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Is the US Spending Enough on Space Exploration?

AmericaSpace image Shuttle launch dollar signs photo credit James N. Brown posted on AmericaSpace

Given the current status of the U.S.’s space program, is now really the time to restrict the agency’s budget? Photo Credit: James N. Brown

With the United States in a transition phase in space exploration, there has recently been lively debate in Congress regarding NASA’s 2014 budget (though massively overshadowed by Benghazi, the IRS, and the George Zimmerman trial).  The budget was released in April as part of the Administration’s overall 2014 budget request to Congress.

Is it enough?

Consider today’s environment, in which on one hand American astronauts suddenly have to humbly thumb rides on old-technology Soyuz rockets to get to the International Space Station (ISS) that the U.S. spearheaded … while on the other hand, many Americans continue to reel from the continuing economic slump. So is the United States spending enough or too much on space exploration?

Reviewing the 2014 NASA budget is the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology (chaired by Lamar Smith, R-TX) and its Space Subcommittee on Space (chaired by Steven Palazzo, R-MS). Perhaps following political instincts, they expressed initial concern about the $55 million cut in the proposed 2014 NASA budget compared to 2013. Of course, they and their follow committee members are all from districts in which there are NASA and space supplier facilities.

AmericaSpace photo of shuttle Atlantis wing photo credit Jason Rhian AmericaSpace

In 2004 it was announced that NASA would develop a new crewed spacecraft, Orion. This new vehicle won’t fly astronauts until 2021at the earliest. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian / AmericaSpace

But, really, that cut is a rather infinitesimal three-tenths of 1 percent of the proposed $17.7 billion spending proposal.

What’s more intriguing to me are two issues: First, how does the Administration’s recent NASA budgets compare with those of the past, and second, what interesting nuggets lay buried in the 2014 proposal?

Not surprisingly, NASA’s largest budgets by far were in the mid-1960s, when America was locked in a Cold War struggle with the Soviets, a conflict that propelled the space race into a critical issue of national security. On an adjusted basis of constant 2007 dollars, NASA’s annual budget then was roughly $33 billion—nearly twice what NASA is spending today. The 1960s’ spending was about 4 percent of the federal budget, compared to about 0.5 percent today (OK, the federal budget is nearly 4 times as big today, in constant dollars).

Again in constant 2007 dollars, NASA spending declined from its mid-1960s highs to about $11 billion in the mid-1970s, then nearly doubled to about $20 billion in 1991, and has since oscillated in the $15-$18 billion range. The 2012 budget was $16 billion in constant 2007 dollars.

But what are quite difficult to evaluate strictly from NASA and government data are the amounts actually spent on space-related exploration, compared to Earth-related projects.  For example, about a half billion dollars is spent on aeronautics research.

Don’t get me wrong—when I take my family to Chicago next month, I’ll probably be glad that NASA is making our skies safer.

Personally, I am eagerly awaiting the upcoming House Committee hearings regarding one of the surprising twists that was revealed in the NASA 2014 budget: that NASA intends to not only land on an asteroid as a stepping stone to Mars, but to attempt to “capture” and alter its trajectory.

SLS NRA image credit ATK

This artist’s concept of the SLS evokes possible flights to the Moon and perhaps, one day, Mars. But with budgetary issues such as they are, is this likely to happen? Image Credit: ATK

To quote the NASA budget presentation, “To protect our planet, … send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars by 2035.”  A later, more detailed explanation implied that the Earth may someday be in danger of being struck by an asteroid and that we need to be prepared to launch a heroic mission to dramatically save mankind.

Are they kidding?  The last time I was out at the NASA Press Site at the Kennedy Space Center, I don’t recall any briefing about asteroids headed for Earth.  Had the NASA execs just returned from an offsite conference at which the featured entertainment was a 3D/HD version of Armageddon?

I understand and support the rationale for landing on either an asteroid or the Moon before attempting a mission to Mars. But the asteroid capture/toss idea struck me as a cheap and unnecessary attempt to justify an asteroid landing.

So is America spending enough on space exploration?

