin!

Worked for FDR! (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960347)

OF course don't tell Bush that FDR and JFK were DEMOCRATS! and the republicans at the time tore them a new one for such policies. That's how we got such wonders as the Hover Dam...inventing needs to make jobs.

I wonder if the Egyptians had these problems building the pyramids?

Re:ummm flawed logic? (1)

kommakazi (610098) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960528)

Well GWB already tried war to save the economy, so why the hell not space exploration? Neither of them make any real sound economic sense, but a lack of sense seems to be GWB's general policy for everything....

Re:ummm flawed logic? (1)

toast0 (63707) | more than 10 years ago | (#7961332)

Well... in the past war has done good things for the economy, until it's over. Of course, we didn't have a godawful huge stockpile of weapons before WWI or WWII.

Re:ummm flawed logic? (1)

Zugok (17194) | more than 10 years ago | (#7961501)

I was taught that in economics as well, but I haven't really seen it happen a lot. I *used* to be good for the economy way back when, but I think mass media instant media with graphic images definitely projects war as a negative and somehow negatively affects the economy.

Re:ummm flawed logic? (0, Flamebait)

kommakazi (610098) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960715)

Yeah it really is some of the worst logic...
I've come up with the perfect model/analogy for GWB's encomonic policies (war, space exploration, and marginal tax cuts). It's like eating your own feces and drinking your own urine. If you are really starved and dehydrated, it may benefit you in the short run to keep you alive slightly longer, but in the long run you're going nowhere. Each time it cycles through your body there will be less and less nutritional value to it (if any at all). Think about it - it may be quite disgusting, but it makes perfect sense when compared to Bush's economic strategy, which I find quite disgusting as well. Just replace feces and urine with money and your body with our economy.

Lunar penal colony? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7959485)

Perhaps Bush has just figured out that the moon is an even better place to house those he doesn't like than Guantanamo -- after all, NONE of Terran laws apply there! Plus, there are endless hours of entertainment watching them try to figure out how to face Mecca when they pray!

Re:Lunar penal colony? (1)

Mattcelt (454751) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959542)

Plus, there are endless hours of entertainment watching them try to figure out how to face Mecca when they pray!

Actually that makes it easier. Consider that all of earth is less than 15 degrees wide when seen from the moon, that makes less error than many muslims probably have when facing Mecca today!

Re:Lunar penal colony? (1)

El (94934) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959619)

Yes, but Mecca is constantly moving in 3 dimensions relative to where you are on the moon, as opposed to earth, where it is fixed and you only have to worry about 2 dimensions. So unless you can see the Earth (not likely they'll have a lot of picture windows), you're never quite sure where it is. On earth, all you need is a decent GPS with a compass and you should be accurate to within a few degrees.

Re:Lunar penal colony? (2, Insightful)

jtev (133871) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959897)

not realy, the earth is always on the same vector to the same spot on the moon, so it's very easy for them. if they can see the arabian pennesula, it makes it even easier.

Oxygen? (1)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959607)

One year later after Moonbase X-Ray starts to fill with prisoners:

Tom Ridge: "You know, we forgot to supply oxygen to that prison camp on the moon."

Bush: "Oxygen? Why would they want to watch Oprah Winfrey?"

Hah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7959496)

Someone tell Mr. George W. that the moon is not made of cheese.

A new solution! (2, Funny)

Randy Wang (700248) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959498)

Well, sounds like they're getting ready for it, whether it'll fix the economy or not.

On the other hand, if it fails to do anything, they could just use the newly developed technology to shoot the unemployed into space!

Plenty of Jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7959511)

I mean look at all those unemployed people with high school diplomas or less! There will be thousands of jobs for them as LISP programmers!

rediculous (3, Insightful)

pizza_milkshake (580452) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959544)

I am not a chronic bush-hater, but this is fucking rediculous. The man's legacy will be stupid quotes and mediocre examples of the 3 easiest popularity boosting projects possible: a tax cut, a war and astronauts. For however many 100s of billion of $ all this will cost in the end, he could have done a whole lot more.

A whole lot more? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7959622)

"a tax cut, a war and astronauts"

Well, we get to keep more of our own money, the world is rid of a big badass, and we're going back to space. What more could we ask for?

Re:A whole lot more? (2, Insightful)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959665)

UBL's head on a stick. You know, they main guy behind 9/11.

Or have we forgotten about him?

Re:A whole lot more? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7960171)

Second the motion. First saving random ungrateful countries from their dictators, now Mars ? How many pie in the sky schemes do we have to launch before we get down to the messy necessary business of wiping out and rounding up the guys who attacked us ?

Re:rediculous (1, Flamebait)

Molina the Bofh (99621) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959798)

The fact is that it'll work It's a good move for Bush. Specially if this mission finds Martians. Specially if these Martians have WMDs. Specially if we declare war against Mars. Specially if we conquer Mars, exploiting its natural resources, therefore boosting Earth's economy, allowing a tax cut.

This way, Lord Bush will still be ruling by 2050.

Re:rediculous (2, Interesting)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959919)

The Bush PR engine strikes again.

So far I've just seen rhetoric; not any solid plans, nor any way to prevent this getting eaten by the scum-sucking administrative hordes.

For some reason, it reminds me of Reagan and the ISS announcement.

Sigh.

SB

Re:rediculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7959985)

Learn how to spell "ridiculous" before casting stones at the guy who runs the country, has more power than you will ever dream of having, which takes some intelligence despite what the mass media has been feeding you.

Re:rediculous (1)

kommakazi (610098) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960545)

You must not pay attention to the mass media..

