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Why Space Exploration Is Worth the Cost

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the it's-all-spent-right-here-on-earth dept.

Space 276

mlimber writes "The Freakonomics blog has a post in which they asked six knowledgeable people, Is space exploration is worth the public cost? Their answers are generally in the affirmative and illuminating. For example David M. Livingston, host of The Space Show, said: 'Businesses were started and are now meeting payrolls, paying taxes, and sustaining economic growth because the founder was inspired by the early days of the manned space program, often decades after the program ended! This type of inspiration and motivation seems unique to the manned space program and, of late, to some of our robotic space missions.'"

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276 comments

Yes. (5, Funny)

dr_wheel (671305) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016816)

It is is.

No. (1)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017334)

I disagree, but people who do aren't given much of a voice in the media. If you read the article you will see that all the 6 people are related to working on manned space missions, directly or indirectly. It would be more interesting if they asked a random cross section of scientists. In this case, the game is fixed.

Re:Yes. (4, Interesting)

symbolset (646467) | more than 6 years ago | (#22018336)

Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, "Because it is there." Well, space is there, and we're going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.

John F. Kennedy, 9/12/1962 [virginia.edu] mp3 [virginia.edu]

We will go. The only question is: will we be first to climb this mountain, or will we be shown the way by better men?

Broken window fallacy (4, Interesting)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016848)

So an economist asked some guys who haven't gotten past the broken window fallacy? Ok, whatever.

Space exploration may be justified, but let's see if we can talk about without getting dazzled about all the jobbies it creates.

Yeah, yeah, flamebait, etc.

Re:Broken window fallacy (4, Insightful)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016944)

You're right. We shouldn't have to justify our ambitions economically, it's such a depressing way to see the world. Lets just do something because its awesome.

We should be capable of deciding what are the goals for mankind, especially those we cannot realise as individuals. I suppose the economic benefits help to sugar the pill for those who are not inspired by exploration and understanding of the universe.

Re:Broken window fallacy (1)

Baba Ram Dass (1033456) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017200)

We should be capable of deciding what are the goals for mankind, especially those we cannot realise as individuals.
Why should I have to pay more taxes to finance your pet project? Because the Conceit of the Anointed has given you superhuman powers to see what's best for everyone despite their own wishes?

UbuntuDupe hit the nail on the head; this is a prime example of the Broken Window Fallacy. Please consult said economic allegory before responding next time.

Take it from the military. (3, Insightful)

FatSean (18753) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017316)

We don't need to waste our money on an army that just inspires douchebag politicians to start shit. Put 10% of the military welfare towards space exploration, and tone down the aggressive rhetoric.

I mean, why should my tax dollars finance an over-powered military which sucks hard at stopping current terroristic threats? Because you're pants-filling fear says so?

(Hyperbole used for effect)

Re:Take it from the military. (2, Informative)

darjen (879890) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017498)

OT, but here you go:

It might be here shown, that the power of the federal legislative, to raise and support armies at pleasure, as well in peace as in war, and their controul over the militia, tend, not only to a consolidation of the government, but the destruction of liberty.

        In despotic governments, as well as in all the monarchies of Europe, standing armies are kept up to execute the commands of the prince or the magistrate, and are employed for this purpose when occasion requires: But they have always proved the destruction of liberty, and [as] abhorrent to the spirit of a free republic. In England, where they depend upon the parliament for their annual support, they have always been complained of as oppressive and unconstitutional, and are seldom employed in executing of the laws; never except on extraordinary occasions, and then under the direction of a civil magistrate.

        A free republic will never keep a standing army to execute its laws. It must depend upon the support of its citizens. But when a government is to receive its support from the aid of the citizens, it must be so constructed as to have the confidence, respect, and affection of the people. Men who, upon the call of the magistrate, offer themselves to execute the laws, are influenced to do it either by affection to the government, or from fear; where a standing army is at hand to punish offenders, every man is actuated by the latter principle, and therefore, when the magistrate casts, will obey: but, where this is not the case, the government must rest for its support upon the confidence and respect which the people have for their government and laws.

-Brutus #1, Anti-Federalist

Thanks for that. (0, Troll)

FatSean (18753) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017592)

Those simple folks who worship military power keep modding down my anti-war posts. I guess they want US troops to keep dying because their daddy is already dead or something. I just don't get the rabid fellating of the military in this country. Not once in 40 years has the military been used to protect Americans...the 'threats' were always abstract and unprovable.

Re:Broken window fallacy (2, Interesting)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017504)

Why should I have to pay more taxes to finance your pet project?

Because that's the way the world has worked since the time the Pyramids were built.

Re:Broken window fallacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22017816)

The Pyramids were built with slaves, you AssClown.

The world has changed a bit, Enlightenment, Capitalism, Individual Rights, Socialism/Communism(failed)...

Re:Broken window fallacy (4, Informative)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 6 years ago | (#22018068)

The Pyramids were built with slaves

Your ancient history knowledge is 50 years out of date. Archaeological evidence shows that they were built with paid labor, not slaves.

The world has changed a bit, Enlightenment, Capitalism, Individual Rights, Socialism/Communism(failed)...

And in every single stage of history you mention, people were taxed to pay for big government projects. They still are. Why do some people act as if they're surprised by this?

Re:Broken window fallacy (5, Insightful)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017554)

UbuntuDupe hit the nail on the head; this is a prime example of the Broken Window Fallacy.
No, it isn't.

Space Exploration serves economically as an impetus for invention and innovation, and as general inspiration for the nation at large. It is a national contest, and national contests have positive economic impact. Space Exploration isn't a broken window -- it's the game of baseball.

The most common form of national contest is war -- if you're having a hard time understanding it, think of it this way. Space Exploration is a way to have the economic benefits of a nation-at-war state, without the significant economic drains from the actual war.

Re:Broken window fallacy (2)

darjen (879890) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017584)

As far as I can tell, you haven't addressed the issue. You're simply assuming individuals working together voluntarily wouldn't be able to come up with equal (or more) benefits than NASA provides. I see no reason to agree with you.

