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"An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."
Sir Winston Churchill


Unsafe in Outer Space

Where's Ralph Nader when you need him?

The space shuttle and International Space Station — nearly the whole of the U.S. manned space program for the past three decades — were mistakes, NASA chief Michael Griffin said Tuesday.

In a meeting with USA TODAY's editorial board, Griffin said NASA lost its way in the 1970s, when the agency ended the Apollo moon missions in favor of developing the shuttle and space station, which can only orbit Earth.

“It is now commonly accepted that was not the right path,” Griffin said. “We are now trying to change the path while doing as little damage as we can.”

The shuttle has cost the lives of 14 astronauts since the first flight in 1982. Roger Pielke Jr., a space policy expert at the University of Colorado, estimates that NASA has spent about $150 billion on the program since its inception in 1971. The total cost of the space station by the time it's finished — in 2010 or later — may exceed $100 billion, though other nations will bear some of that.

Only now is the nation's space program getting back on track, Griffin said. He announced last week that NASA aims to send astronauts back to the moon in 2018 in a spacecraft that would look like the Apollo capsule.

The goal of returning Americans to the moon was laid out by President Bush in 2004, before Griffin took the top job at NASA. Bush also said the shuttle would be retired in 2010.

All right, here's the dirty little secret about space exploration: there is no economic basis for it.

Think about it---we spend gobs and gobs of cash to throw things into space, yet that money is never recovered.

Satellites are the sole exception to the rule, although I'll concede that I think space-based weaponry has a ton of value as well.

For all the vaunted science experiments undertaken in space, what have we really gotten? The only tangible value I can see is aiding further space missions, which in turn makes it easier to jettison enormous sums of cash into the outer atmosphere.

NASA cheerleaders claim that everything which has been minitiarized since the 40s has only been so thanks to the space race. Utter nonsense. The chief benefit of minitiarization is to make things more portable, and the United States military has been the chief advocate of this, for very obvious reasons. Those same cheerleaders typically don't push for increased defense spending.

Building a bureaucracy to do something is the absolute dumbest way to do it. NASA was created to do what nobody wanted to do but the federal government and a handful of fighter jocks with a death wish.

Space exploration will only take off when there becomes a viable economic reason for it. That will have to be some awfully compelling reason, since it costs a whole lot to throw a pound of something into Earth orbit.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen, brother. Bob Park ( a physicist) on why the shuttle is a complete waste of money.

11:32 PM  
Blogger worshipnaked said...

Thanks, Teflon. I've always been annoyed by the whole thing. Thanks for voicing my secret thoughts.

4:42 PM  

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