bmacleod
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Manned Space Flight..too Expensive?

Wed Aug 10, 2005 1:26 am

Not sure if this topic's been mentioned before but I've heard critics say that human space flight is costing too much taxpayer dollars and that money should be better spent elsewhere. Exactly what is NASA's annual budget for shuttle operations; $1-3 Billion?

This pales immensely to what is being spent in Iraq (and I'm not including critical food and rebuilding costs for Iraq...just military operations).

Like the majority have said the knowledge and research of space exploration clearly outweight the financial issues. We just have to improve on our current methods and technologies.

[Edited 2005-08-09 18:31:00]
The engine is the heart of an airplane, but the pilot is its soul.
 
GDB
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RE: Manned Space Flight..too Expensive?

Wed Aug 10, 2005 1:54 am

Shuttle has become a sink hole, but it's the only game in town, for now anyway.
I heard that NASA get's I think something like 0.0016th of the US Federal Budget.
Even if that is not the case, NASA know that the temporary massive budgets of the mid 60's are long gone.
Pick a nice and simple CEV/launch system, you could see great savings in manned launches.

Shuttle was/is good at launching/servicing Hubble, operations with MIR and ISS (what it was really designed for in the first place), but I'm glad that NASA are not going down the route of a similar kind of vehicle, good for Low Earth orbit and nothing else.

Tragically it took the loss of Columbia to give NASA a new focus, simply they could not go on as they were, keeping the Shuttle going for years yet, in the vain hope that a new vehicle would replace it, but only do the same job, hopefully cheaper, maybe better.

NASA is a major source of US prestige, it's innovations have permeated through industry and science for over 40 years, with not much more funding it could do a whole lot more yet.

Manned spaceflight is important, whilst much of the Solar System can only be robot explored, much can be manned.
Don't believe the hype, just one of the three Apollo J missions (15,16 and 17) did more Lunar science than dozens of unmanned probes could ever do.
We need unmanned, look what a great job those two vehicles are doing on Mars (well beyond their expected lifetimes), but really, you eventually have to send humans.

Back to Apollo, on 15, one of the most important discoveries was when the 'genesis Rock' was found, an ancient sample from the Moon's (and Solar Systems) primordial era.
The Astronaut spotted it out of the corner of his eye, almost by chance, would even a very smart robot do this?
People forget that the most sophisticated computer (and by far the most flexible) is the human brain.

But Mars just to explore?
Well getting the capability to do so also brings the prospect of exploration, later exploitation, of asteroids, many perhaps full of valuable minerals.

Ultimately, as Apollo 15 commander Dave Scott said as he stepped on to the Moon in 1971 "Man must explore."
Imagine if Columbus, or DaGama, or Cook had thought, "no, I won't bother, too expensive, too risky, too much chance of bad PR".
Going back further, what if our ancestors had stayed put, in what is now Africa, a bad drought or similar could have caused extinction.
The Dinosaurs never had a space programme, where are they now?
 
SATL382G
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RE: Manned Space Flight..too Expensive?

Wed Aug 10, 2005 1:56 am

Quoting Bmacleod (Thread starter):
Exactly what is NASA's annual budget for shuttle operations; $1-3 Billion?

I couldn't find a figure on the net that made sense, but I'd take a wag and say if you multiply your high figure by 2 you'd be in the ballpark.

Too expensive? Yes sir, but all gov't operations are. Do we need to do it anyway? Yes. Do we need to be smarter about spending the dough? yes again.
"There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as being shot at and missed" --Winston Churchill
 
cloudy
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RE: Manned Space Flight..too Expensive?

Wed Aug 10, 2005 2:57 pm

This discussion is meaningless unless one considers opportunity costs. What would the money be doing if it were spent on other science projects? My guess is a lot more could be done with the money if it were spent somewhere else. Much is made of the science done by the shuttles and the station, but the science return has been pretty miniscule considering what COULD HAVE BEEN DONE had the money been spent on science here on earth.

The discussion is also meaningless if you don't consider intangible results. Space achievements have immense prestige value, especially in the third world. Unmanned space does not do this, at least not to a significant extent. This DOES matter for our foreign policy. If you can put a man on mars, it means something.

Human spaceflight creates a class of heros that lead people into science and engineering. We need more scientists, engineers and businessmen in this country. All the schools seem to be making now is lawyers, lawyers, lawyers, a few beauraucrats, doctors, and IT people, and then more lawyers. Half the scientists and engineers we do have come from overseas. We need lawyers, but competitive economies are not built by redistributing wealth through regulation and through lawsuits. This is true whether the lawsuits and regulations are justified or not. Wealth is built by actually inventing and making things, and then bringing them to market.

Does the current space program inspire a significant number of new scientists and engineers? Does it do a lot of real, original science that could not be done any other way? Does it do enough of the above to justify its cost? I doubt anyone can answer "yes" to the above questions with a straight face. Usually even NASA's defenders will admit this - but then try to shift the blame to someone else. The space shuttle and ISS are unmittigated disasters. Why didn't we put these programs behind us 15 or 20 years ago?

IN SHORT.... Is the current manned space program worth the cost? My answer is no. Would a vibrant manned space program that truly explored and did new things be worth the cost? My answer is yes. Though public funding would no doubt be needed - I doubt we can achieve such a program with the traditional big-government NASA model. Something new will be needed.
 