Re:rediculous (1)

ctr2sprt (574731) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960253)

You're a little slanted by Slashdot here. The space program is not something that the average American cares a great deal about. There are probably a hundred projects that rate higher in terms of popularity. So if that's all Bush cares about, it makes no sense for him to latch onto the space program. Especially considering his timetable, even if everything goes exactly as planned, he'll be long gone by the time man sets foot on Mars - all the kudos will go to whatever president is in office at the time, not the guy who got the ball rolling. At best he'll get a footnote.

I know it's unpopular to attribute human feelings to politicians, especially here on Slashdot, but I really think Bush is going with this at least partly because he wants to see it happen. Of course it's not the only reason - he's not a king, he's supposed to consider what the voters want, even if it goes against what he thinks is best - but I think it's what made him pick that program out of the ten or twenty he could've chosen instead.

Re:rediculous (4, Insightful)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960388)

At best he'll get a footnote.

I disagree. I think Kennedy got the credit he deserved for establishing his challenge to put a man on the Moon in the 1960's. I don't ever recall hearing Nixon being the Moonshot President because he happened to be in office when the event finally occurred.

There is no doubt that there could be a political motivation for doing this, but the potential for applied science and engineering is incredible... far more than anyone who doesn't follow the Space Program closely would ever realize.

However, to suggest that Bush is doing this to score points with the electorate is pretty naive. Hell, I would bet a majority of people believe that silly Fox TV show calling into question that the original Moon landings ever happened.

Remember, a large portion of the population still believes in things like horoscopes, the psychic hotline, and the daVinci code. We are not, as a whole, very good at critical thinking.

Re:rediculous (0)

shachart (471014) | more than 10 years ago | (#7961466)

However, to suggest that Bush is doing this to score points with the electorate is pretty naive. Hell, I would bet a majority of people believe that silly Fox TV show calling into question that the original Moon landings ever happened.


I don't want to feed the trolls here, but a few of the famous video shots do NOT add up, e.g. flag is waving in the wind (but no atmosphere around), funny moon walking that can be reproduced by 0.5x slow motion, shadows that simply don't align, ambient light source somewhere at ~42 degrees above horizon, etc etc.


I wonder if anyone here has any possible solutions to these fundamental problems with the Moon landing. I certain found none. Needless to say, the NASA spokesperson interviewed in these shows does a terrible job of denying some of the alleged evidence (the ridiculous ones), but fails to explain any of the more interesting one.

Re:rediculous (1)

bazarodin (739960) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960889)

I personally am amused by the fact that you make fun of Bush for being stupid, while you yourself, slashdot armchair-genius that you are, can't even spell "ridiculous." could you at least _try_ next time.

Comparison with military spending (1)

HalfFlat (121672) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959547)

I don't have any concrete information on this at all, but would comparing NASA funding with defence spending be useful as a first estimate?

Both seem to have similar requirements as regards research and specialised engineering. Both historically have a reputation for a lot of bureaucractic overhead and paying inflated prices for equipment. Indeed, I believe they use many of the same subcontractors.

So, making the possibly unjustified assumption that the relation of spending to jobs created is linear, and using the above justifiation for assuming that this ratio is about the same for NASA as for defense spending on the whole, one could guesstimate the jobs created per new budget assigned to achieve these Big Space Projects.

Re:Comparison with military spending (1)

Captn Pepe (139650) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960098)

I don't have any concrete information on this at all, but would comparing NASA funding with defence spending be useful as a first estimate?

Well, not quite. Remember that the vast majority of military spending goes to mundane things like salaries, fuel, food, and the like. This doesn't affect the economy any differently than anyone else spending money on those things, and it's actually worse for the economy if it's the government doing the spending, since the tax rate effectively reduces the mean return on investment, which discourages business spending.

However, money spend on research-intensive activity is quite another matter; many people would say that the NSF's budget is some of the best-spent money in the world. This is because research spending not only funds jobs (and with a larger multiplier effect, since most of the money is spent on stuff, which takes jobs to produce), but directly drives investment in technology, as well as potentially creating new technology.

Therefore, if you want to gauge the effect of a new space program, you'd be better off comparing it to the military's R&D budget. Which is, unfortunately, a little harder to actually pin down. Definitely larger than NASA's budget, though.

au contraire. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7959637)

I am sick of the latest [cbsnews.com] of Bush's diversionary tactics.
To him I say,
Can manned spaceflight -- save the economy!

Nothing diversionary (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7959659)

He's had a great economic plan all along. Too bad the Democrats in Congress keep balking him with the idea that a bad economy will help Democrats in November.

There is nothing diversionary at all.

Re:Nothing diversionary (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959793)

Why plan?

Spending future generations into the fscking ground is not a plan. It is insanity.

Re:Nothing diversionary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7960158)

The Democrats in Congress are a minority. The Republicans control both houses.

Not that Democrats and Republicans vote differently on anything in Congress anyhow.

Wrong headline! (4, Funny)

toolz (2119) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959648)

It should be

Can Manned Spaceflight Save George Bush?

Re:Wrong headline! (1)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959729)

"Can Manned Spaceflight Save George Bush?"

If it means a job for me as an astronaut, the man can have my vote. :P

Re:Wrong headline! (2, Funny)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960004)

If he'd get me off this planet, I'd even shine his shoes.

As long as I don't have to call him "Scotty"; I'd not insult Mr. Doohan so badly. :/

(nevermind the underbreath cursing :)

SB

Re:Wrong headline! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7960033)

If he'd get me off this planet, I'd even shine his shoes.

I'd shine his knob.

Re:Wrong headline! (1)

PD (9577) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960810)

Just a hint for you: you already are.

Re:Wrong headline! (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960109)

Can Manned Spaceflight. Save George Bush!

