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Aerospace Is space exploration a waste of money?

  1. Apr 15, 2010 #1

    First of all let me say that my answer to the question in my title is "absolutely not!" I think space exploration is extremely important not only because it is inspiring and amazing but it also provides so many important spin off technologies. But with everything that has been going on with the Constellation Program and Obama's announcement today I am getting really sick of all of the people who think that NASA and space exploration is just a big waste of money despite the nearly insignificant portion of the federal budget it actually consumes.

    I was thinking about something else that it seems like these anti-NASA people dont get and I was wondering what everyone else thought about this. Sure NASA spends a lot of money on space exploration but its not like the money they spend just disappears right? I dont know anything about economics but I am pretty sure that the money that NASA spends generates profits for a lot of companies because NASA doesn't build the shuttle and everything else by itself. So not only does NASA directly employ a lot of engineers but at the same time aren't they responsible for a lot of jobs in industry.

    So do you think that the aerospace industry in America would suffer if NASA completely gave up space exploration like some people unfortunately hope for?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 15, 2010 #2


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    Do you differentiate between manned and unmanned space exploration?
  4. Apr 15, 2010 #3
    I'm a big supporter of science. But o have to say yes, it's a waste because it costs too much in propulsion. We should concentrate on developing propellantless propulsion and then we could explore space much faster and cheaper.
  5. Apr 15, 2010 #4
    Do you have any facts to justify this statement?
  6. Apr 15, 2010 #5


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    OK, hang on.

    Your position is open to interpretation because the first thing you say is that you do think it's a waste...

    But, in fact, you do think that space exploration is a worthy cause, you just think we could be spending our money more efficiently on it. Is that right?
  7. Apr 15, 2010 #6
    Yes. Currently it's as if we are mining coal with our bare hands. The gain doesn't justify the effort. In that case it would make sense to stop mining coal by hand and invent machines to enable efficient mining.
  8. Apr 15, 2010 #7
    Again, what are you basing this on?
  9. Apr 16, 2010 #8


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    It kind of goes without saying that we should try to make the method more efficient. Do you think we are deliberately using inefficient methods? Or would you agree that we are using the most efficient method that is currently available to us?

    Or are you suggesting that we should stop exploring space until we develop more efficient propulsion methods?
  10. Apr 16, 2010 #9

    D H

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    First off, propellantless propulsion is pretty much a pipe dream. The closest we might get is solar sails. Solar radiation pressure is a rather puny force. We will have to wait a *long* time for a propellantless propulsion technique that truly is useful for space exploration.

    Secondly, necessity is the mother of invention. That space exploration is an ongoing endeavor is one of the driving factors that motivates the development of new propulsion techniques. Without this motivating factor, what would be the point of this research?

    Suppose NASA were put on hold until some usable propellantless propulsion technique was developed, which is what I garner from your post. It is beyond naive to think that all of the monies that current goes to NASA would go to this propulsion research were NASA to be put on hold. It is naive to think that more money would be spent on propulsion research with this approach than NASA already spends on advanced propulsion techniques. What would actually happen is that politicians would rip into NASA's funding. There would be very little, if any, money left for propulsion research after this vulturine act.
  11. Apr 16, 2010 #10
    No, the other day found an article that stated that every dollar invested in NASA during the last 50 years has growth our economy by six dollars. Still looking for the article it fell off my history. However, while re-searching for that article I found this statement made by the Chinese
    see http://opinion.globaltimes.cn/commentary/2010-03/513545.html" [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  12. Apr 16, 2010 #11


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    Only by the rules of GDP accounting.
    All Nasa's income comes from the US government, it then gives contracts to US companies, it has no foreign earnings.
    So the x6 is because the money is counted once when the goverment pays Nasa, again when Nasa pays Boeing, again when Boeing pay the subcontractor, again when their engineer buys a car ......
    It's just corporate welfare - you might as well say each $ paid to a junkie brings in 6 to the economy.

    The chinese space agency is super efficent thanks to Nasa.
    In the 90s the US banned export of US components to the Chinese space programs, so they were forced (with the help of the europeans) to develop their own satelites and launchers.
    Sanctions are always a good way of forcing a country to develop great technology. South Africa and Isreal are good examples, if you want to keep a technological opponent down you sell them your own gear cheap.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2010
  13. Apr 16, 2010 #12
    What they are including in that economic growth are communications and navigation satellites, microelectronics, new materials, new manufacturing processes, etc. All the fruits from attempting what was view by everyone as being improbable.

    Space exploration forces creativity which would not have occurred pursuing mundane endeavors.

    It is my opinion, that the only other endeavor of mankind that produces such technological advancements are military in nature.
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