Re:Broken window fallacy (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017786)

I wish people would stop saying on this that economics doesn't matter, or space exploration is "more important than economic considerations."

There is economics terminology for this, and I wish people would use it.

Pro-space exploration people [1] seem to be saying that space exploration has the status of a national or global "public good", whose benefits can't be captured by private organizations and therefore will be underfunded by the private sector compared to how much benefit can be so created.

Anti-space exploration people [1] seem to be saying either that such a good cannot exist, or that space exploration specifically does not meet it.

If you want to justify your position, put it in those terms.

[1] who have a clue what they're talking about and whose arguments are resilient against obvious replies

Re:Broken window fallacy (2, Insightful)

3.2.3 (541843) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017254)

Yes, the broken window fallacy is the correct assessment. Calling the inspiration of space exploration "unique" was an attempt to skirt the fallacy. The enonomics, though, is the correct basis to evaluate the decisions. Resources are limited to solve problems. There are more important problems than space beauty and fantasy, such as energy, environment, education, and poverty. Government spending on those problems are equal economic engines with more practical benefit. What is not spent on the broken window can have better benefit elsewhere and for would be space glaziers. It would be great for geeks to find inspiration in that. The principal benefactor of space exploration is the defense industry. Pretty pictures of distant galaxies distract geeks from that fact and provide a false inspiration.

Re:Broken window fallacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22017384)

Yeah, just forget about all the tech innovations that help all these areas, that only exist because of the space program.

Re:Broken window fallacy (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22017564)

economics

And you have experimental evidence to back all this up, or is everyone still just pretending that economics is a science and therefore provably correct?

The problem with repeating the broken window fallacy over and over like some sort of mantra is that it assumes that the benefit from breaking the window can never be greater than the opportunity cost. What if the glazier, in a hurry for a dinner date, slaps some goo on the glass and in the process discovers $25 windshield repairs while-u-wait? That outcome is never discussed by economists.

In context, who knows whether investing the money that went into NASA into energy production would have caused someone to invent a commercially viable fusion power system, is it reasonable to stand around and assert that it (or some other energy-saving advance) would have been?

Re:Broken window fallacy (4, Insightful)

SerpentMage (13390) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017286)

Well here is a question why do anything? Most things like flying, driving, and so on did not seem useful. Let's take the car as an example. Look at the first model: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Car [wikipedia.org]. In 1885 could you have seen that thing be more economical than say a horse? I doubt that the first model as proposed by Benz could even travel more than a couple of kilometers. And yet here we are with millions upon millions of cars.

The problem with space is that humanity dropped the ball. We should have done more sooner. Of course part of the problem is that America had to keep footing the bill. But think about what space travel has brought:

GPS, Satellite Media, The Ability to detect global warming, Satellite phones, etc, etc...

I am even thinking if we had traveled and lived in space quicker we would have less of a global warming problem. After all to be able to live in space you better be efficient and learn how to recycle...

Moneymoneymoney... (1)

Alaren (682568) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017300)

Good observations. I believe it was Anatole France who said that in every form of government, money is a sacred thing--but in democracies it is the only sacred thing.

The exploration and ultimate colonization of space, if possible, is a long-term pursuit. It can't depend on the economy or politics. But in a democracy, the will of the people is either collective or self-interested. This is a real intellectual struggle for me; on the one hand, I am an individual and I cherish my individual comforts and liberties, but on the other hand, a democracy packed full of people focused on their own comfort and entertainment is not going to vote for the guy who wants to spend tax money on esoteric transhumanist research with no predictable economic benefit. By the time colonization becomes economically desirable, it may be too late to pursue that particular tech tree.

I think the pyramids are a great example of why this is such a difficult dichotomy. When you have one guy (or one dynasty) with a big vision and a lot of power, you can really accomplish amazing things over a long period of time... but everybody wants to be the pharaoh, and nobody wants to be the slave, especially in an egalitarian first-world country of equals. More collectivist countries (particularly those in Asia) get lambasted by the West, however, for enforcing that collectivism, either socially or, in some places, brutally.

I don't have a solution, just observations. Would we rather survive as a collective, sacrificing individuality and individual desires to a large degree, or perish as a race of fulfilled but discrete entities (at least until the sun burns out)? I would like to think there is a third way, but while sometimes I think I see its promising gleam, I can't seem to get there from here.

Re:Moneymoneymoney... (1)

ReclusiveGeek (1115223) | more than 6 years ago | (#22018354)

A parallel, in my mind, are libertarian arguments for less of whichever-bureaucracy-is-convenient. We're all supposedly free agents happily pursuing our separate agendas. Yeah right, 300 million "free agents" living within a confined national boundary, with our existence bounded in a web of interdependency. If you can maintain the illusion of being a free agent in THAT, then you have a better imagination than I do. My point is, we don't make greater-good decisions on the basis of individuals. Long term investments in infrastructure, technology, or business incubation are speculative in large part. A selfish individual might not give such the go-ahead. That's fine, but don't presume that the individual has some wonderful predictive sense that they can see the outcome of a long-term venture. It just isn't real. Right or wrong, like it or not, sometimes we have to pool the resources (and the risk) and do things as a collective.

Re:Broken window fallacy (1)

Initi (1031362) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017418)

In a world of competing uses for scarce resources economics provides a non-normative way to analyze and balance those interests. Space exploration is great; so would be a cure to childhood leukemia. Don't look at it as depressing, rather as illuminating.

Re:Broken window fallacy (4, Insightful)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017616)

In a world of competing uses for scarce resources economics provides a non-normative way to analyze and balance those interests. Space exploration is great; so would be a cure to childhood leukemia. Don't look at it as depressing, rather as illuminating.

The problem is that economics provides no real way to quantify the relative benefits of either space exploration or curing childhood leukemia, apart from the obvious jobs created, non-stick pans, boring etc. How do you economically measure the magnificence of space travel or the fulfillment of human ambition? Can you put a value on knowing how the Earth looks from space?