Re:Wrong headline! (2, Funny)

kommakazi (610098) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960559)

You got it wrong too buddy...
Save Manned Spaceflight. Can George Bush!

sure, why not? (3, Insightful)

ajagci (737734) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959671)

Large amounts of government spending can do wonders for the economy, if citizens are willing to make the sacrifices (i. e. pay the taxes). And manned space travel, useless as it is, is at least less destructive to foreign relations and industry than wars, Bush's other favorite economic activity.

However, tax cuts and massive spending don't work. And private industry is unlikely to go into space anytime soon--it's not profitable.

Re:sure, why not? (1)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959940)

Large amounts of government spending can do wonders for the economy

Yeah, like welfare spending has. Or the massive expenditures on the "War Against Drugs".

I do agree with you about the Bush admin and war spending, tho.

SB

Re:sure, why not? (1)

ajagci (737734) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960658)

Maybe you have some trouble with the meaning of the word "can"? Look it up.

Re: Boy, ain't that the truth! (1)

MissMarvel (723385) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960118)

You commented:
However, tax cuts and massive spending don't work.

Truer words were never spoken! Jeez, look what it did for us in California! Thank You Very Much, Gray Davis!

Re: Boy, ain't that the truth! (1)

ajagci (737734) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960676)

It's pretty ironic for republicans to portray democrats as fiscally irresponsible: republicans have been far, far worse over the last few decades, starting with Reagan. Republicans love towaste huge amounts of money unproductively, foremost on the military and propping up unproductive industries.

Re:sure, why not? (1)

oever (233119) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960697)

Instead of spending money on research to find life on mars, Bush should spend money on research that creates environmentally friendly technology (low energy consumption, low amount of waste, reuse of waste). This type of research can also be very high-tech and can provide a boost to the economy in several ways:
- reduce industry spending on energy and resources
- gain an advantage in low resource use over other countries.
- stimulate the economy with gouvernment spending

Beter to save millions of species on earth than to find one on mars!

Re:sure, why not? (4, Informative)

sql*kitten (1359) | more than 10 years ago | (#7961341)

Large amounts of government spending can do wonders for the economy, if citizens are willing to make the sacrifices (i. e. pay the taxes).

Only if you can make the assumption that an individual in his or her capacity as a government official is a near-perfect economic decision maker, yet that same individual in the capacity of a private citizen is nearly entirely incompetent to make economic decisions. Otherwise, there's no basis for not leaving the money in the hands of the taxpayers and letting them spend it how they please.

Governments are nearly always massively inefficient. After all, they have no incentive to improve. A company that is profligate with its resources will quickly go bankrupt, a government merely has to ratchet the taxes up a little higher. Now you say "if the citizens are willing" but that's very elastic: a citizen prepared to pay say 30% of income in taxes for the "greater good" might well feel very differently if the government decided it wanted 60% or 90%*. But the government is fully incentivized to increase taxes, not to spend the money better.

We see a similar problem in the UK at the moment. There is a lot of fuss over private (fee-paying) versus State (taxpayer-funded) schools - the quality of the former so outstrips the latter that the government is even artificially making university admissions harder for the privately-educated (rather than improving its own schools). But it turns out, if you do the accounting, that State schools actually cost the same or more per student than a private school! The money is just soaked up in government inefficiency. The same is true for the NHS, where the present government has managed to increase the number of medical staff by 15% and the number of managers by 45%.

The way to economic prosperity is to cut both taxes and governemnt spending, so those that earned the money directly control how its spent. This has worked in every economy that has tried it.

And private industry is unlikely to go into space anytime soon--it's not profitable.

I'm sure the same was said of expeditions to explore the world's oceans.

* This is not unheard of - in 1979 in the UK the top rate of income tax was 83%, with an extra 15% charge if the money was from investments rather than salary. That's a total of 98% tax! No wonder that economy collapsed in the "Winter of Discontent" and a new service-based economy emerged!

High-tech welfare (1)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959756)

Just more pigs at the trough. Someone has to pay the bill and that will be the rest of us. Better to provide a useful product or service than suck down government money.

Broken Window Fallacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7959823)

This is the good old broken window fallacy resurfacing (again). Read all about [mises.org] or from many other sites [google.com] .

Yes, it's the broken window falacy. (5, Interesting)

GlenRaphael (8539) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959946)

Or as Dave Barry [reason.com] puts it:

"See, when the government spends money, it creates jobs; whereas when the money is left in the hands of taxpayers, God only knows what they do with it. Bake it into pies, probably. Anything to avoid creating jobs."

It's nuts to assume that throwing money at some new boondoggle will help the economy. Yeah, throwing money into space might employ people. Or alternately, you could employ a lot of people in the hole-digging industry if the government simply funded a giant industry to dig holes and fill them up again. Why not do that? See the parent poster's link [mises.org] .

Only if it feeds back (4, Interesting)

Jerf (17166) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959832)

This could be a gigantic boon for the economy, in theory. Anybody who's interested in space has read about the resources and the possibilities in space, and if we could tap that such that space exploration could become self-sustaining, there's no practical upper limit to the wealth this could generate.

If the US intends to maintain its lead, rather then "sink" into a parity position with many countries (by staying relatively stagnant while other countries catch up), this is probably the biggest win that is feasible. (Note that everybody really ought to be rooting for this, even non-Americans, because if the US is rising, so is everybody else in absolute terms; without somebody leading the way I'm fearful we could all end up stagnating together. Yes, some other country could take over but the US could take over more quickly; for a real-life tech example of this, note how quickly IBM because the largest Linux company.) It's worth a try.

In this sense, its utility as an economy saver will be directly related to how deliberately it is run with this idea in mind, to be bold, to deliberately ask private companies to produce technologies and benefit from them, etc.

To the extent that this is run like NASA, it may not be a waste but it will not be an "economy saving" gain.

So, it depends on how its run. As is too often the case, if it is run too "selfishly" (too much focus on the short-term gain), it will be useless. But if it is run well, it could be an amazing boon for the entire human race.

