The Economic Value of the Space Program (corrected version)

Posted by: Michael Mandel on July 19

Sigh. I had to retract and redo the original post, in light of some absolutely correct comments. The original version of the post is at the bottom, so you can see the problems. I clearly overstated my case there. Sorry about that—MM

Yes, let us celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, an amazing human achievement.

But even as it lifts our spirits, let us ask a different, more mundane question: What was the long-term economic value of the spending on the Apollo program? The amounts spent were enormous. Consider this: From 1962 to 1972, when the last Apollo mission landed on the moon, space-related activities got 59% of nondefense government R&D spending. That was $176 billion (inflation-adjusted in 2009 dollars).

What did we get in return? The space program was one of the original big customers for integrated circuits in their infancy, helping give them a big boost. And here’s a long list of other spinoffs from the space program.

However, there are two points to remember. First, one key spinoff that we did not get was a viable private manned space industry, at least so far. One is developing, but it’s not there yet. And the government manned space program has limped along since the Apollo program.

The other problem is that while we were spending at a rapid pace on space travel, we didn’t put money into R&D in other key areas like energy and natural resources. (This omission had real consequences during the energy crisis of the 1970s).

President Kennedy acknowledged as much in his 1961 speech where he committed the U.S. to the goal of “landing a man on the moon.” Kennedy said:

This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, material and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread.

Let me be clear here—I don’t think the moon landing was a bad idea. To the contrary—I’m glad we did it. And yes, the money spent on the moon program helped stimulate innovation.

But as an economist, I have to wonder whether the same R&D money, spent in other ways, could have had a bigger impact. That’s a hypothetical question that we’ll never know the answer to. But it would sure have been nice if the investment in the Apollo program had led to a viable private manned space industry in fewer than 40 years.

Here is the original post

The Economic Failure of the Space ProgramYes, let us celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, an amazing human achievement.

But remember something else as well: The U.S. space program turned out to be one of the great economic and innovative failures of our time. For a decade it absorbed a big chunk of the country's scientific and technical resources, while producing very few economically useful spinoffs.

Consider this: From 1962 to 1972, when the last Apollo mission landed on the moon, space-related activities got 59% of nondefense government R&D spending. To put it another way, while we were spending at a rapid pace on space travel, we didn't put money into R&D in other key areas like energy and natural resources. (This omission had real consequences during the energy crisis of the 1970s).

President Kennedy acknowledged as much in his 1961 speech where he committed the U.S. to the goal of "landing a man on the moon." Kennedy said:

This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, material and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread.

Let's put the spending into other terms. Between 1962 and 1972, the U.S. space program spent $176 billion (inflation-adjusted in 2009 dollars). In magnitude, that comes close to the mammoth federal expenditures on building the interstate highway system over the same period (outlays from the Federal Highway Trust Fund totalled $220 billion in 2009 dollars from 1962-72).

We know what we got from the interstate highway system--fast, easy transportation, the creation of the suburbs, an entire transformation of our way of life. What did we get economically from the space program, especially the manned portion? Much, much less. Government investment in space, rather than opening up new opportunities, turned out to be a one-off. Lots of communication satellites, yes, but what else? There's no manufacturing in space, and unless I'm wrong, there's been little research done in space which has had great practical applications (please let me know if I'm wrong about this).

I'm sorry to be a grump about this. I don't think the expenditures on space were a bad idea. I don't think the moon landing was a bad idea. To the contrary--I'm glad we did it.

I'm just making the economic point that we used large amounts of scarce scientific and technical labor and money for one activity which at least up to now, has not produced big economic payoffs.

Finally, how much of this problem was due to the heavy hand of government? I've got another post coming up where I'll look at the recent history of private-sector space activity.

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Reader Comments

Tony

July 19, 2009 06:30 AM

Space has produced much more than communications, which in itself is a major positive spinoff. It's produced GPS which has major economic impact. It's produced LandSat, which images are used in many commercial applications. It's produced weather forecasts and hurricane forecasts that have major practical benefits. Not to mention scientific benefits of satellite data. The benefits of understanding our world are hard to quantify. Integrated over time, it's enormous. This article is way off-base!