By the way I am a medical researcher, and although I think my work is valuable, I often wish my job was more about achieving something positive for mankind, rather than just preventing bad things from happening. I also sometimes am involved in health economic assessments, and to see a year of healthy life expressed in its worth in $$ is also quite depressing.

Re:Broken window fallacy (1)

NoPantsJim (1149003) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017600)

Lets just do something because its awesome.

Getting my girlfriend fake boobs would qualify as "awesome", do you think I can get government funding for that?

Re:Broken window fallacy (1)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017650)

Getting my girlfriend fake boobs would qualify as "awesome", do you think I can get government funding for that?

Only if the results were donated to science.

Re:Broken window fallacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22018258)

Only if all the taxpayers get a chance to enjoy'em.

Ewwwww. I don't want sloppy 200-millionths ...

Because it is hard (4, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017802)

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

John F. Kennedy, 9/12/1962 [virginia.edu]

Re:Broken window fallacy (1)

mwasham (1208930) | more than 6 years ago | (#22018190)

Unfortunately let's do something because it's awesome hasn't been in vogue with presidential candidates since the 60's. It's all about redistribution of wealth because people hate the rich.. Can we just change the subject? Surely America can't be completly fixated on someone elses property.. Let's talk about space exploration - I'm with ya!

Actually, there's a more subtle fallacy there (4, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017848)

Before I get started: I actually quite like the space program, and I do think that some advances were made for it. But the "it created jobs!!!" argument is IMHO still a fallacy.

There's a more subtle version or relative of the broken window there. The fallacy is assuming that those jobs wouldn't have been created by someone else, for another purpose.

The thing is, since we've been Keynesian [wikipedia.org] all along, all the governments have known about the Phillips curve [wikipedia.org] too. In fact, applied it.

The short and skinny is that there's an interdependency between inflation and unemployment. So for more than half a century what all governments did was try to stay at a point of their choosing on that curve. That's the reason the Federal Reserve tries to keep inflation at a given point, for example. Because too much inflation is bad by itself, but too little creates unemployment.

So in doing so, it fixes the employment where it wants it too.

Basically if those jobs hadn't been created by the space program, then they would have been created somewhere else. Not the same jobs, mind you, but a roughly equal number anyway.

The even more insidious part of the "but it created jobs!!!" sophistry is that it tries to imply that something was gained where nothing would have been created instead otherwise. People already nod and imagine that all the things those people achieved in those jobs, are surely better than nothing at all, because they wouldn't even be employed without a space program. Which just isn't so. Those people would have been employed, and would have produced _something_ in all this time, with or without a space program. Each job there, came at the expense of exactly one job somewhere else. Every 8 hours day spent reviewing why the shuttle's heat tiles broke, are 8 hours that weren't spent (by that guy or someone else) on some other project.

A point could still be made whether we benefited more from those jobs, than from the alternate history version without a space program. Unfortunately, none of us knows what would have really happened in an alternate history. Maybe all those jobs would have been cabbie and McDonalds jobs instead. In that case, sure, we're better off with them working (directly or indirectly) for NASA instead. But at least theoretically it's equally possible that they would have worked on some better project instead. Maybe in that parallel universe without a space program, all those smart people worked on fusion power instead and now have cheap energy everywhere and a bunch of innovative electronics trickled to other domains from _that_ research. We don't know.

Re:Broken window fallacy (1, Flamebait)

emilper (826945) | more than 6 years ago | (#22018066)

It's not about jobs and kids and fame and glory. It's about controlling the high ground, and right now the higher ground that matters is in low Earth orbit. 60 years ago US was the only country in the world that was not wrecked by WWII, and it could afford to be complacent. In 2008 that's not longer true, and if you want to keep your "jobbies" and vacation in [insert your favorite second or third world country here] without fear of local government abuse, US must control the high ground, and make sure that any upstart (such as China, Russia or even EU) know that they have to play fair.

Right now it's US that bans toys made in China and not China the one that bans toys made in US only because the folks in Beijing know that they do not afford to piss off your government, and that, the way the things are now, they can be sent back to the 1850 technology quite fast (or have the flow of know-how cut short, for lesser "transgressions"), in case they get uppity.

These days LEO is as important as Gibraltar was a hundred years ago, as Suez was up to 1947, as Malta was during WWII, as Iceland during the Cold War, and even more important than the Panama canal is right now.

This is the precise reason nobody talks about this side of the story: if any government would issue declarations about the importance of having control over LEO, it would be the equivalent of a war declaration on the other pretenders to supremacy.

The day China would announce it can put 20000 pounds object in orbit with only a couple of days preparations, and if US would not be able to do the same, that day you'll do better to start growing a queue and learning the Han characters.

The Late Carl Sagan's Argument (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016884)

When I was 15 or so (ten years ago), I read Carl Sagan's Billions & Billions [wikipedia.org] which was a book more about his thoughts than science ... or maybe I'm repeating myself.

But anyway, at some point in that book, he talks about ordering this novel device that is a world in a globe. It's a nutrient mix in water with some sort of tiny aquatic animals. But the globe is sealed. The instructions are to leave it where sunlight can hit it and let nature do the rest. So Sagan puts it on his desk.

The next day, the water is foggy. Soon after it is teaming with microscopic life.

But after a short amount of time, the globe goes silent and there is a dark residue on the glass with nothing else in the water. Sagan pondered if the earth had a similar "maximum capacity." Now, there are differences, we can cite different natural processes that replace what we take making them a replenishable resource. But our numbers and pollution threaten them. He also discusses population control and ends up with the general conclusion that war, diseases, natural disasters and the like will cap us out somewhere around 2010. I, unfortunately, don't see our growth slowing as much as he projected.

In fact, it made so much sense to me that, at the age of fifteen, I wrote a letter to my Minnesota senators urging them to push for more spending to NASA & even subsidizing the private sector--after all, how many billions go into defense? Surely some of that could be better spent to begin the lengthy process of insuring that we will not have a glass covering over the earth. My words fell on deaf ears as I received no response. I don't believe I've written a letter to a politician higher than the county level since then although I have received a letter from the vice president for completing the Eagle Scout Award ... but I digress.