I know which one I'd bet on if I had too... but I can still hope...

Re:Only if it feeds back (1)

xutopia (469129) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959914)

you say all of that as if the US was the only country that could lead. Patriotism at it's blissful best!

Re:Only if it feeds back (1)

Jerf (17166) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960014)

You clearly missed "Yes, some other country could take over but the US could take over more quickly; for a real-life tech example of this, note how quickly IBM because the largest Linux company." As the wealthiest nation on the world... unless you care to dispute that point?... this is more-or-less objectively true and not open to political opinions (unless you are so blinded by politics you've become incapable of seeing objective facts).

Speed is time is money is life; the faster we get into space the better for everyone.

Perhaps you should work harder on "reading what is actually there" and not "reading what you expect to be there".

Re:Only if it feeds back (1)

Fat Cow (13247) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960017)

This could be a gigantic boon for the economy, in theory. Anybody who's interested in space has read about the resources and the possibilities in space, and if we could tap that such that space exploration could become self-sustaining, there's no practical upper limit to the wealth this could generate.

If ifs and buts were pots and pans...the problem with your argument is that no one appears to really believe in the economic benefits of space. we've had the ability to go to various places (orbit, moon, planets, comets etc) for decades and very little money is being invested there. For instance, I daresay you're not investing a portion of YOUR paycheck in it.

This is because you don't believe in it enough to put your money where your mouth is. It seems you believe in it enough to put other people's money there though :)

Re:Only if it feeds back (1)

kommakazi (610098) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960601)

That's becase there really is nowhere to invest money in outer space right now. You can't buy stock in NASA. The only reason no profit has been generated from space yet is because we've only just begun to explore it in the very recent past. We're still not too good about it. We can hardly get a probe to Mars safely at this point, so of course there's no opportunity for revenue there. What you ave to see is that the earliest of exploration is always a dead "loss" if youre looking to make money. Early exploration of the America's wasn't profitable at all, it was done solely on grants from various European governments or rich folk. It takes a while to get set up and be in a position to generate revenue from newly explored regions. Eventually the America's became an extremely profitable venture for European nations, that's why they became settled and wars were fought for control over them. Right now we're not even close to making a profit directly from space, we're just beginning the initial set up to eventually do so. Everyone needs to realize this...then we will see some money flowing into a new 'space economy.' Now don't get me wrong, I think GWB's ideas for space exploration now are horribly wrong. Our economy is in no state to do such a thing, it can only happen in a time of true prosperity...which we are absolutely not in (unless you already were rich, in which case you want to keep all the money you can get your grubby hands on).

The real question is... (1)

sfjoe (470510) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959907)


will President Flightsuit finally find his WMD on Mars?

It's a bad idea (4, Interesting)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959938)

Keynes studied this kind of 'make work' and generally reckoned it's a distinctly bad idea. Most economists agree.

That aside, socialistic space programs like NASA (sorry, but that's pretty much what a government funded program like NASA amounts to) are unable to grow, and being a monopoly, NASA has very little incentive to become more cost-effective. The historical record shows that the inflation adjusted NASA budget is roughly fixed (within a factor of 2). That's a political reality-no huge growth is likely; business atleast has the chance to grow; and often has a much bigger incentive to reduce costs, which allows growth also; via lower prices.

This analysis suggest that the US government should ramp down NASA, and encourage private industry to take up the slack. It's the only thing that makes any sense in the long run; it's the only way to get to Space in any big way.

Re:It's a bad idea (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960499)

Maybe they should instead encourage NASA to do something ambitious, and throw enough money at it to actually get it done. But, I'm no economist.

What I am is sure that empire building is not economically feasible in the long run any more. If the choices are go to war, or to go Mars, I think it's pretty clear which most slashdotters will pick. (Unless the fed gov't is declaring war on SCO and/or Microsoft, but that would be over too quick to generate any jobs.)

It's true that spending money on the military leads to research, but some large portion of that research gets hidden from us, "classified". Of course some of what NASA does is also classified, but not as much. The public benefits more, sooner.

If we're just going to be blowing the taxpayer's money, we should blow it on something peaceful that will help both Americans (with jobs) and the rest of the world (with science).

Re:It's a bad idea (1)

RockClimbingFool (692426) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960648)

NASA is not "make work." the make work you are talking about is welfare. ie, the government gives money directly to those that need it. what does that get you? nothing. those people that far down on the totem pole pay no taxes, create no useful goods or services.

NASA is an "administration." its job is to provide oversight and direction. Large contractors have profit motives and make sure the process is leaner than the typical goverment bueracy.

the money trickles down (yeah, trickle down theory, good one) to those a little farther down. but now that you started the money at the top, you get technology and higher wage people that buy more expensive items, which drive imports, which need a supply chain, which needs more and more people (locally) to work, etc.

the money is much better off being spent higher up in the econmy because the lowest rungs of the economy don't have the ablity to create large scale operations.

bottom line is the money isn't being wasted. regardless of how much that probe to where ever cost, the money isn't being rocketed off the planet.

It will benefit the defense industry (1)

mhw25 (590290) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959960)

The main contractors for most NASA hardware will most likely be the usual suspects: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Hughes. They and their subsidiaries will get most of the rocket and spacecraft contracts. But before any real hardware that will be flown is even manufactured, there would already be billions sunk in for the research works, examples being the numerous and mostly dead projects to build the successor to the shuttle.

The same contractors also benefited from the other major endeavour of President Bush: The wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, with the staggering replacement costs of cruise missiles, bombs and aircrafts/parts used.

If it takes off, yes, there will be jobs, and there will be benefits to the economy. But I don't find that the sudden enthusiasm shown by the President suprising in any way. But if increased exploration and discoveries is what will results - thank you, we will like that very much.