Imagine that we were an advanced nation without satellite capability, while other nations had that. We'd be at a major economic and strategic disadvantage. No question about it.

bruce

July 19, 2009 06:35 AM

Well Sir,

I'd rather watch one moon landing then a ten thousand Hollywood movies.

David Jordan

July 19, 2009 06:37 AM

I guess you missed the development of low cost computers. Not much of an impact, I know, but somehow seems to have developed a bit beyond the initial investment.

Randy D.

July 19, 2009 06:38 AM

RIGHT ON! And, sadly only the tip of the iceberg. NASA is the biggest boondoggle in history. There is NO reason for ANY manned flights, and no benefits of significance for any flight beyond earth orbit. Unfortunately, the likelihood of this being implemented is below zero.

Jimmie Neutron

July 19, 2009 06:41 AM

You are a moron. Did you think this article up while you were taking a crap and scratching your ass? If you had spent 20 minutes doing actual research on the subject you would have come to a different conclusion. Granted, I imagine we could have fed lots of starving childern in other countries, and maybe bought a single family home for all those that refuse to work in this country with the money, but we did something that will foerever be in history. I imagine Queen Isabella had the same thoughts when Columbus was sailing back to Spain in chains.

Uncle Dave

July 19, 2009 06:41 AM

You can, and should, make the same argument even more pointedly about the money spent on "atom smashers", probably the least practical science of all.

Hendrik

July 19, 2009 06:43 AM

Wonderful argumentation. Now apply the same logic to our great military which produced high economic rewards like.... uhm.. like vietnam, iraq, afghanistan and other wonderful achievements.

Steve Smith

July 19, 2009 06:45 AM

Try a Google search "economic benefits of space exploration". I'm amazed at your lack of research and depth of thought in this article.

themisanthrope

July 19, 2009 06:47 AM

"We know what we got from the interstate highway system—fast, easy transportation, the creation of the suburbs, an entire transformation of our way of life."

Well.... We did "get something," but in the end, was that money any better spent?

A. L. Flanagan

July 19, 2009 06:52 AM

The biggest reason for the economic failure is not the crash program to go to the moon, but the complete failure of follow-up projects. We put huge money into developing a new product, but never bothered to bring it to market and create a sustainable business. At least private companies aren't subject to mismanagement by politicians.

W. Nye

July 19, 2009 06:56 AM

If you really want to talk about a waste of good govermant R&D money. Let's talk about the stimulus money. 700 Billion Dollars that could have been spent on our future instead is going mostly to hand outs like extra food stamps. We had a chance to invest in the future. Instead we are burning money in the fireplace to keep ourselve warm.

Edward Sullivan

July 19, 2009 06:57 AM

If every bit of popular technology that the U.S. Space Program informed, influenced, or directly or indirectly funded were forced to carry a NASA imprint, I doubt very much the claim of economic 'failure' of the expenditures would garner much credence...

What is the Economic Value of Space Exploration? Center for Mars Exploration:

http://cmex.ihmc.us/cmex/data/vse/value.pdf

"What is the economic value to a society of upgrading the precision to which the entire industrial base of that society works? Anyone who wants to put together space artifacts, who wants to bid on a competition for space artifacts, who wants to be a subcontractor or supplier, or who even wants to supply nuts, bolts and screws to the space industry, must work to a higher level of precision than human beings had to do before the space industry came along. And that fact absolutely resonates throughout our entire industrial base. What is the value of that? I can't calculate it, but I know it's there."

Comments by Michael Griffin at the Quasar Award Dinner, Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership on 19 Jan 2007:

http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=23189

Is Space Exploration Worth the Cost? A Freakonomics Quorum:

http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/11/is-space-exploration-worth-the-cost-a-freakonomics-quorum/

vern

July 19, 2009 07:00 AM

Magellan didn't hit it rich, either, but paved the way for future riches and global economies trading. Article is myopic and author almost surely gripes about defense spending with no economic benefits that keeps him safe to write whiny articles. Fails to understand that knowledge is priceless.