The point is that if we continue down the path we are taking with pollution, don't invest in space travel and continue to procreate, we are sitting in a glass casing. It's only a matter of time before we put ourselves in a near suicide contention with constrained resources. If we don't have peaceful space exploration and means of growing outwards, our only solutions are war, mass genocide, famine, disease and many horrible ugly scenarios.

I still see the need for making extraterrestrial planets sustainable to human growth and development.

Re:The Late Carl Sagan's Argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22017022)

Baloney. Complete and utter baloney. We're going to be just fine, and if you don't see that then I can only assume the exposure you've had to the majority of human life on this planet has come solely through the mass media -- the mass media that more often than not focuses only death, destruction, and whatever the government fools them into covering. Get out of your basement and do some traveling.

I've Seen All I Need to See (2, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017194)

Get out of your basement and do some traveling.
Well, I know I'm not supposed to feed the trolls but ... I have been to the boundary waters canoe area twice. For two weeks, we went about 50 miles in towards Canada from Minnesota. Beautiful. Just unbelievably beautiful. Northern Minnesota soil used to have a higher moisture content than the everglades. Yeah, hard to believe, huh? Well, the settlers came along and cut drainage ditches into it so they could farm it. Used to just be switch grass and sorghum and the like, now they were growing beans and corn. Well, erosion slowly set in and now all that peat and top soil is being whipped around by the wind. Some places look pretty barren compared to the lush slough it used to be. So who cares, right?

Well, at the boundary waters, I drank out of the lakes, ate the fish, it was paradise. Later I went to college at the University of Minnesota and thank god that you can't get into the BWCA except with a canoe or helicopter. You can't swim or fish in the lakes/rivers of Minneapolis. So what's my point? Well, everywhere man has touched that I've seen, things have just gone down hill. Those trees and resources that once covered North America? Gone. We bitch at Brazil to stop deforestation when we did the same damn thing when we settled this land.

Go see the world? Go see Manilla? [www.vbs.tv] Go see West Virginia? [www.vbs.tv] Go see Brooklyn? [www.vbs.tv] The super stack nickel refinery in Canada? [www.vbs.tv]

For every single place you tell me to go see, I'll show you a spot ravaged to hell by the human race.

Re:I've Seen All I Need to See (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22017832)

For every single place you tell me to go see, I'll show you a spot ravaged to hell by the human race.

Next Stop: Space!

Re:The Late Carl Sagan's Argument (1)

radl33t (900691) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017290)

Yes you are totally right because resources are infinite and scarcity is an academic triviality. The future earth with her hundreds of billions of human inhabitants will be a blissful, utopian paradise for all creatures. I predict there will be zero problems related to energy, water, food, and natural ecology. But uhm, seriously, the problem is straightforward to understand even in you're a basement dweller. However, the solution is complex. Unless of course we just reserve one bullet for each like you.

Re:The Late Carl Sagan's Argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22017588)

....exposure you've had to the majority of human life on this planet has come solely through the mass media
Oh! That I wish statements released by AAAS, the national Acadamy of Sciences, and other professional organizations should be counted as the "mass media". We would be so lucky if actual scholars have that much clout in todays society.

Re:The Late Carl Sagan's Argument (2, Insightful)

calcapt (975466) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017640)

Baloney. Complete and utter baloney. If you don't believe that the earth has limited resources and finite carrying capacity, get some common sense, read some Malthus, or take a look in a biology book. We might be fine for the nearby future, but an unsustainable earth appears to be an inevitability. The earth cannot, will not sustain human life forever. The birth of this planet only provided it with so many resources, and our unregulated consumption paints a very bleak future for us. The problem is further compounded by the fact that our consumption is not just unregulated, but also has the tendency to destroy other resources through unsustainable practices.

Furthermore, humanity should have hit carrying capacity already; were it not for the UNSUSTAINABLE breakthroughs brought by the Green Revolution in the 40's-60's, that brought us increased crop yields, we all would likely have experienced famine (in some shape or form) sometime in our lives. We currently face reaching a new carrying capacity with our ever increasing population. Now that many Green Revolution agricultural advances have been deemed unsustainable (environmentally unfriendly, rendering farmland useless), this future becomes exceedingly dire; we have yet to find a way to increase agricultural production that will compensate for our increased population and replace Green Revolution techniques.

Re:The Late Carl Sagan's Argument (1)

chuckymonkey (1059244) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017076)

I agree very strongly with your argument. Humanity has this terrible penchant for killing itself and sooner or later we're going to turn the Earth into a scorched cinder, I just hope that it's long after we move a large portion of the people off the planet. If not a large part then at least enough to keep our race going.

Re:The Late Carl Sagan's Argument (1)

bhima (46039) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017180)

I've owned a few of those spheres and I think they're great.

I have also found that people in government respond better to faxes (about narrow issues and better yet specific bills) that they respond to emails or phone calls. I usually snail mail letters on important issues. Given the right tech faxing is just like emailing and isn't as inconvenient to send as a snail mail.

    You can find out about the specific bills and about voting records on OpenCongress.Org

We don't need people (3, Insightful)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017374)

The environment on this planet is completely capable of changing all on its own.

It has changed before and it will change again, homo sapiens or no.

In my opinion, the capricious nature of Nature is an even better argument for extra-terrestrial human colonization.

In other words, saying we need to develop space travel because we are screwing up this planet is pretty lame. A big rock can fall from the cosmos next month and kill us all. That should be motivation enough.

Re:The Late Carl Sagan's Argument (3, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017394)

Sagan pondered if the earth had a similar "maximum capacity."

Launching 5 billion people into space would take all the energy and bankrupt the planet. I agree that we need to branch out, but more as a hedge against wars and asteroids, not overpopulation. Unless we find super-cheap energy, moving existing crowds into space is a medicine worse than the disease.

Re:The Late Carl Sagan's Argument (1)

darjen (879890) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017694)

The point is that if we continue down the path we are taking with pollution, don't invest in space travel and continue to procreate, we are sitting in a glass casing. It's only a matter of time before we put ourselves in a near suicide contention with constrained resources. If we don't have peaceful space exploration and means of growing outwards, our only solutions are war, mass genocide, famine, disease and many horrible ugly scenarios.