The economy goes up and down in regular cycle and will eventually be forgotten, but a lasting and successful effort on the final frontier will prove an enduring legacy.

taxes is what could save the economy (0, Flamebait)

xutopia (469129) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960023)

we all know Dubya is trying to save his ass by giving us huge dreams and all. But if he didn't cut taxes like he did he could use money to make money. Right now all he did was save him and friends some cash.

Re:taxes is what could save the economy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7960139)

The Federal Gov. will not be "using money to make money" for at least a decade. The next administration, and the one after that, will have to be dedicated to paying off a substantial portion of the debt. We are well past 20 percent of the budget being used pay interest.

In your plans for the near future, include less from the government and a lot more taxes. Oh, politicans may find token cuts here and there to hype up, but you can be sure that for every cut you will pay twice as much in gas taxes for highways no longer Federally subsidized, etc.

you had to know THIS was coming (1)

rot26 (240034) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960025)

From Joe Conason in Salon: (Jan. 12, 2004)

Halliburton on Mars: Take me to your CEO When President Bush inspires us onward and upward to Mars this week, his political calculations may be more earthly. Expanding space exploration is a wonderful aspiration for America and humanity -- and also quite promising for the Houston economy, the national aerospace industry, and one company in particular that has long pondered exploration of the red planet: Halliburton. Yes, the firm once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney -- fabled beneficiary of no-bid multibillion-dollar military contracts and high-priced provider of Kuwaiti oil -- is determined to drill on Mars and the moon. Surely this scheme has nothing to do with the Bush space initiative. But somehow, no matter what worthy motivations lie behind the president's policies, he and Cheney always appear to be shilling for their corporate clientele. [Click Here] (Consider former Treasury Secretary Paul O' Neill's revelations about early Iraq war planning, which included a March 2001 memo -- titled "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts" -- that mapped out potential post-Saddam petroleum exploration.) Dreams about drilling on Mars date back several years at least. In 1998, a handful of top firms, including Halliburton, Shell and Schlumberger, showed up for a NASA "workshop" at Los Alamos, N.M., to discuss the prospects. Research seems to have intensified since 2001, with Halliburton and other firms engaged in proprietary research on such advanced technologies as laser-powered drills. They appear to have been awaiting this week's announcement, according to this old clip from Petroleum News, which reported: "The earliest drilling opportunity would be 2007 ... Deeper drilling, into the multi-kilometer range, might occur as part of a 2014 Mars mission which would put astronauts on the planet to assist."

Re:you had to know THIS was coming (1)

kommakazi (610098) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960629)

What I want to know is what in hell they plan to drill for on Mars or even the Moon? There's no oil there...billions of years worth of dead organic material doesn't exist in either place to produce oil...

I don't think this can possibly work. (2, Flamebait)

FFFish (7567) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960044)

Space exploration is not a revenue-generator, and there is little hope for revenue generation in the foreseeable future.

This means it must be entirely bankrolled by the government.

Which, in turn, means it must be entirely bankrolled by the public taxpayer.

Government efficiency being what it is, I hardly imagine my dollar of tax is going to pay a dollar worth of economic improvement. Most of that dollar -- like 99 cents of it -- will go to administration overhead, corporate looting, and general waste.

Which means, basically, that I'll lose a dollar, some rich corporate bastard at McDonnel Douglas will gain 99 cents, and Joe Frontline Worker might make a penny.

Thanks, George, but I'd prefer to give my dollar to Joe directly.

There are jobs, and there are jobs... (5, Insightful)

gregwbrooks (512319) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960053)

The question isn't whether another Apollo Project-esque endeavor will create jobs -- of course it will.

The question is: Are those the jobs the best way to go about goosing the economy, and is this the way we want to develop them?

Unless President Bush plans to privatize the whole effort, we're talking about jobs paid for with federal contracting funds, and those are some of the most inefficient jobs you can release into the economy.

There's nothing inherently wrong with jobs generated by federal spending -- after all, the government needs to buy stuff just like any company. However (and this is the important part) jobs that grow out of federal spending programs aren't the most efficient way to translate capital into work.. First, the money has to come from somewhere (i.e., taxes). Then, it goes through an inefficient bureaucracy that needs some off the top to perpetuate and grow itself. Then, it goes back into the economy in the form of federal spending, but the spending is often uncompetitive because of pork set-asides or

Bottom line: If you put a few billion dollars into federal spending in the private sector and compared the economic impact with simply leaving the capital in individual and business hands to figure out what their highest and best uses were, you'd see more efficient use of the capital (read: more net benefit) from the latter.

Oh, and although everyone likes the high-tech aspects of the space program, the fact is that there would be many, many old-economy manufacturing jobs created or sustained for every engineer or scientist.

Re:There are jobs, and there are jobs... (1)

gregwbrooks (512319) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960067)

Pardon the typo above...

The third paragraph should end as follows:

"... the spending is often uncompetitive because of port set-asides or the artifically high costs imposed by doing business with the federal government.

Burn the straw men (2, Insightful)

MrRobahtsu (8620) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960123)

Well duh, of course government spending on anything to create government jobs isn't going to improve the economy. Only democrats believe that.

But since similar space programs have been done before, perhaps one should (gasp!) look at past performance and ROI before setting up straw men to knock down.

Ever wonder why the US leads the world in many areas of computers, electronics, manufacturing, matereials, etc.? The space program isn't the only reason, but it's a big one.

Ever wonder what the real ROI is, or how many technologies and materials in your own home are spin-offs from space-related research?

http://www.floridatoday.com/space/explore/stories/ 1997b/110197e.htm [floridatoday.com]
http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html [thespaceplace.com]

But I guess the Bush-hating pastime is much more fun and emotionally satisfying than actually dealing with the facts. I just wouldn't expect it from a group of nerds. Oh wait. This is slashdot. Nevermind.

