Moon base with astronauts exploring with rover
A Lunar base with astronauts exploring with their rover

By Ned Dodds, 4/18/2008

When you come right down to it, the bottom line isn’t the bottom line.

Space exploration is not about the cost. And it’s not about fixing all our problems at home first either. That’s an impossible requirement to attain because problems at home will never end; solving them all will never happen.

No, exploring the Solar System is about giving those at home some relief from their own daily problems by giving them some hope that there’s something worthwhile ahead, something to look forward to, a reason for working through the immediate problems, to surmount them and to go beyond them. And it’s a bargain.

Program costs per American FOR ONE YEAR

(Data from the White House, U.S. Census Bureau, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.)

Whole Federal Budget (FY2004) $7996.55
  – Social Security $1696.55
  – Department of Defense $1293.10
  – Medicaid (FY2003) $927.76 (see Note 1)
  – Medicare & SCHIP* $917.24
  – HUD-Welfare Programs $129.79
  – Department of Homeland Security $96.55
  – Federal Research and Development Budget $437.82
   — Space R & D (non-defense, all agencies) $33.94
   — NASA’s entire budget $51.72
   — Moon-Mars & Beyond (FY05 request) $6.14
Note 1: Medicaid cost $269 billion in 2003 for medical care, nursing homes and prescription drugs for the poor.–USA Today, 3/1/2004 That’s nearly 18 times NASA’s entire annual budget and is money that only maintains Welfare recipients as they are without doing a thing to improve anyone’s circumstances.

NASA’s budget is only a fraction of the total Federal Research and Development budget; the rest is in other agencies. This is the funding that develops new technologies, or advances old ones, to develop new products that build new small businesses which create new jobs that can improve people’s circumstances.

Yet only 5.5% of the whole Federal Budget is devoted to Research and Development that will result in new technologies, new products, new companies and new jobs.

And the new Vision for Space Exploration is only a tiny piece of that. . . So the question your elected officials need to hear from you is this:

“Since the future of the U.S. Economy depends so much on new technologies, new products, new companies and new jobs, why is the R & D portion of the Federal Budget, especially for the new Vision for Space Exploration, so small?”

Humanity will not be bound to one planet. It needs to expand beyond the Earth as it has expanded beyond known frontiers into unknown territories ever since the human species first arrived on this planet. Someone will do it eventually; it doesn’t matter who from a human survival viewpoint, but we want the history books of the future to show that our country maintained its leadership role in continuing human expansion into the space frontier.

  • Research into how to sustain human life in space, on other planets and in other places considered hostile to us is really research into how our species works and what is needed to support it. This increased understanding results in huge benefits in medicine and other aspects of living. The full extent of these benefits are completely unknown and unknowable in advance because it is not possible to predict what paths creatively thinking researchers will travel.
  • Welfare programs are not the best way to pump up people’s income. At best, they just provide a floor to support the recipients at some minimum level. The best way to pump up an economy is with new technologies, products, companies and highly-skilled, high-paying jobs that result from the long-term pure research programs that only a government can afford to wait for.
  • Most publicly-held private (non-government) companies cant do much long range planning; they have to satisfy stockholders more frequently. Only totally private companies, and governments, can do such long-range planning.

Perhaps the following facts will help your discussion with those critics who are still concerned about the costs vs. benefits of opening the space frontier:

NASA’s entire $15.1 billion FY2005 budget, if canceled and used elsewhere:

  • Would buy only 43,000 of the several million homes built in this country each year if the median price of a home was $350,000, or;
  • Would support another 250,000 ailing seniors in an assisted-living facility if the costs do not exceed $5000 per month.

Some places to check: – Info on Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP – 2004 Budget – Federal Budget – Census Clock – Research and Development programs budget extract

Many space exploration advocacy group web sites are linked on my web site at the URL shown below.

Beyond Earth Orbit Fact Sheet:
Ned Dodds 2004