Those who are still smarting from paying the Russians $50 million for a one-way ticket to the ISS are shouting a resounding no.

Those who believe that history will validate their belief that the Space Shuttle Program’s only accomplishment was to employ 20,000 people are shouting an equally adamant yes.

Where’s the truth?  It depends on whom you ask.

In my view, I find it astounding and discouraging that 44 years ago we sent men to the Moon (a distance of about 238,000 miles) with 1960s technology, and since then humans have ventured only about 250 miles from Earth’s surly bonds.

I have closely followed, admired, and reported on the Space Shuttle Program and the ISS initiative.  But in 1969, we could send man 1000 times as far into space as we can today!

That doesn’t sound like progress to me.

In my next column, I’ll review survey data that will reveal how the American public feels about space exploration spending.

 

The opinions expressed above are those solely of the author and do not represent the views of AmericaSpace

Want to keep up-to-date with all things space? Be sure to “Like” AmericaSpace on Facebook and follow us on Twitter: @AmericaSpace

 

36 comments to Is the US Spending Enough on Space Exploration?

  • Leonidas

    Some facts:

    -NASA’s budget amounts to about 0,5% of the total federal budget and has done so for decades.
    -Annual Social spending is about 40-50 times bigger than NASA’s current annual budget.
    -The whole sum of money for the ‘banks bailout’ thing, was bigger than the whole of NASA’s 50+ year budget combined.
    -The current annual NASA budget equals to a couple of days of current military spending.
    -Americans spend dozens of billions of dollars annually, to things like gambling, cigarettes, alcohol and porn.

    So considering all these, I can’t accept with a straight face that America is spending enough on NASA and space exploration.

    Just some thoughts to mull over…

    • Dale Jacobs

      :-Annual Social spending is about 40-50 times bigger than NASA’s current annual budget.”

      And yet… We wouldn’t have much of a space program if we didn’t have a healthy, well nourished and educated population to support it! With continuing cuts in social welfare while the wealthy continue to gather and hoard obscene wealth, I’m surprised we’ve gotten as far as we have! There’s that ‘greed thing’ again…

      P.S. GO Space-X! (There ARE exceptions, even a few visionaries!)

      • Leonidas

        I’m all with you. I’m not against a healthy Social spending. I just wanted to point out to folks arguing ‘why are we spending all that money up there and not down here?’ that WE ARE already spending money down here and NASA’s budget is just ‘pocket change’ compared to that.

      • Jim R.

        What cuts to social spending? Half of all federal gov’t spending is on Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid and income security (welfare is part of that). Those items are going to get cut. We either come up with a plan to do that reasonably… or you can bury your head somewhere and draconian cuts will fall. The cuts are coming, whether you like it not.

        BTW – we’re not spending enough on space exploration. And I’m fine with cutting social spending to spend more for NASA.

  • Joey Traina

    What really bothers me is how some people think that any amount of money NASA spends is a waste. I constantly see comments on sites like space.com, cosmic log on nbc.com, and space related articles on yahoo.com. I have seen comments saying that things like Curiosity are a waste of taxpayer money, that NASA’s budget is too big and why doesn’t the government use that money to solve problems on Earth. I do my best to post the facts, like Leonidas did, about the reality of the situation. Not nearly enough money is allocated to NASA, and I personally feel that money spent on space exploration has the highest ROI.

  • Both Leonidas and Joey are correct. The entire NASA budget is “chump change.” Is it a waste to explore new frontiers? Is it a waste to develop the sophisticated technologies to do so (with practical benefits we so casually take for granted)? It bothers me greatly that we pay the Russians $50 million per seat to ride on old technology. Why? Why are we allowing ourselves as a country to be a 2nd or 3rd class space faring nation? Why, Congress?