I don't see how this is supports an argument for *publicly* funded space travel. Humans are remarkably resilient, and are capable of coming up with answers to complex problems by working together voluntarily. Not only that, but there is a lot of promise in the recent advent of privately funded space travel.

Re:The Late Carl Sagan's Argument (3, Insightful)

kodiakbri (1081957) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017704)

I feel somewhat worried that people feel we have to get human life to other planets. It's kind of like an escape pod idea. We've got to solve the problems here. Let's make this place sustainable. A dark way to look at this is that humans are an invasive species on this planet and it might be better for the universe if we just stayed put. Are we going to do to others like we did to the Native Americans, or wipe out species like we did in Hawaii? Kind of dark yes, but it is a reasonable argument.

Re:The Late Carl Sagan's Argument (1)

nicklott (533496) | more than 6 years ago | (#22018242)

You're right: Influenza, AIDS, SARS, West Nile Virus, H5N1... sooner or later one of these beauties is going to come along and we're not going to be able to treat it. However, that sort of argument is never going to make anyone pay attention in a world where yet-to-be-invented technologies are invoked as a panacea for global warming.

You really don't have to look very deep into history to see that money is always the driver for expansion and colonisation. Fore example, Britain was exporting religious nuts to die in Virginia for decades until they finally found that by growing tobacco they could actually turn a profit and people chose to go there. Space exploitation will have to pay for itself, and handsomely, if it's to become a reality.

private spaceflight (2, Interesting)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016970)

Governments should cut taxes and privatise space agencies, while encouraging private spaceflight. Without private spaceflight, we cannot explore the space in an economically efficient way.

Re:private spaceflight (2, Insightful)

bit trollent (824666) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017056)

Every time I hear that a tax cut will actually produce something I can't help but roll my eyes.

Just imagine what would have happened if we had tried to go to the moon with tax breaks and encouragement. We would have been laughed out of the space race.

Re:private spaceflight - Starship Miata (1)

infonography (566403) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017280)

A convertible space ship for picking up hot alien babes for guys with really small booster rockets.

Capt. Kirk eat your heart out!

Re:private spaceflight (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017478)

In the context of "The Space Race", we would have lost.

How about this, "If you can get to an astro body and exploit it for a profit, it's yours."

All of a sudden there's a huge interest in space. The Russians would have been the first to the Moon. But we would have set up mining colonies, settlements, antenna arrays...

Re:private spaceflight (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017760)

Exactly. He acts like private companies aren't pursuing this because they have to pay taxes. Guess what - private companies are more than free to pursue space flight right now. Guess what else - many don't because it's not commercially viable. Unfortunately, space flight still falls under the category of basic research. Basic research is almost always done with government funding, mainly because the purpose is to gain knowledge, not to make money.

private industry only does TOURISM-mod parent down (4, Insightful)

globaljustin (574257) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017646)

Without private spaceflight, we cannot explore the space in an economically efficient way.


parent is a troll...doesn't provide even the most basic support for his contention

please mod down

on topic, i think private space exploration is great...too bad no one is really doing it. right now, the only active presence of private industry in space is for SPACE TOURISM, not exploration...it's all about some rich guy doing a sub-orbital shot and going 'whooopppeee!' during his 10 minutes of 0g

space tourism is not the same as true exploration, no private industry has any legit plans/funding to actually DO any exploration...all they have is a power point presentation and a sales pitch...slashdot has discussed this thoroughly...can't we accept this and move on now?

It might be but we'll never know ... (1)

tyroneking (258793) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016990)

... from the pro-NASA panel he asked - here's comment number 5 from the blog (and there are plenty of others):

"Everyone seems to be in agreement! I would think so being that 4 of the 5 panel memebers are current or former NASA employees! Perhaps more care should have been taken in ensuring the diversity of the panel. There must be some arguments to the contrary out there and I'd be curious to see those debated as well.

-- Posted by Mike Mogie"

Wow (5, Interesting)

Aaron Isotton (958761) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017074)

They asked the following people whether space exploration is worth it:

- G. Scott Hubbard, professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University and former director of the NASA Ames Research Center
- Joan Vernikos, a member of the Space Studies Board of the National Academy and former director of NASA's Life Sciences Division
- Kathleen M. Connell, a principal of The Connell Whittaker Group, a founding team member of NASA's Astrobiology Program, and former policy director of the Aerospace States Association
- Keith Cowing, founder and editor of NASAWatch.com and former NASA space biologist.
- David M. Livingston, host of The Space Show, a talk radio show focusing on increasing space commerce and developing space tourism
- John M. Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute and acting director of the Center for International Science and Technology Policy at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs

They all said yes. Who would have thought.

Re:Wow (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017172)

Yeah, there is a sort of bias in finding "experts" on such a question. There's no "Society for the Termination of All Space Travel". The best you could do is find some economist to discuss the broader context of allocating resources to such a goal, or maybe a radical environmentalist (not a redundancy) group.

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22017184)

I work for NASA and I'll be the first to admit that space exploration is not worth the cost! ...anonymously of course.

Re:Wow (1)

Bazer (760541) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017328)

Then who should we ask, if not the people with the most knowledge in the subject?

Re:Wow (2, Interesting)

musth (901919) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017830)

First problem is assuming that people with "most knowledge" all get their paychecks from fields and organizations that have a vested interest in space boosterism. "Significant knowledge" and "objective viewpoints" are just as important to the discussion. These include many experts and thinkers available in fields which deal with future planning and balancing available resources - you know, things like planetary science, biology, economics, social policy, government, and demographics. Space exploration is only one gee-whiz thing we can lavish our limited resources on. How about getting our global problems under control on Earth before billions die from overcrowding?

Re:Wow (1)

_xeno_ (155264) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017366)

They weren't just asked if space exploration is worthwhile, they were asked why it is worthwhile.