David Benevy

July 19, 2009 07:00 AM

But you ignore some of the byproducts of the space program, particulary the integrated circuit. The need to reduce weight was a major impetus in reducing the cost and increasing the supply and complexity of integrated circuits. Most of todays microprocessor driven technolgy owes its existence to these integrated circutis.

David Benevy

July 19, 2009 07:00 AM

But you ignore some of the byproducts of the space program, particulary the integrated circuit. The need to reduce weight was a major impetus in reducing the cost and increasing the supply and complexity of integrated circuits. Most of todays microprocessor driven technolgy owes its existence to these integrated circutis.

David Benevy

July 19, 2009 07:00 AM

But you ignore some of the byproducts of the space program, particulary the integrated circuit. The need to reduce weight was a major impetus in reducing the cost and increasing the supply and complexity of integrated circuits. Most of todays microprocessor driven technolgy owes its existence to these integrated circutis.

William Fairman

July 19, 2009 07:01 AM

This type of analysis is exactly what destroyed the single greatest scientific research institution in the world: Bell Labs. It couldn't justify itself economically.

The payoff of scientific research is not measured in direct spin-offs, but by the increased understanding in a dazzling number of areas that accompany and support the research process.

The "great economic and innovative failures of our time" are born of our elevation of the MBA, our worship at the altar of quarterly results, the belief the market place is efficient and effective outside the bubble of resource allocation for short-term profit.

Whether space exploration should be manned or not is a valid issue. Whether we should concentrate resources in one area is another valid concern. But to assail space exploration as an economic failure because we don't vacation on the moon misses the point of scientific research.

Educated guest

July 19, 2009 07:04 AM

You mention the consequences of the interstate system like that's a good thing. Let us not forget that that is also why we have blighted historic town centers and the kind of sprawl that spawned the Walmarts that sold our communities out for addiction to garbage from China.

Educated guest

July 19, 2009 07:04 AM

You mention the consequences of the interstate system like that's a good thing. Let us not forget that that is also why we have blighted historic town centers and the kind of sprawl that spawned the Walmarts that sold our communities out for addiction to garbage from China.

Kenneth Adams

July 19, 2009 07:05 AM

We got powdered juice and a good Tom Hanks movie out of it. Well worth $176 billion.

Jonathan

July 19, 2009 07:06 AM

A practical Approach To Space Exploration

1) Turn the ISS into a repair station. Collect old satellites repair / refuel and place back in orbit.
1a)Launch craft for use in orbit like a space tug.
2b)Develop and train crew to repair / reuse satellites.
3b) Build module smelter melt excess metal waste for new projects.

2) Make a greater use of Bigelow Aerospace inflatable space station
http://www.bigelowaerospace.com/

3) Permanent unmanned lunar base with autonomous robots for preparation of lunar mining.
3a) Build better AI for long term autonomous robots, I think this will be the norm instead of sending actually crew.

4) Develop and practice a defense plan in case of large space debris like asteroids and aliens (just kidding, aliens, sheesh).

We need to have a realistic approach to space exploration that will span multiple presidential terms and connect with multiple players private and government.

Eric

July 19, 2009 07:07 AM

While I agree with you to an extent, I think you're forgetting about the significance of our dominance in space. What about our spy satellites that helped keep us out of WWIII? (What an economic impact that would've had.) There is some linking between economics and national security, where space is the ultimate high ground. Reagon's Star Wars program was mostly a failure, but it did succeed in spending the USSR out of existence. The emerging markets seem to have appreciated that.

What about our GPS constellation, which has provided revolutionary efficiencies in the way we get around, and all those satellite images used for Google Earth and the like?

And don't forget about WD-40, which was developed for protecting bare-skinned rockets from corrosion while sitting on humid Florida pads ;-)

rick

July 19, 2009 07:07 AM

When evaluating the space program you have to think about its uses and benefits for the long term. I'm talking about 100 years from now. Consider that some R&D efforts like pharmaceuticals can take 10 or more years of research and testing before they are of economic value. When it comes to space R&D, 50 years of R&D should be expected.