  • Karol

    “The day before [Apollo 11] liftoff, a mule-and-wagon carrying the Reverend Ralph David Abernathy (head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and successor to Martin Luther King) appeared with a group of protesters before the gates of KSC. The decade had seen a small but voluble public protest against Project Apollo, and some of the SCLC’s chiefs were its most visible opponents, its leaders arguing that federal monies would be better spent on Earth-based needs instead of starry dreams. Medical operations director Charles Berry: I went up to [Reverend Abernathy] and I said, “You know, I don’t understand why you would come and try to demonstrate and say that we ought not to have this flight to the Moon. Do you have any concept at all about what this can mean to the world and to us as a nation, having the capability to do this?” He said “It’s really not about the capability to do this, it’s this money that’s going to the Moon, this money’s going to be on the Moon, and it should be being spent on these people down here on the Earth.” And I said, “There isn’t a single dollar going to the Moon. Not one dollar going to be on the Moon. Every one of those dollars that’s gone to this program, and a lot of this nation is involved in that, and every one of these dollars is going to someone down here on the Earth. If some of your people wanted to be working on some of that, they could have done it. I’m sure that jobs are there. You could work on it, and you could be getting some of that so-called moon money, if you want to call it that.” “That’s not what I’m saying,” he said. “The thing is, that money ought to be spent on these people right down here.” I said, “Well, you obviously don’t understand what is happening here, and it’s being done for your good and for everyone’s good. If a nation is great, it’s my view that that nation ought to be able to do both things, and we ought to be able to do the things that are necessary here. We need the science and the technology on the cutting edge if we’re going to be a nation that’s going to progress. If you don’t, you’re going die as a nation and you’re not going to solve any of the problems here on Earth or anywhere else.” Abernathy would later admit, “I succumbed to the launch . . . I was one of the proudest Americans as I stood on this soil; I think it’s really holy ground.” Craig Nelson, “Rocket Men” pp 74-75

  • Dale Jacobs

    Sometimes I wish that Russian meteorite back in February over Chelyabinsk had instead blown up directly over Wall Street! Anything to change the ‘good ol boy’ school of chrony capitalism and the greed driven financially stagnant empire it represents. THAT would be a welcome change! The financial ‘choke hold’ these minions of greed hold on Congress, the Senate, Judicial and Executive offices is ruining this country.. if it hasn’t already. The system’s been ‘gamed’… It’s not broken, it’s fixed! Get a clue America!

    Bottom line is: Nothing will be done to improve humanity’s chances for the future unless it makes a profit for some greedy bastard(s). Our only chance lays in our ability to do something that makes a profit for the greedy and at the same time does something good for mankind… I challenge you to think about how!

    • Dale Jacobs

      Re-instate the Glass-Steagal ACT! and Repeal Supreme Court ruling #08-205! Corporations are NOT Citizens!

      • Karol

        Dale, I once heard it said that, “I’ll believe that corporations are persons, the day Texas executes one.” :-)

        • Dale Jacobs

          Karol.. I always ROTFL when I hear that one – poor Texas! A state where women’s rights are being severely eroded by the far right and where redistricting and voter I.D. efforts by Republicans intimidates and even assaults the basic principles of the U.S. Constitution and voting rights and indicates a continued agenda by the likes of ALEC to undermine democracy. Other than Class warfare and bigotry, Texas has nothing on Arizona except…it’s bigger!

  • Bummed at Congress

    a small part of that asteroid should have landed on the capitol building when congress was in session….NASA’s budget would have doubled right then.

  • Stuart Hurst

    AS a non-US citizen I hesitate to enter this discussion, but I thought it interesting to read in http://www.marsnews.com the adjacent entries for 20th June (With Current Budget, NASA Will Never Get to Mars) and
    21st June (Majority of Americans expect NASA astronauts to land on Mars by 2050)
    It seems that there is as big a gulf between perception and reality in your country as in mine (UK).

    Stuart Hurst
    UK citizen

    • Karol

      Stuart, please do not hesitate to enter any AmericaSpace discussions, your insight and ideas are most welcome. Actually, one of the foremost space historians whose posts on AmericaSpace are world-class and of the highest quality is Ben Evans, also a citizen of the UK. His work is without equal, and truly a gift to future generations. One of the most dedicated and enthusiastic supporters of the American space program, someone whose posts are always educational and a pleasure to read, is Leonidas, a citizen of Greece. (If more Americans were as devoted to NASA as is Leonidas, we’d be on Mars already). Intelligent, respectful posts are always greatly encouraged regardless of country of origin. Looking forward to reading more of your posts Stuart!