So, yes, it's not surprising that they all said "yes," but their reasons why are still worth reading. And that's what the story is about, reasons in support of space exploration.

Re:Wow (1)

Keebler71 (520908) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017638)

Right... because who better to comment on the benefits of space exploration than people who actually know something about space. In your world I suppose we'd have botanists color commenting football games and musicians critiquing bridge and highway safety.

Re:Wow (1)

Aaron Isotton (958761) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017728)

Obviously people who know something about space should comment on space exploration topics. But since they're talking about cost, the merits of science and similar topics they should obviously also ask some economists, philosophers and similar.

I suppose that in your world we have football players commenting the merit of building of new stadiums.

All the eggs in a basket.. (4, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017088)

... is usually a very bad idea, knowing how much times the basket fell in the past. But space exploration is not just searching for a backup to save a sample of us. Just trying to do that, either in things we must develop for it, or things we find doing that, or things we discover out there, are short term benefits that must not be discarded (put the question before there were communication satellites and think in how much we could had lost).

I loved the "Why do it now?" question of a senator... you can ask the same question every day, except the day that is already too late.

Re:All the eggs in a basket.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22018048)

It's impossible to do anything to do the earth to make it less hospitable than the rest of our solar system. The only way to get a backup basket is intersteallar travel, which we're so many orders of magnitude away from that it's not even funny. Should we stop exploring the solar system and divert all money to experimental propulsion systems research?

Oferchrisakes... (1, Interesting)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017112)

I *completely* agree space exploration is worth the money. BUT: asking people from NASA and "David M. Livingston, host of The Space Show" - WTF?

Let's ask Pol Pot, Adolf Hitler, Stalin, and Attila the Hun if Genocide is | Why not ask some people whose mortgages and careers are not so completely ied up in the venture. What a dumb article. I guess it's just our wonderful News Media coughing up blood and not able to get it up anymore.... as usual...

RS

Mod parent up. (1)

Shandalar (1152907) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017190)

They surveyed ex-NASA people to ask whether spaceflight is worthwhile. Now I would like to ask the Slashdot community whether computers should exist.

Re:Mod parent up. (2, Insightful)

yariv (1107831) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017270)

You might ask the Slashdot community why should we support computers, they might give you some insightful/informative answers. Maybe even a funny one.

Re:Oferchrisakes... (1)

yariv (1107831) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017250)

The point is not that they think it's worth it, the point is why it's worth it.

Who would you ask for the reasons for space exploration if not those working on it? What exactly do we know about space exploration that we can give an answer relating to the actual costs and to the missions planned ahead?

They asked the right people for the matter of "Why?". They should have asked them no other question.

Re:Oferchrisakes... (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017354)

yariv wrote:

The point is not that they think it's worth it, the point is why it's worth it.
Who would you ask for the reasons for space exploration if not those working on it?

I would ask INFORMED individuals who are not involved with it. I would also ask CRITICS of space exploration. Asking the cheerleaders why the football team is cool is not insightful. It is predictable. I could give a large number of well founded and well researched reasons why I think space exploration is worth the money, and my career has NOTHING to do with space exploration.

So, no - I disagree. TFA is a puff piece - space geeks blowing smoke up my ass. I have an idea - let's ask Pres. Bush, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Rice, and Cheney if invading Iraq was a good idea. You'll get the same level of insight.

RS

Re:Oferchrisakes... (1)

yariv (1107831) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017436)

And you're missing the whole point again. ask Pres. Bush, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Rice, and Cheney why invading Iraq was a good idea, then you might get some good answers. As for asking "informed individuals who are not involved with it", I wish you luck finding them. I'm not involved and therefore don't take myself as informed, but I can ask you how could someone become informed, if he's not involved, and an ex-employee of NASA is the closest I can get to this. Ask critics? How is it better than asking NASA workers?

Re:Oferchrisakes... (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017268)

I wrote:

"Let's ask Pol Pot, Adolf Hitler, Stalin, and Attila the Hun if Genocide is |"

Ooops. I wrote KEWL in 1337, but I forgot /. uses html, so the 1337 ended up disappearing. Argh.

RS

Summary: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22017118)

- the world needs geeks
- the space program fosters geeks

Define "Worth it" (3, Insightful)

yariv (1107831) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017188)

It's the best way to ensure the survival of humanity, and in the long run it's a very good economical investment (as it's a n investment in science and technology). However, in the short run it brings nothing to the common man (except pride and owe, maybe). So the question is, what do you want.

By the way, I've seen someone talking about private space exploration, but we must remember the amazingly high costs and the relatively high chances of failure in any specific operation. There is no way a private "for profit" organization will take such expenses with this odds against it, not until it's relatively safe and simple due to government-funded research. It is no coincidence that most modern inventions (computers, for example) were made by government-funded bodies or at least, by a company that it's main costumer is the government.

Re:Define "Worth it" (1)

BotnetZombie (1174935) | more than 6 years ago | (#22018162)

In the short run it has already brought amazing things to the common man. Like stated all over the article, we have space exploration to thank for things like miniaturization, satellites -> {gps, hugely improved weather forecasts} etc. In fact, I'm not sure we'd be having this online discussion without it.

This is really a debate? (4, Insightful)

aelbric (145391) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017242)

The 16 Billion NASA gets is .01% of the 1.6 Trillion that goes into Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid every year. Funding space exploration at this bargain-basement budget level should be a no brainer

Re:This is really a debate? (3, Insightful)

Scotman (1126481) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017552)

As a friend of mine says "I would rather they spend this money on space then on rockets with warheads pointed at me." The fact is that welfare and is very nice but does not change the problem. Spend a billion on it today and you will be guaranteed one thing, you will need two billion the next year. There is something being mist by people that say we need to spend it on our internal troubles first. And that is that after the money is spent it buys tomorrow but what about the day after? People don't just stand around doing nothing, they need a place to go or they will come after you. This planet is just about maxed out, we need a place to go or war will be the only future we have.

All of this is funny on Freakonomics.com (1)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017318)

Because their core philosophy is incentives and disincentives, and suddenly they're stuck in the middle of the aforementioned broken window fallacy.