Re:Burn the straw men (1)

a whoabot (706122) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960255)

I think a great deal of the spinoffs from the space program required the program to be of a very different nature then what it is now(or what it could be in the near future, IMO). A nature involving being pinned against a competing program from a competing nation of a competing political and economic philosophy, that being the Soviet Union's program, of course.

The dynamics have changed so much, you must agree to some extent at least, it's hard to take past performance as sure indicator of future performance.

Broader to this subject:

The idea of this somehow boosting the economy seems incredulous to me in a more wholistic sense. It sounds like the capitalists will merely extract more surplus value for themselves and an increase in debt will be a result. It may create some boost in some sort of "immeadiate" economy, but the national debt will still go up. But I guess that's been the trend for a long time now, and is the preferred "choice" of economic "balancing", or at least the "accepted" one.

Don't mod this up, but don't mod it down, it's all I ask.

Re:Burn the straw men (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7960468)

Ever wonder why the US leads the world in many areas of computers, electronics, manufacturing, matereials, etc.?

Uh.. it's because most of the civilised world had the crap bombed out of them by the Germans in the 2nd world war. Not to mention what America did to Japan. In the 50's, Europeans were still rebuilding their shattered countries and were glad that they were still alive. While Americans went on to create rock & roll.. followed by hippies and the commercial computer industry in the 60's. Then they decide to go the moon. And why not? Nobody else could afford it!

I believe that the American space program is partly the *result* of being in such a vastly superior position to most of the rest of the world. They were so far ahead already - and all of the space program's trickle down benefits pushed the US even further ahead of everybody else.

I would love the US (or anyone) to go to the Moon, Mars, permanently. I would die happy if this happened in my lifespan, knowing that humans were living permanently on other worlds, having witnessed the greatest advance that our species made since our ancestors crawled onto land.

But I do wonder if this exactly the same trick that Bush Sr pulled before: "We're going to Mars! Re-elect me!" - and then have the plans quitely cancelled later on because they can't afford it.

NASA stopped creating most of its amazing spinoffs (1)

perfessor multigeek (592291) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960621)

Now, I love space development as much as anybody (check my journal if you doubt it) but this utter bullshit of claiming that NASA still creates a tidal wave of spinoffs is a grotesque exaggeration that decreases the credibility of a once-true claim.

Let's take the first dozen or so alleged spinoffs from the first article linked above [thespaceplace.com] .

GROUND PROCESSING SCHEDULING SYSTEM - Computer-based scheduling system that uses artificial intelligence to manage thousands of overlapping activities involved in launch preparations of NASA's Space Shuttles. The NASA technology was licensed to a new company which developed commercial applications that provide real-time planning and optimization of manufacturing operations, integrated supply chains, and customer orders.

Oh, please. After everything from the Challenger disaster to the constant ISS cost overruns, do you really expect us to want to use project management software from NASA?
As with most of these, the best they can do is to say, "NASA made a product that did this". They certainly can't say "X percent of the market uses this product". Now, speaking as a onetime economics major and a former workflow consultant, I've actually looked at NASA and DOD-created workflow and project managment solutions and I have found them to have absolutely foul interfaces, enterprise-level admin and platform costs, require dedicated boxen, and then provide third-rate functionality.
You know, about what you'ld expect from a government contractor.

SEMICONDUCTOR CUBING - NASA initiative led to the Memory Short Stack, a three-dimensional semiconductor package in which dozens of integrated circuits are stacked one atop another to form a cube, offering faster computer processing speeds, higher levels of integration, lower power requirements than conventional chip sets, and dramatic reduction in the size and weight of memory-intensive systems, such as medical imaging devices.

Yep, this one is all over the place, in use from PS/2s to digital watches. NOT!
Like IBM's early gallium-arsenide opto-electronics or the late Alpha chips, this is a pretty toy that is not only is too expensive for most real-world applications, but is also being done better by more, shall we say, frugal organizations. And, just in case you folks are forgetting, the supercomputer companies have been doing variations on this for years now.

STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS - This NASA program, originally created for spacecraft design, has been employed in a broad array of non-aerospace applications, such as the automobile industry, manufacture of machine tools, and hardware designs.

Okay, so I'll agree that this is important. But not only are most of the important concepts like NURBS things developed at places like Autodesk, but NASA's funding and development for this was, AFAIK, mostly in their aircraft research division, which is almost entirely separate from spaceflight development.

WINDOWS VISUAL NEWS READER (Win Vn) - Software program developed to support payload technical documentation at Kennedy Space Center, allowing the exchange of technical information among a large group of users. WinVn is an enabling technology product that provides countless people with Internet access otherwise beyond their grasp, and it was optimized for organizations that have direct Internet access.

Well, shucky-darn! A news client. Gawd knows there's a shortage of those! Why surely the two hundred or so other variants out there already would have been useless without NASA getting into the act.
Uh-huh. Right.

AIR QUALITY MONITOR - Utilizing a NASA-developed, advanced analytical technique software package, an air quality monitor system was created, capable of separating the various gases in bulk smokestack exhaust streams and determining the amount of individual gases present within the stream for compliance with smokestack emission standards.

Again, good stuff but developed by a different part of NASA. And again, why couldn't we have gotten the same results for less money with a few million dollars in SBIR and academic grants?

VIRTUAL REALITY - NASA-developed research allows a user, with assistance from advanced technology devices, to figuratively project oneself into a computer-generated environment, matching the user's head motion, and, when coupled with a stereo viewing device and appropriate software, creates a telepresence experience.

Oh, sure, NASA is the home of all VR technology.