      • Leonidas

        I’m so humbled and honored by your comments Karol. I’m so pleased that my thoughts resonate with other like-minded people. You’re so right, the space endeavor is one that encompasses all of humanity! No one is iferior or irrelevant. Everyone has something to bring on the table and contribute.

        And talking about the UK, one can’t overlook the incredible work done by the British Interplanetary Society through the years. And yes, Ben Evan’s work is trully a gift to future generations!

        My warm, kind regards to you as well :)

  • Augustine said NASA would need an extra $3 billion a year for a decent program of exploration. So the answer is no.

    • Michael,
      The Augustine Committee (the 2nd one) had several factors that limited the decisions it could come up with (one of which was that it had to come to decisions based under the current budget). Therefore, using this as a guide – limits what one can or cannot do. You’re correct, the U.S. isn’t spending enough on space exploration. But using the Augustine Committee for, well for virtually anything, is like trying to escape the police in a car with a speed governor.
      Sincerely, Jason Rhian

  • NO they haven’t in 2 decades! This should be an international money pot to work on Great projects worldwide.

  • Leonidas

    It’s rather cliched to state that the US needs long-term vision and strategy on space, but it’s true nonetheless.

    Studying the history of the space program and the geo-political reasons behind major space policies and decisions, one can start to realise the reasons why the space program is in its current state. If one is to trully understand the present of the space program, should really study its past.

    IMHO, the one reason that stands out as to why the state of the space program is as it is today, is that the US had for the most part of the Space Age, been reactive to space competition from others (in that case the former Soviet Union) and not proactive. All of the awesome accomplishments (big and small) that NASA delivered on human spaceflight, where seen by the political powers that be, as ends to themselves, as means to score a major win in the geopolitical arena. NASA wasn’t historically seen as the profound and pioneering space agency that it really was and is, trully a representation of a great nation going forward, but as just another agency on the bigger political scheme of things.

    Some examples:

    -The Soviets launched Sputnik first, so the US had to do something about it. NASA was formed.

    -The Soviets launched the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, so the US had to achieve a bigger milestone as not to be seen as an ‘inferior’ nation. Plans for a step-by-step strategy towards space, that NASA was conducting by that time, were abandoned and putting a man on the Moon became the sole purpose, without any desire from the political powers that be, to think about what to do next.

    -NASA succesfully lands humans on the Moon, and no sooner than the first Apollo missions were returning home, the Nixon administration had already decided to cancel everything. If Nixon had gotten his way, there wouldn’t even be Apollos 16 and 17 (to be fair, decisions to cancel Apollo after the first succesful missions, were forged during the Lyndon Johnson administration). So in essence, America developed the fundamentals of a whole cislunar infrustructure (Saturn-Apollo), and later throwed it in the dustbin! Talk about waste! NASA’s tries to implement an aggresive program of lunar exploration and settlement were ignored, and missions to Mars were put on hold, forever to be realised ‘during the next 25 years’. The Spirit of Apollo, died shortly after it blossomed. Apollo’s swangsong, Skylab and ASTP were the sugar coating.

    -NASA push forward and got the green light just for the Space Shuttle (remember that the Shuttle was just the first leg on the 1969 Space Task Group’s plan, to be followed by space stations, settlements on the Moon and missions to Mars). But constant funding cuts led to delays and constant re-scheduling that introduced major technical difficulties. All that gave shape to the Space Shuttle that we knew and loved.

    -The ISS got forward in 1993, because of US’s worries that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, thousands of skilled rocket scientists and engineers might fall into the wrong hands.

    All the geopolitical motivations aside, that doesn’t mean that NASA didn’t do awesome stuff (and still does today) but it means that a reactive space program driven only by geoplotical motives, isn’t (and can’t be) a sustainable one. It’s no wonder that especially after the end of the Cold War, the US has systematically dismantled its aerospace industry in various ways. Seen through the geopolitical lens only, the space program doesn’t have a lot of reasons today to be continued. And that’s the foundamental problem IMHO that has plagued it all along.