Glom
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RE: Manned Space Flight..too Expensive?

Wed Aug 10, 2005 6:58 pm

Quoting GDB (Reply 1):
Don't believe the hype, just one of the three Apollo J missions (15,16 and 17) did more Lunar science than dozens of unmanned probes could ever do.

Consider that it took MER a month to traverse the same distance that Scott and Irwin did in a matter of hours.
 
sprout5199
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RE: Manned Space Flight..too Expensive?

Thu Aug 11, 2005 12:34 am

When u look at the budget of Nasa compared to other depts., we need to increase the amount we spend(Agriculture--19.4 bil, Commerce--9.4 bil, Interior-- 10.5 bil, Nasa 16.5 bil, Defense--419.3 bil and so on.
http://www.gpoaccess.gov/usbudget/fy06/browse.html ).
Just look at what we have gotten because of space flight(cat scans, computers, TANG, and much much more) the cost of stopping it would be just too much.

Quoting Cloudy (Reply 3):
Much is made of the science done by the shuttles and the station, but the science return has been pretty miniscule considering what COULD HAVE BEEN DONE had the money been spent on science here on earth.

I disagree. A lot of the science return we have isn't from being in space, but from trying to get there. So if u take away the need to invent high tech items then they wont get invented.


Dan in Jupiter
 
DfwRevolution
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RE: Manned Space Flight..too Expensive?

Thu Aug 11, 2005 3:19 am

>> Exactly what is NASA's annual budget for shuttle operations; $1-3 Billion?

Yes that's a close approximation of what it cost NASA to opperate their manned space flight program per annum. Manned flight consist of 25% of NASA's budget, the total agency budget being about $16 billion. Pennies. NASA's entire budget is 1/6 of 1 percent of the U.S. Government budget.

Even with budget overruns and construction delays, the entire ISS project is expected to cost American taxpayers the equivelent of one medium pizza each. Estimates for Mars missions are as low as $20-30 billion dollars, less than a DoD weapons aquistion. We could easily get our money's worth from it.

>> Tragically it took the loss of Columbia to give NASA a new focus, simply they could not go on as they were, keeping the Shuttle going for years yet, in the vain hope that a new vehicle would replace it, but only do the same job, hopefully cheaper, maybe better.

I was at the Teague Auditorium in Johnson Space Center when STS-114 launched, and I simply can't describe the emotion in the room at the time. Sadly, Columbia and Return to Flight was a much needed reality check for NASA.

It's refreshing to see NASA get their act together and develop a real vision of exploration.
 
cloudy
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RE: Manned Space Flight..too Expensive?

Thu Aug 11, 2005 4:18 pm

Quoting Sprout5199 (Reply 5):
disagree. A lot of the science return we have isn't from being in space, but from trying to get there. So if u take away the need to invent high tech items then they wont get invented.


Dan in Jupiter

Yes, but most of that was not for the shuttle but for Apollo and NASA's unmanned programs. Post Apollo - NASA activities have not produced anything like the spinnoffs that came from Apollo. That is to be expected, since not nearly as much new was done by the shuttle and by the station. There was some, but not nearly enough to justify the cost. More has come from the unmanned effort and from NASA's aeronautic research. Moreover, most of the spinoffs we did get came pretty early. We haven't gotten many NEW spinnoffs from the shuttle and station. This is because for the past 20 years most of NASA's money and attention devoted to manned spaceflight have gone to maintaining these white-elephant programs and not to doing new things.

In doing this, NASA's manned program has become is a big, expensive version of the Confederate Air Force. The Confederate Air Force is a fine organization. I love old warbirds also. But they live for the past. Don't give money to them if your main interest is in the future.

In short, we have to actually do new things to get significant spinoffs. Especially in the past 2 decades, the shuttle and station haven't really done much new. The international cooperation and orbital construction were nice but nothing compared to the benefits of much cheaper programs on the unmanned side. Also, these benefits are not as good as they were once thought to be. Zubrin's Mars Direct taught us that massive orbital construction is not the way to do manned planetary exploration, or much of anything else, for that matter. At least not for a very long time. The ISS redesigns and overruns show us that you can't save money by giving more countries critical work. The best that can be hoped for is some synergies in non-critical stuff. And we get some nice fuzzy feelings. Is this worth 30 billion plus?

Manned spaceflight should not be compared to the total federal budget. That is comparing apples to oranges. It should be compared to other programs that aim for the same goals - prestige, inspiration and science. For 1-3 billion a year we could do a lot better then the shuttle and the station. How much overall the government should spend on the above goals is another issue entirely - it has nothing to do with how big a proportion of money so allocated should go to manned space exploration.

Quoting DfwRevolution (Reply 6):
I was at the Teague Auditorium in Johnson Space Center when STS-114 launched, and I simply can't describe the emotion in the room at the time. Sadly, Columbia and Return to Flight was a much needed reality check for NASA.

It's refreshing to see NASA get their act together and develop a real vision of exploration.

I agree. However, NASA's very structure makes it difficult to maintain such a vision in the long term. What will happen when there are no accidents to invite public scrutiny? What happens when people like Rutan or foreign space agencies like the Chinese no longer bite at their heals? When that happens the vision will disappear and stagnation will return. We need something other than a monolithic, bureaucratic, and monopolistic government agency to manage our manned spaceflight program. A system of prizes, perhaps.

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