Come on! Can't you people even TRY to be credible? Do you wanna tell me that the developers of Battle Zone were secretly working for the space program? Or that John Warnock (yeah, the same one who later founded Adobe) was really preparing for a moon shot when he invented the key overlapping object algorithms?
Dozens of industries have played a major role in creating VR, including most notably the defense department, flight simulator developers, CAD companies, and game developers. Should I even mention schools like Carnegie-Mellon and MIT?
Oh, I'm sure that NASA came up with some nice doohickeys here and there but to say that we owe VR to the space program is like saying we owe pizza to programmers.
If they had claimed that machine vison and the related AI was a space program spinoff they would be at least kinda right, but VR isn't a space program spinoff by any reasonable standard at all.

ENRICHED BABY FOOD - A microalgae-based, vegetable-like oil called Formulaid developed from NASA-sponsored research on long duration space travel, contains two essential fatty acids found in human milk but not in most baby formulas, believed to be important for infants' mental and visual development.

Okay, here I don't know enough to be certain. I'll give 'em this by default.

WATER PURIFICATION SYSTEM - NASA-developed municipal-size water treatment system for developing nations, called the Regenerable Biocide Delivery Unit, uses iodine rather than chlorine to kill bacteria.

Uh-huh. Now THAT's new. Only a few DOZEN groups working on this outside of NASA simply among the folks I know of. (As it happens bellus quies and I got stranded in an airport with one of these engineeering teams last year and they had nothing good at all to say about government support of any kind.)
The use of iodide dates back at least to fifties boy scout knowledge. This is not, if you'll forgive the phrase, rocket science. Especially since much of this sort of thing is far less efficient then the alternatives like living machines that have been developed outside the federal realm entirely.
Again, if this is so great, show me market penetration. I can certainly show cases of the alternatives being built right now, including one proposal for less than fifty miles from where I sit.

SCRATCH-RESISTANT LENSES - A modified version of a dual ion beam bonding process developed by NASA involves coating the lenses with a film of diamond-like carbon that not only provides scratch resistance, but also decreases surface friction, reducing water spots.

Wrong again. This one was developed IIRC, depending on which version you're talking about, either at Cornell or by Robert Linares. Sure, the NAVY paid for some key later work but that's not quite the space program either, is it?

No, no, and again no.

Bottom line, NASA has indeed done some great stuff. Some of it has even come specifically from the space program. But it just makes us all look like either liars or fools when we claim things for "our team" that aren't true.

Stop trying so hard to do the taking credit equivalent of shovelware. Be proud of what we really HAVE accomplished (yes, I am an itty-bitty part of the history of technology development for the space program) and fight with what is true.
For now, let's scuttle the shuttle, encourage private initiatives, and keep Bush's latest boondoggle the hell away from our pockets.

-Rustin

Re:NASA stopped creating most of its amazing spino (2, Interesting)

GlenRaphael (8539) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960987)

VIRTUAL REALITY - NASA-developed research allows a user, with assistance from advanced technology devices, to figuratively project oneself into a computer-generated environment, matching the user's head motion, and, when coupled with a stereo viewing device and appropriate software, creates a telepresence experience.

Oh, sure, NASA is the home of all VR technology.

Come on! Can't you people even TRY to be credible? Do you wanna tell me that the developers of Battle Zone were secretly working for the space program? Or that John Warnock (yeah, the same one who later founded Adobe) was really preparing for a moon shot when he invented the key overlapping object algorithms?

There's some truth in the original assertion. NASA/Ames was one of the earliest sponsors of "goggles and gloves" interface work and related technologies. They had several uses in mind. One idea they were thinking about was virtual control panels. Take the shuttle or the space station: interior space is at a premium and there's a huge need for buttons and joysticks and LEDs and displays to show status and interact with all the gadgets and control surfaces. The user interface parts of a space station or space ship tend to be expensive, delicate, heavy, inflexible, take up a lot of space, and kind of get in the way when not actively in use. The dream of VR with regard to this problem is that with you could take any blank wall of a space station and turn it into exactly the right UI for the task at hand. The astronaut puts on the goggles and gloves when he needs to, say, manipulate the robot arm; he sees all the relevant controls and can interact with them. But it's just a wall, so when you turn the interface off, it's impossible to accidentally interact with it, the indicator lights don't burn out or short out, and you can't accidentally trip over the joystick or crash into the monitor because it isn't there.

Another big idea was using telepresence to control things like a robot arm or a mars rover in hostile environments.

NASA had real prospective uses for this sort of technology and a big budget, so they were a real player in the early days of VR. Which isn't to say that everything VResque wouldn't have happened anyway without them, but it's something. It's not nothing.

Here's a relevant link [fourthwavegroup.com] .

History of VR re NASA (1)

perfessor multigeek (592291) | more than 10 years ago | (#7961074)

Cool link and good point. But as a bunch of us discussed in a JE this past summer [slashdot.org] much of the hot and heavy VR work was done in random places all over the world and, incidently was done by '94, while his team were still denying the very term "VR".
He makes a good point about near-space interaction, but again, much of this was also being worked on in other places.
Even he refers back to Ivan Sutherland's work back in 1968!

VIEW was seminal. Just as VPL was. Just as Warnock's work was. Just as was the work by enough groups that their leaders wouldn't fit in my living room.
I remember SIGGRAPH back in, IIRC, '85 and seeing some mighty VR-looking work being presented by some mighty threadbare and independent bunches of guys.
Did the space program contribute "something"? Certainly.
Is VR something that "came from the space program"? I think not.

Rustin

Re:History of VR re NASA (1)

GlenRaphael (8539) | more than 10 years ago | (#7961192)

Did the space program contribute "something"? Certainly.

Is VR something that "came from the space program"? I think not.

Agreed. The space program was just one of the industries interested in exploiting and expanding upon the technology. There were plenty of others.