    What we need, is a space program that is sustainable and ultimately pays for itself. A solid rationale, a ‘Why’ to be answered in such a way that has everyone backing it up. And that rationale can be so easily found. The space environment itself provides with all the answers. Space isn’t just an ‘empty void’ between planets and the planets aren’t just ‘barren wastelands’ going around the Sun. There are infinite amounts of untapped solar energy being delivered from the Sun every single second. Asteroids are full of precious minerals and elements. The once-thought ‘barren’ Moon has large anounts of frozen water. Resources that could be used for settlement, as drinkable water, oxygen and fuel. There’s the promise of He-3 as a source of power. With Mars, things are even better!

    There’s this shift of perspective that has to occur. A perspective that sees the space program as something that generates money and wealth, and not as something that takes it away. And our own Solar System provides the answers, if we are clever enough to look. Imagine what NASA and the private sector could accomplish if space policy was formulated through this perspective.

    IMHO, trully intelligent civilisations are the ones who become space-faring and a) satisfy their energy needs through the resources of their space environment first and b)realise in the process that their home planet isn’t the only home that can be.

    I can’t believe that many environmentalists argue against space exploration because it supposedly ‘sucks up money and resources that could be better used on Earth’. What those environmentalists (and other like-minded people) don’t realise, is that the answers they seek on Earth can only be found in space. If you really care about Earth, you just can’t afford not to care about space. Otherwise, you’re just deluding yourself.

    An excellent analysis along the same lines, that sums up things perfectly, is one done by dr. Spudis and can be read here:

    http://www.spudislunarresources.com/blog/human-spaceflight-why-and-how/

    I really hope I haven’t tired everyone with my overtly long post!

  • Dale Jacobs

    Well spoken Leonidas! I like!

    But I feel I must make a comment about your statement?: “..America developed the fundamentals of a whole cislunar infrustructure (Saturn-Apollo), and later throwed (threw) it in the dustbin! Talk about waste!”

    Truly much was wasted – but much was gained! The Apollo era Vehicle Assembly Building, launch pads and giant ground transport(s) were upgraded to accommodate the shuttle. The RS-25 Shuttle Main Engines were basically an evolution of the J-2 engines from the upper stages of the Saturn V rocket. The main engines for the Space Launch System booster will be the F-1B, another Saturn rocket derivative. The design of the Orion Capsule is similar to, but a more modern and larger version of the Apollo capsule! That steerable re-entry design has passed the test(s) of time!

    The real waste was when the Nixon administration castrated the original Shuttle designs and used the monies elsewhere! The original designs were for a safer, more robust and reusable system…

    • Leonidas

      You are exactly right Dale (also, thanks for correcting some of my grammar errors!).

      Actually my point wasn’t that nothing was gained. It’s true, NASA evolved and upgraded its facilities and Apollo allowed the technology to mature, that allowed the Shuttle to emerge, which in turn gave way to the SLS design.

      But its true that because of politics NASA also lost the ability to travel beyond LEO for nearly 50 years and tries to rebuild that same ability now with the SLS. It wasn’t NASA’s plan for things to go that way. Before Kennedy’s speech in 1961, NASA had followed an incremental step-by-step approach to spaceflight which was based on Von Braun’s plans for slowly building a space and cislunar infrustructure. Pre-Kennedy Apollo was basically about that. In 1969, the Space Task Group reccomended exactly the same thing as a follow-up to Apollo. It’s the same philosophy that China seems to showcase today-this slow but steady apporach. In 1969 America already had a proven and working cislunar architecture and NASA was keen on building on that. The Shuttle was just part of the plan.

      Also, the SEI plan in 1989 was about the same thing. Congress gasped because SEI would cost $500 billion, laid over a 30 year time period. Did anyone at the time realised that 30 years x $17 billion= $500 billion? NASA was going to get that money anyway (as it has up to today) for the 1989-2019 timeframe. Why not start building on SEI anyway?