Jonathan

July 19, 2009 07:08 AM

A practical Approach To Space Exploration

1) Turn the ISS into a repair station. Collect old satellites repair / refuel and place back in orbit.
1a)Launch craft for use in orbit like a space tug.
2b)Develop and train crew to repair / reuse satellites.
3b) Build module smelter melt excess metal waste for new projects.

2) Make a greater use of Bigelow Aerospace inflatable space station
http://www.bigelowaerospace.com/

3) Permanent unmanned lunar base with autonomous robots for preparation of lunar mining.
3a) Build better AI for long term autonomous robots, I think this will be the norm instead of sending actually crew.

4) Develop and practice a defense plan in case of large space debris like asteroids and aliens (just kidding, aliens, sheesh).

We need to have a realistic approach to space exploration that will span multiple presidential terms and connect with multiple players private and government.

Shain

July 19, 2009 07:08 AM

Yeah, but think about all of the useful technology that our modern society is centered around. Space Exploration has more important goals than short-term economic gain, vastly more important goals.

Adam Smith

July 19, 2009 07:09 AM

Can you say Tang? ;-]

Murray Rottenberg

July 19, 2009 07:09 AM

What about the integrated circuit? This comment is from an Electronics Engineer.

Electronics was certainly boosted by the space program of the 60's

Many of today's electronics can be traced back to things developed for the Apollo program.

Koribdus

July 19, 2009 07:10 AM

I just can’t scratch the surface of the myriad reasons why you are wrong about this. Let me put this out as the catchall. Ask any commercially successful inventor of technology if he was influenced as a child by the American space program, to later take up his science. The popularization of science by this great American feet is enough to put your ill-considered ideas to rest.

Michael Willy

July 19, 2009 07:11 AM

Thanks for documenting the the sightedness of those "journalists" who profess to be chroniclers of a first draft of history.

Your editors are eithe rbailing out or fall prey to the a snapshot mentality of the dumbest generation. Observers, viewers, voyeurs.

Read conterperaneous copy regarding the vast wasteful expense of ARPANET, Then compare today's internet.
Visit one of the private space conpanies. Do, anything. Really anything. Then write about yourself.


jonathan

July 19, 2009 07:13 AM

A practical Approach To Space Exploration

1) Turn the ISS into a repair station. Collect old satellites repair / refuel and place back in orbit.
1a)Launch craft for use in orbit like a space tug.
2b)Develop and train crew to repair / reuse satellites.
3b) Build module smelter melt excess metal waste for new projects.

2) Make a greater use of Bigelow Aerospace inflatable space station
http://www.bigelowaerospace.com/

3) Permanent unmanned lunar base with autonomous robots for preparation of lunar mining.
3a) Build better AI for long term autonomous robots, I think this will be the norm instead of sending actually crew.

4) Develop and practice a defense plan in case of large space debris like asteroids and aliens (just kidding, aliens, sheesh).

We need to have a realistic approach to space exploration that will span multiple presidential terms and connect with multiple players private and government.

chuck

July 19, 2009 07:15 AM

well maybe people that does not like our space program should pack there stuff and move to another country

everett whitney

July 19, 2009 07:15 AM

Absolutely agree w/ you fine analysis!

An Engineer & an avid reader / 'techie" all my adult life, this manned program should have been stopped forever at the time of the original Challenger Explosion by our President, rather than that Pathetic 'plea' to have school children send in their piggie banks of coins!"

A total waste for these many generations ever since of our best Technical / Scientific minds available!

everett

mtintexas

July 19, 2009 07:17 AM

What a total bunch of babble talk. Attitudes like this are sinking our country into second class status. As a portion of the total federal budget, the entire program has been a rounding error in size. With attitudes like this one, the Europeans would never have discovered America and most would still be riding horses. In terms of science, the defense dept has consumed magnitudes more resources than space. This writer needs to do more homework.

Kename Fin

July 19, 2009 07:17 AM

Did the research involved in getting a man on the moon, or any subsequent space flight not yield any viable advances that have transformed our lives?