I'm surprised that the same guys who figured out why NFL coaches rarely make risky calls (the coaches make choice that defer blame, mostly to players), can't really figure out what gives with the whole space flight thing.

NASA has been the subject of too much blame. It's that simple.

Since the Challenger accident, NASA has been on a losing streak. Except for Pathfinder and Surveyor, NASA hasn't had a real public relations success since the Apollo program ended.

You need to incorporate the Bitch Slap Theory of American Politics into this. Americans like strength. They like projecting strength. And they slink away pretty fucking quickly when America cannot project strength.

The consequence is that we treat NASA with shame. Not we as in geeks and Slashdotters. I mean we as in the same people who think America can win a set piece war (as if there even has been such a thing since WWI) in six weeks, and that we can win wars against abstract concepts (Terror, Poverty, Drugs).

NASA has been bitch slapped repeatedly, and American slink away from that. Americans see NASA as a loser.

NASA needs to get on its public relations horse. Seize this return to the rocket program as an opportunity to not just do a great job, but to project itself as a force in American politics, the way it did under Kennedy and Johnson.

Hogwash (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017322)

Vernikos on the R.O.I. of space travel: "Economic, scientific and technological returns of space exploration have far exceeded the investment. ... Royalties on NASA patents and licenses currently go directly to the U.S. Treasury, not back to NASA."

I'd like to see more detailed evidence of this. In the past, there have been some "creative accounting" under such claims.

Space exploration will eventually allow us to establish a human civilization on another world (e.g., Mars) as a hedge against the type of catastrophe that wiped out the dinosaurs.

True, but a perm moonbase is better practice than Mars.

Space exploration in an international context offers a peaceful cooperative venue that is a valuable alternative to nation state hostilities.

Why is robot exploration not counted for this also?

National prestige requires that the U.S. continue to be a leader in space

Again, why is robot exploration not counted for this also?

Exploration of space will provide humanity with an answer to the most fundamental questions: Are we alone?

This makes no sense. And, they are cutting the budget for remote "Earth hunter" scopes to pay for Mars men.

Personally, I think humans will be better at unstructured environment exploration than any existing robot for a very long time.

The Apollo program has showed that one does not really know what they are looking at until it has been analyzed in detail back at a large Earth-based lab with top equipment.

It fuels curiosity, inspiration and creativity.

We already know what Mars looks like. The inspiration comes from going to NEW places never seen before, and only robots can do this practically. I'd rather see a robotic boat exploring Titan's lakes and shores than an astronaut kicking dust around on Mars. Or a robo-sub in the seas of Europa.

At what cost? Is there a price to inspiration and creativity? Economic, scientific and technological returns of space exploration have far exceeded the investment. Globally, 43 countries now have their own observing or communication satellites in Earth orbit. Observing Earth has provided G.P.S., meteorological forecasts, predictions and management of hurricanes and other natural disasters, and global monitoring of the environment, as well as surveillance and intelligence.

These are unmanned technologies.
     

They asked (1)

jalet (36114) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017386)

six knowledgeable people, Is space exploration is worth the public cost?

No, they should spend money teaching how to speak and write instead.

Re:They asked ..they didn't , read the question (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 6 years ago | (#22018408)

The question they were asked was "Is manned space exploration worth the cost? Why or why not?"

Which is a whole lot different, as it excludes unmanned exploration

About extraterrestrial human civilizations... (1)

kiyoshilionz (977589) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017420)

How can we be sure that the whole "Humans need somewhere other than Earth to live if we are going to prevent ourselves from dying out" argument is not just pseudo-scientific technobabble? I am not arguing against it, but I feel like to the uninformed (I RTFA and they are a set of very knowledgeable people) the prospects for life on *insert_planet_here* are slightly warped out of proportions. TFA said that "within the next century" we will be commuting to space.....somehow I feel like this is being said based on a weak argument. If someone said "Within the next century, we will have technologies X, Y, and Z, which will make spaceflight much cheaper and more reliable," then I would believe them.

Instead it sounds like what is in the back of their mind is "Well 100 years is a long time and by then we should have it down pat." Sort of like 2001: A Space Odyssey [wikipedia.org] - Back then the argument would have been "Well 2001 is a long ways away, we should have moon bases by then, right?"

Yet another analogy could be the concept of Strong AI [wikipedia.org]. From Wikipedia:

Modern AI research began in the middle 50s. The first generation of AI researchers were convinced that strong AI was possible and that it would exist in just a few decades. As AI pioneer Herbert Simon wrote in 1965: "machines will be capable, within twenty years, of doing any work a man can do."
Are we just assuming that we have the knowledge to tackle the issues necessary to having regular space travel? Or are we so ignorant that we don't even know what stands in our way? Is everyone just trying to make the world of Cowboy Bebop / Outlaw Star / Star Trek / Star Wars happen in their lifetime?

Profitable investment (0, Flamebait)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017464)

So basically all the comments I've seen either complain about the obvious pro-space bias of the persons interviewed, and a few other comments seem to imply that we'll somehow save the world by leaving it for outer space, which misses the point.

I didn't read TFA, but I know the main reason why such things as the space program are needed is that the money invested in it has great repercussions on the economy in the following decades, just think about all the mainstream products/services that are the fruits of such program's research.

That's it, I saved you 10 minutes of your life by dumbing down an article I didn't read into a mere sentence.

It is more important than most anything (1)

AbsoluteXyro (1048620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017550)

It may have already been said, but even so it bears repeating that space exploration is critical to the survival of the human race. No matter what we do, Earth will not be here forever.

Re:It is more important than most anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22018040)

Earth will probably be here long after us. Going to space will not save us from ourselves.

(interestingly, my CAPTCHA word is 'heresy' )

maybe the Pyramids were a waste of resources (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22017556)

Maybe the Parthenon was a waste compared to some of the other pressing projects at the time. And why where all those highly educated types in Greece and Alexandria allowed to spend their time thinking about philosophy and abstract geometry, instead of working on civil and military applications?