      Someone might say that all this analysis is based on 20/20 hindsight and sounds like a ‘know-it-all’ attitude. I don’t want to come off as that. I’m just making some observation about how past space policy decisions affected the space program and lead us to where we are today. I beleive that any future decisions concerning space policy should consider this past.

      There is a thick irony here. The reason that NASA’s post Apollo plans were wasted were financial ones-the ‘better spent here’ dogma that is used every time against space exploration. If Apollo was allowed to run its course which would lead to lunar outposts and later Mars, the US would probably gain the opportunity to have access to all the precious lunar resources. Plans for going to asteroids that we make today, might have been realised decades sooner. We could have already mining operations on asteroids. I don’t believe that the private sector would leave itself out of this, if NASA had created the way for going there. So the initial financial concerns about the space program would have evaporated and who knows, maybe we would not be discussing today about the effects of the current ongoing economic crisis…

  • Ferris Valyn

    Well, it would seem that the House Democratic members agree – They’ve offered their own NASA authorization bill, that is worth $18 Billion (higher than the 16 Billion offered up by the House Republicans)

    Ironically, the Democratic Bill doesn’t preclude the ARM, while the Republican bill does.

    This will be an interesting tennis match, if you will

  • Dale Jacobs

    Thanks to all of you for your comments. It fills me with new hope finding others who, like me, can actually see a bright future ahead! A future where we transcend our seemingly dire economic and politically divided circumstances and get on with exploring the solar system! A future where we no longer ‘buy in’ to the antiquated paradigms that have kept us in economic slavery for far too long. Robotics and automated production techniques contain the seeds for a wholly revamped and new economic paradigm. Space exploration and supporting industries have and will help drive those innovations.

    The failure of our current political and economic systems will eventually force open the doors of real change and not simply provide political motivated talking points. Do you remember how excited, unified and energized the populace was when promised ‘Change you can believe in’? I too ‘bought into’ that hope, only to be disappointed when our ‘champion’ did not take that mandate ahead to fruition (He did NOT strike while the iron was hot!). Instead, he has consistently backed away from those promises and has been co-opted and de-energized by ‘compromise’ and by surrounding himself with pessimistic deniers and naysayers.

    Science fiction has allowed us, even prompted us, to imagine a future where corporations will continue their stranglehold on humanity and finally rule the entire solar system. MOST of these stories do not end well for the common man or individual citizen. There’s a reason for that – it mimics reality! The ‘Star Trek’ series is one of the few which attempts to break free of this mold.

    So how do we begin? (We already have!) As mentioned above, re-instating the Glass-Steagal act and repealing Supreme Court ruling #08-205 would be great for starters! Next, putting a cap on or outright abolishing the influence of lobbyists wouldn’t hurt. We could at least demand that all political contributions be made publicly accountable. We need to separate financial influences from our political decision making process and return it to the public domain. That is to say, if we want to re-invigorate and preserve our republic and democracy.

    Decisions made by the highest bidder rather than the best possible option(s) have brought us to where we stand today. Do you like where you are? How’s that retirement fund looking?

    • Ferris Valyn

      Dale,

      In your opinion, who do you think has been, if you will, the biggest impediment to the vision? Is it a company? Is it a person? An Organization?

      • Dale Jacobs

        Who has been the biggest impediment to American space policy? Good question, which doesn’t have a short answer, and I don’t want to play “pointy fingers” What good? but I will try this… The undereducated?

    • Ben Harrison

      While I’m hopeful for the future too Dale, I’m not sure I’m as worried about the present. Certainly the political system we have is not perfect, but when considered against the other forms of government around the world, I like ours better.

      I am hopeful for our future in space too, since I see that there are a number of efforts going on that “break the mold” on how things have been done in the past. It remains to be seen how many actually survive, but our current paradigms have become too risk-averse, and too expensive for making much progress. Coupled with a declining budget environment for NASA, and that means government space efforts are destined to be relegated to a supporting role – which isn’t necessarily bad.

      One of the big unanswered questions we have is what is NASA’s role? Is it to be an owner/operator of space hardware? Or is it to be a leader and force multiplier to U.S. entities that want to pursue activities in space?