For instance, medicine was another big application area at the time. People liked the idea of using virtual cadavers for some instructional purposes as an alternative to real ones. Real cadavers are expensive, bulky, unique, difficult to obtain (in the US), and you can't make parts of them selectively transparent at will to look through or past the layers you're not interested in to point out the good parts. Stanford University was one place that was working on that sort of thing.

But I wouldn't say VR "came from research medicine" either. It came from a lot of people all over the place who read _Neuromancer_ and _Ender's Game_ and liked pushing the limits of technology and had wacky ideas about what it might be made to do.

Whoa! (1)

cookiepus (154655) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960184)

A primarily unemployed population could mean big trouble

That's a pretty bold claim there, professor ;-)

The Marching Morons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7960193)

The better thing to do would be to give all those people who wanted these sorts of jobs to go on a free (1 way) vacation to Venus instead.

Insanity (2, Interesting)

dffuller (200455) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960329)

This reminds me of a Winston Churchill quote I recently read:
"For a nation to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket trying to lift himself up by the handle."
There is absolutely no way that government jobs are going to improve our economic situation; even the wackiest Keynsian economist can tell you that.

Have we forgotten? (1)

Sayten241 (592677) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960339)

We're a bunch of geeks for crying out loud. We should be rejoicing at the thought of space exploration. A rejuvination of the space program could push forward technology faster than anything else we can think of. The race for the moon back in the 60's resulted in countless benefits to our society. Education, technology, synthetics, manufacturing, and many more all benefited from the Apollo program. This is another chance to reap those same benefits again.

No, really. (1)

MinorHeadWound (710187) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960476)

1. Go to Mars.
2. ???
3. Profit!

Can Manned Spaceflight Save the Economy? (1)

austar (674088) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960963)

No. But, it could save humankind. Humans are a funny thing we need to explore, expand, and have something to struggle against. New technology follows in the footsteps of exploration, and saddly enough, war. Spring powered clocks came about due to the need of sailing ships needing acurate time to know where they were. The grand master of science fiction, Issac Asimov, said that humans only had one chance to surive, to expand into space. And I think he was correct. We need new vistas to dream about, just like your dog, we need the wind in our face, with new and unknow smells.

Not fast enough to help Bush re-election (3, Interesting)

JGski (537049) | more than 10 years ago | (#7961130)

There are two "sustainable" sources of GDP growth: population growth and technology innovation. By that I mean, sources that have any chance of ongoing exponential growth, aka the definition of a "healthy economy".

Government spending can contribute to growth but it's a degenerative feedback loop - government "expenses" like taxes tend to eat up a portion of the economic kick each time money flows back through the goverment since most income is taxed. Thus government spending creates a blip which dissipates - if other growth sources aren't on the edge of recovery, the economy won't catch "fire" and start growing.

A space mission would eventually create technological innovation to fuel growth but it takes time to develop new technologies in the first place, more time for a critical mass of technology portfolios that are cross-purposeable outside of government/military to accumulate, and even more time for those technologies to finally take root. The rule of thumb is 15-25 years from the first scientific discovery/creation to the point when noticeable economic benefit results. Consider the Internet. Consider transistors. Consider integrated circuits. Of course you may not pick the correct newly discovered technology to bet on today.

It's not entirely clear how cost effective a Space Program would be. Sure there have been "homeruns" like semiconductors, computers and integrated circuits which never would of existed with the Cold War and the Space Race, but what's in the pipeline that would apply to a space mission, and then be applicable to a broader. The next "Velcro" won't power a major economic burst. Another internet or transistor might. Unfortunately computers and semiconductors themselves are mostly in evolution mode, rather than revolution mode. The "next big things" like nanotechnology and biotechnology are either just entering their 20-year obligatory incubation period or have industrio-technological structural impediments that will prevent revolutionary advances, and neither would seem to have a major role in a space program anyway.

My net-net is: don't assume a new space program will fix anything economically. If Bush thinks it will, he's, again, deluded. The time-constants are all wrong. If you use economics as a justification for a space program you are perpetrating an improbability. There are other good reasons to have a program. Jobs mean stability even if you don't have net growth. A space program, done right, can inspire a nation which is not a trivial thing. If you allow a economic window of 10-30 years, by then a space program will almost certain contribute to technology - the Net Present Value is still debateable. We certainly don't think that far ahead often enough though.

Re:Not fast enough to help Bush re-election (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7961557)

Normally I'd agree with you, but it is fairly obvious that anything that George Bush spends money on is not going to be from tax revenues. It is going to be from increasing the US national debt.

The plan is probably to never pay off that debt (I mean who is going to enforce collection?).

I don't like Dubya, but... (2, Insightful)

Gadzinka (256729) | more than 10 years ago | (#7961317)

Hey, I don't like Dubya as much as the next guy, but big projects finansed from public budget fuel all the economy. Just look at what Iraq war did to American economy.

It's all the same, no matter if government spends it on bombs or space rockets. When they spend money big time, the main agency gets money and spends it. Its contractors get money and spend it.

And finally: their empoyees get money and spend it. On food, homes, cars, hi-tech gizmos (in any order). But suddenly all the people that produce those goods have money to spend it, and...

This is called macroeconomy, as someone down the page said it. It's better when it's fueled by space program than by another war.

Just my .02pln

Robert

Re:I don't like Dubya, but... (1)

Lars Arvestad (5049) | more than 10 years ago | (#7961480)

Hey, I don't like Dubya as much as the next guy, but big projects finansed from public budget fuel all the economy. Just look at what Iraq war did to American economy.

Huh? I don't live in the US, so maybe my take on this is uninformed, but I do know that the US dollar has been falling ever since the start of the war and the deficit is sky rocketing, largely because of the war in combination with tax cuts. Are you actually implying that the US economy is healthier now than before the war?

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