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Fight For Space/NASA budget

  1. Jul 31, 2012 #1
    Hello everyone not sure if this has been brought to the attention of the forum yet but there is a kickstarter project going on called Fight For Space about the neglect of the American Space Program. Go and watch the trailer and let me know what you think.

    I personally think it is an awesome idea to make a documentary to try and stir the public to a more active involvement in the space program not only at a political level but also by maybe inspiring people to get into the STEM fields.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 31, 2012 #2
    I'm an amateur astronomer and as much as I love the night sky I really don't see much point in human space flight or exploration. Robots can do it better, cheaper, and for longer. And if you look at how many robotic missions NASA has done over the past two decades, the American space program is far from neglected.

    The only thing that's neglected is NASA's PR department. Most of these missions no one's ever heard about, which is a shame because there's great science and discoveries being made.

    But yea, human space flight is too damn expensive and that money is far better spent on research which will provide benefits to humanity here on earth.
  4. Jul 31, 2012 #3
    See I have to disagree while robotic exploration is great the returns on a human mission far outstrip those missions. The reason I say this is because rovers and other robotic systems are only built to handle a very specific set of problems whereas humans on a mission are able to do more in a given mission. Also by advancing human space flight we not only are able to inspire the public but also open up the possibility of moving beyond our own world to not only explore but also to help ease our planets restrictions on minerals and population
    growth. Without investment in this sector we doom ourselves by ensuring that human space flight will stay expensive.
  5. Aug 1, 2012 #4
    You will find no human based pioneering spirit here, just a bunch of anti risk, robots rule rhetoric. NASA should always take the risk free way until the rest of the space faring nations go where no man has gone before. Long live the robots!
  6. Aug 1, 2012 #5
    Yeh I was afraid that might be the case kind of a shame really.
  7. Aug 1, 2012 #6
    A human is always more adaptable than a robot, but the baggage the human carries in terms of mission cost is just not justifiable.

    For example, the mars rovers have been exploring that planet for years now (yes I'm aware one died recently), and they have not required any supplies, any paychecks, any monthly psyche examinations or doctors visits or any of the extremely expensive maintenance a human being needs. And we've learned a lot for relatively little expense. Same goes for the Cassini mission and lots of other fantastic missions that have gone far beyond what their original intended goals were.

    And your point about robots being built to handle specific problems only supports their use - a scientific mission should be designed to address a specific problem. You don't just blindly send these things out and wonder what you'll turn up. You have a clear objective in mind and a specific goal you want to meet, and if you end up being able to do more than that then great.

    You realize that the last Apollo mission wasn't even televised because people were completely bored with it? I think that you are inspired by the idea of space exploration, history has shown that the average person isn't all that inspired for very long. I think Bill Nye the Science Guy has probably inspired just as many people to go into STEM as the Apollo missions did (which was never their purpose in the first place), and his operating budget is not reckoned in the hundreds of billions.

    Because your arguments are weak and completely unconvincing and the fact is robots are better at exploring than people are.
  8. Aug 1, 2012 #7
    Really? Weak arguments? Those of us who desire to explore have the entirety of human history on our side that points to the fact that humans are built to explore and expand. But as to your other arguments. You are correct that the robots are better in terms of cost that has clearly been admitted but only to an extent. For example everything that has been done in the rover program thus far and in all likelihood will be done in the next ten years could be done with one manned trip to Mars. The reason for this is that we as humans are adaptable and can problem solve when something interesting comes up. You know instead of saying oh that data is interesting we will now have to develop and launch another rover (which of course doesn't exactly inspire the public) we can say hey there is evidence of water here lets look around more on this single trip.

    Also the cost is unjustifiable?
    But by your perspective the cost of constantly developing rovers which in the history of Mars landings have a less than 50% success rate is a justifiable cost?

    As to your last comment about Apollo 17. Yes the public became less than enthusiastic about the missions but the final mission lunar walk was actually televised just not in its entirety but you want to know what the problem is? It's the same problem the shuttle program had initially it was really popular then after doing the same thing over and over (at least from the public's perspective) it fell into obscurity due to it's own success.

    Ultimately the issue is that if we are ever going to become a space faring culture we need to constantly be pushing forward in exploration to keep the public's attention

    Of course I don't expect this to change your mind as it seems that you are happy with the status quo.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2012
  9. Aug 1, 2012 #8

    D H

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    That's bass ackwards. Robots are a lousy stand-in for humans. We use robots because we we can't use humans, not because they're better.

    Furthermore, we send robots to Mars because one day humans will go there. NASA calls these robotic missions to Mars and asteroids "robotic precursor missions". Precursor: One day humans will follow. That humans will follow, someday (and someday soon, else why bother) is a huge motivating factor that justifies the funding for these missions.

    Suppose we take that motivating factor away by cutting back or even canceling the human space exploration aspect of NASA. What would happen to your unmanned space program? This experiment has been tried three times. It happened in the US when the Apollo program was canceled. All that money wasted on spending humans to the Moon didn't get transferred to NASA's unmanned programs. NASA's unmanned budget instead suffered massive cuts post-Apollo. It happened in the Soviet Union when it became clear that the US was going to beat the Soviet Union to the Moon. The Soviet manned and unmanned space programs were cut to the bone as a result. It happened in Great Britain when British space scientists convinced Parliament to ban governmental funding of human spaceflight. Parliament did just that, and then proceeded to cut funding for space science year after year. A couple of years ago the last few remaining space scientists in Great Britain asked Parliament to revisit that ban.

    The problem is that space science is very expensive science. The equipment is expensive (space qualified anything costs hundreds of times its Earthbound counterpart), the software is huge (robots are dumb) and expensive (on the order of one line of code per person per hour), the launch is hugely expensive. Everything done in space is expensive. The Mars Science Laboratory that is about to land on Mars cost $2.5 billion. The cost of the New Horizons mission currently en route to Pluto is between $650 and $700 million. Think of how many cheap graduate students using cheap equipment one could fund for that kind of money. Space science cannot compete with Earthbound science. It needs something extra, and that something extra is that humans someday will follow.
  10. Aug 2, 2012 #9
    Thanks for joining the conversation D H good to see some defense brought to this conversation.
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