      We, the space community, need to help answer those questions and many more. Because as long as the space community is fighting about where government money should be spent, the little that is spent will be unfocused.

    • Karol

      Talk about a story that did not end well for humanity, the ALIEN series with the mining corporation seeking to develop the aliens as a weapon system still gives me the creeps. The really spooky part is that with the “greed is good, greed is God dogma, the “hedge fund uber-wealthy” would drive us over that cliff too.

    • Karol

      Dale, don’t feel naive about “buying into the hope, only to be disappointed.” Ask Jason Rihan about the ’08 campaign speech given before an audience of aerospace workers in swing-state Florida, the promises made, and the summary cancellation of the Constellation program and the Vision for Space Exploration shortly after the presidential inauguration.

      • Dale Jacobs

        Karol.. thanks for the input and encouragement! Your comment reminds me of an old joke? Q: How can you tell when a politician is lying? A: When his (or her) lips move! Followed by: The higher the monkey climbs the tree, the more he shows his butt!

        Yeah, call me a radical, but I’d like to see our political system revamped. I’d include campaign funding laws with limits on corporate donations. Any corporate donation would be required to be made public with matching funds deposited into a general public trust fund. That money to pay for projects voters agree upon based on health, education and welfare.. accentuate education!

        I see this nation as the hope of the world as we are a mix of peoples from all nations and races. Lets let the principles of democracy and freedom ring loud enough for all to hear! set a shinning example of what’s possible and lead mankind to the stars!

        • Karol

          Dale: You, Tom Vasiloff, and Leonidas write the most eloquent posts providing truly excellent insight and ideas. Such high quality discourse is one of the reasons I so enjoy, and avidly read, AmericaSpace. (The other reasons are Jim Hillhouse, Jason Rihan, Ben Evans, et al.) Great idea to limit corporate campaign donations. If I donated $20 to a Senator, what do you think my chances would be if I tried to get through to him on the telephone to voice my support for a mission to Europa? What if I donated 20 million and telephoned him to tell him to oppose such a Europa mission? The upside to a limit on huge campaign contributions is the mental image of Sheldon Adelson joining hands with the Koch brothers and walking into the Pacific. The downside is after the Exxon Valdez and BP gulf oil platform disaster, do we really need another oily ring washing up on our shores?

          • Leonidas

            Don’t lawmakers and politicians understand that by unraveling and slowly dismantling the aerospace industry is going to really harm the US in the long run? Today they propose cuts for Earth and planetary science or SLS, tomorrow they might choose to do the same (again) for Commercial Crew (which is already underfunded anyway), or something else of similar vital importance in space. They might as well close up shop and come out and say ‘we don’t really care to be involved in the space endeavor and bussiness anymore. Let someone else do it’.

            Does the US really want to say that ‘we’re going to do less than our fathers and forefathers and we’re fine with it!’? What does that say about the character of the US as a pioneering nation?

            There’s a historical analogue to all of this, really worth mentioning. Quoting from Wikipedia:

            “From 1405 to 1433, large (Chinese) fleets commanded by Admiral Zheng He—under the auspices of the Yongle Emperor of the Ming Dynasty—traveled to the Indian Ocean seven times. This attempt did not lead China to global expansion, as the Confucian bureaucracy under the next emperor reversed the policy of open exploration and by 1500, it became a capital offence to build a seagoing junk with more than two masts. Chinese merchants became content trading with already existing tributary states nearby and abroad. To them, traveling far east into the Pacific Ocean represented entering a broad wasteland of water with uncertain benefits of trade.”

            Does all this (and the last sentence in particular) ring a bell today? The historical similarities with today, really raise the hair on the back of my neck!

            It’s possible that the Chinese (and the Vikings) had travelled to the New World before Columbus (there are some historical evidence) but guess who colonised it? The Europeans were more than happy to fill the void left by China on this endeavor.

            It would really be an irony of imeasurable proportions, if the roles were reversed today in space exploration and settlement and China was the one to settle the Moon and reap the benefits from this.

            Just some thoughts to ponder…

            I understand that there are serious domestic issues to be dealt with (there will always be) but some things like space investment shouldn’t really be debated, the same way like let’s say Veterans’s Benefits aren’t.