If the human race is around and in good shape 1500 years from now (and we might not be), the main things the USA will be remembered for will probably be its early work on digital computers and the space program. Regarding the latter, it won't be so impressive if we drastically scale back the program after 45 years.

The milatary seems to thinks so (1)

kodiakbri (1081957) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017606)

NASA isn't running the show, the military is. Believe me, I love NASA and support space exploration, but let's be realistic... ...if it weren't for the military man wouldn't have been on the moon in 1969 - it would have come later, perhaps much later, or not at all. The Sputnik response was fear, for defensive reasons. The space race was pretty much the same as the "missle gap", and it was no coincidence that they happened during the same era. Why isn't Mars so much of a priority? One of the reasons is that there are so few benefits for the military. Or why was the space shuttle so important? For science, or because it served the military's need for a certain size of spy satellites and testing. Remember when the Challenger exploded? Remember after the long time before the next mission? The first missions after that were military, because that was the priority. Do you think Reagan loved shuttle science or that was the best way to get the Star Wars missile program he advocated? Oddly enough, Ronald Reagan, a huge supporter of NASA, also said that the big military build up in the early 80s would aid job creation. I love the whole geek thing, but when you support NASA you're supporting what is first a military program and secondly a science mission. What percentage of astronauts have been, or were in, the miltary? Knowing this, I still support NASA and hope they receive more funding.

Apollo as a military demonstration (1)

Latent Heat (558884) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017886)

A lot has been said that President Truman should not have dropped the Bomb on Japan but should have arranged a demonstration of its power to Japan's leaders to convince them to surrender.

Whatever the merits of a demonstration vs having taken the lives of civilians, the U.S. did conduct a demonstration of the Bomb, for the benefit of the Soviets and others.

Bikini is a widely-used term for a certain type of two-piece women's bathing suit, but is the name of a place in the Marshall Islands where one of the early atom bomb tests were conducted. It was the site of the "Crossroads" tests of Hiroshima-sized bombs, and it was one of the few "public" tests for which there was a lot of film footage. I heard that the bathing suit became known as a bikini because people in the 50's had "Bikini" parties where women would wear revealing bathing suits because people thought the Bomb would end the world and one wanted to go out doing whatever one wanted. If you have seen images of atom bomb shots (such as the montage at the end of Dr. Strangelove), you have probably seen film of the Crossroads shots at Bikini Atol.

Apollo could be viewed as such a demonstration of war technology. Apollo was a combination of rocket power to take enough payload to bring men to the Moon and back, inertial guidance systems to achieve the bullseye accuracy of the rocket launches, and enough reliability of the rocket propulsion and other systems to get the men back.

It has become cliche "If we can put a man on the Moon, why can't we feed a poor child a school lunch? If we can put a man on the Moon, why can't we have a high-speed train?" and so on. But it was in the manner of perhaps indirect military threat "If we can put a man on the Moon, darn tootin' we can target a nuclear warhead right down the air shaft of the men's room in the Kremlin."

If the 20 billion-dollar (1960's dollars) Apollo program was ape threat posturing, the Sputnik launch which started the whole space race was much the same thing.

Unmanned? Yes. Manned? No. (1)

Snufu (1049644) | more than 6 years ago | (#22017678)

Throughout the history of unmanned exploration (Hubble, Voyager, Spirit/Observer, etc.) there has been enormous return of science knowledge acquired relative to the cost the project. The manned projects, in contrast, cost orders of magnitude more and yield relatively little information of interest to the scientific community. Pulling numbers out of thin air, one could launch 1000 satellites and robotic missions for the cost of sending a live primate to Mars and back.

The manned projects are driven by the need to keep taxpayers fascinated enough to continue NASA support. If the manned missions then represent the true cost of the unmanned missions, perhaps it still worth it in the greater picture?

Bringing back technology (3, Funny)

Sentry21 (8183) | more than 6 years ago | (#22018102)

Of course it's worth exploring! Just think of all the technology and advancements we've already brought back from the Gou'auld, the Asgard, and the Ancients. Naquada reactors, hyperdrive engines, beaming technology. Who knows what more might be out there!

Ask Kopernikus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22018116)

Is the Earth flat?

It's better than some things we spend money on (1)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22018142)

But it would be even better to spend lots of money on alternative energy research. It would generally have the same benefits as space exploration. Spin-off technology, stimulating a the development of the middle class, etc. And of course we eventually have alternative energy, which could be of almost unlimited value.

This is economic analysis? (1)

Subm (79417) | more than 6 years ago | (#22018152)

From the article

> Space exploration is not a drain on the economy; it generates infinitely more than wealth than it spends.

Infinite return on investment? At least if you are going to ask people whose livelihood depends on the answer, don't ask ones who don't know the difference between finite and infinite. You have to scan the posts by responders to find the term "opportunity cost."

On the whole, the blog post is a good read if you want to lose respect for Freakonomics.

Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy (1)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 6 years ago | (#22018358)

The Red Mars, Blue Mars, Green Mars series by Kim Stanley Robinson covers a thousand year period from when humans first colonize Mars. It presents a pretty plausible, hard science exploration of that millenium, from the technology to do so at the start, through the social changes that occur on Earth (struggling with massive overpopulation) and Mars (the development of planetary polity), towards the general colonization of the solar system (moons, space stations, and asteroids also inhabited).

It certainly doesn't present colonization of the solar system as a panacea for our abuse of the Earth, or as a strictly useful strategy for ending our dependency on a single planet. But it does demonstrate the usefulness and the rewards of continued space exploration.

they asked about MANNED, got answers about ALL (2, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 6 years ago | (#22018370)

The question posed was "is manned space exploration worth the cost?"

Most of the answers and justifications include manned and unmanned exploration. If you take the benefits from unmanned exploration out of the responses from the selected pundits, the answers are much less emphatic.

(not my view, just an observation that the question wasn't properly answered)

OK so let's extend that... (2, Funny)

jpellino (202698) | more than 6 years ago | (#22018372)

How many were inspired to want to go to space by watching Barbarella?

Soooo... let's make Jane Fonda a budget item.

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