  • Dale Jacobs

    Yes… Back in 1967-1984 I lived in So. Calif. Offshore, on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, divers found several large, flat, doughnut shaped anchor stones. At the time it was thought they might have been Japanese? Now it appears were more likely these were from one of the Chinese ‘fleets of exploration’ such as you mention above. Very interesting!

    It’s easy to see that we as a country have lost our way (Bleating like sheep!), our ‘vision of the future’. Asinging… ‘Sha la, la, la la la, live for today! and don’t worry about tomorrow! Because tomorrow never comes! Sha la, la, la la la la la live for today…” etc.

    Sorry, I know it’s my DUTY as an American to belly up to the endless steam of televised lies, fast food and gas guzzling cars (LOOK what I can do!) and spend our children’s inheritance as fast as we can!?

    oTay then. By my reckoning, only about 5-10% of the U.S. populace cares doodly squat about U.S. space policy. That makes it our job to change that perception any way we can. If we have to ‘give them circus’, then lets do that! Whatever it takes (Reality TV on Mars? ACK!)! But not loose the real focus… Reach for the stars, partner!

    • Karol

      Dale, in the name of the Holy Kardashian, I compel you to say three Acts of Contrition to American Idol, NASCAR, and the National Football League! How dare you sir! How dare you ask Americans to forgo obsession with playing with their balls (football, basketball, baseball, etc) to consider (and provide funding for) the unimaginably exciting real-life exploration of alien worlds, and the quest for answers to questions that humanity has asked for ages? Have you no consideration Sir for the trials and tribulations of Charlie Sheen? Curiosity’s search for the precursors of life on Mars? The possibility of life under the frozen crust of Europa? A tributary system of rivers feeding and enormous ocean of liquid hydrocarbons on Titan? WHO CARES!!?? For God’s sake man, get a grip on what is truly important in America today – Lindsay Lohan is out of rehab! And please, what of Madonna in fishnet? There are priorities you know. Reality TV sounds like a great idea Dale, and a great source of funding for the ISS: Survivor ISS (Don’t go into the airlock), Hell’s Kitchen ISS (Eat the freeze-dried pizza, in space no one can hear you scream), and ISS Big Brother (Yes, you can do it in micro-gravity, but ewww). Welcome Dale to our merry band of criers in the wilderness. Flee while you still can, or be condemned to having your last thought before succumbing to the wiles of Morpheus every night being, “. . . and NASA receives only 0.48 of a penny of each federal dollar spent.” To quote Pink Floyd, “Hello, is there anybody in there? If there is then can you hear me? Is there anyone at all?” (Damn, misplaced my bottle of scotch again).

      • Dale Jacobs

        Karol… thank’s for the comic relief! That’s just what the doctor ordered… You have a talent for parody! Got me in a major belly roll anyway…

        The reality TV to Mars thing is not my idea. In fact there are serious discussions ongoing about doing exactly that, at the Planetary Society I think? I listen to astronomy.fm on the web all the time. Am pretty sure that’s where I heard about those efforts.

        I open two windows to listen to astronomy.fm while I’m on my computer composing or reading e-mails or looking around for those science tid-bits that I get a kick out of. Ever listen in there? Eeeyup… I’m a ‘dyed in the wool’ science and astronomy freak, and proud of it! And astronomy.fm goes a long way to satisfy that need. Not exactly ‘plush’ at present – taking time off to recuperate from a surgery, so I like to do whatever I can ‘for the cause’ – chat them up & spread the good word. Besides, it’s better’n watchin the boob! or boobs! (Ahemm) Am glad I found AmericaSpace…. had them bookmarked but passed them over too often going to other sites like APOD, LPOD, SpaceWeather, Universe Today, Space Daily, York University Obs., Radio Meteors, Cheap Astronomy podcast, Spaceflight Now, NASA TV… etc. Have moved A.S. to the top of the list now! I like their style!

      • Leonidas

        Karol, your post just cracked me up! :) Much appreciated! You really do have a talent for comedy you know. You really should do something with that.

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