Did the space program just utilize current off-the-shelf technology that contributed nothing to the current state of advancement?

It seems like it would be incredibly hard to completely write off the economic effects of the space program without sifting through any of the R&D advances that were made as a part of the preparation and execution of the space flights made to date.

simon

July 19, 2009 07:19 AM

Idiot.

j morris

July 19, 2009 07:19 AM

If we hadn't thrown away so much in needless social spending, you could have your additional money for technology and have no reason to try to discount the space program.

Joseph Falco

July 19, 2009 07:21 AM

This isn't journalism, its typing. This should be against the law: a sensational headline in a major publication with no substance whatsoever. Pathetic.

Joseph Faclo

July 19, 2009 07:21 AM

This isn't journalism, its typing. This should be against the law: a sensational headline in a major publication with no substance whatsoever. Pathetic.

Marco

July 19, 2009 07:23 AM

There are several examples of technological spin-off that made by US Space program (Apollo, Gemini) in the 1960a if not worthwhile at least not an economic failure (just to consider R&D investment in technology used today commercially): 1) the first commercial fuel cell to produce electricity from fuel was developed for the Gemini program http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_cell
2) the first computer to use integrated circuits technology and the first example of fly by wire commercial technology used in most avionics controls today was developed for the Apollo Guidance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_Guidance_Computer
3) founded by the space program activities in 1965 was the the first software for structural engineering NASTRAN whose commercial versions are widely used in engineering (mechanical, civil, aeronautical) today http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MSC_Software This software is the basis of
4)technology that everybody uses today, just to mention a few: foamless athletic foot wear, VELCRO, scratch-resistant lenses, water filters cordless tools etc http://science.howstuffworks.com/ten-nasa-inventions.htm/printable

Bob Wright

July 19, 2009 07:24 AM

The original space program was so on-the-edge that a lot of engineering, if not strictly science, came out of it. Little of it had anything to do with "using space" - in the end, all the money got spent on the ground, and then a fairly small wad of fancy materials with some guys sitting on top got shot out of the atmosphere a few times. The advances in rocketry, computing, materials science, and physiology were considerable. But then came the lamentable shuttle and absurd ISS, where vast amounts of cash were spent doing the same stale thing over and over and over again, for no reason whatsoever, using obsolete ideas and technology. The Hubble was the only thing of value to come out of that whole program. The justification for the shuttle program was apparently only that having created NASA, it then needed something to keep it busy for 30 years. It should have been shut down and reinvented later, not just continued along, searching for a way to continue doing something that had already been done. Space is a place for robots, not humans, and NASA should be massively innovating in computing and robotics. Human spaceflight is an interesting challenge, but it's been done, and there's no other reason for a human to be surviving inside a tin can.

Doug

July 19, 2009 07:25 AM

I must whole heartedly disagree. As a designer in an engineering group I see a lot of the benefits that have increased the ability to produce better products at reduced costs and are directly a result of the space program technology. The biggest impact from the space program had to be material science. The exploration for some of the exotic solutions to the challenges of space travel have made there way into the business world. The world now has better products because of this. Communication in the form of satellites and relay stations around the world was not existent before the space program. The advent of smaller and faster computers was a trend the space program started and the computer industry has never looked back. We have not even discussed the science of space travel including vehicle orbital rendezvous and vehicle orbital insertions that we still use today and will if we ever branch out in our space exploration. That is the one draw back is that NASA lacks a goal, a plan and direction. That has been the failure. The economic paybacks are all around you. When you start your car, watch TV or use cell phone. From the clothes you wear to the mountain bike you exercise with. An economic failure, I disagree.

Arnav

July 19, 2009 07:26 AM

Government participation in science is most effective at the basic research level, not at the commercial level. Space technology has brought us communications satellites (which in turn created a viable environment for global communication networks, such as the internet), advanced computer technology, missile technology and allowed for the development of technologies that furthered civil nuclear applications, solar technology and battery technology.

In addition, it pulled a significant amount of our population into the sciences, a draw that has paid dividends over the past few decades. Look at the entrepreneurs from the 90s; it's telling how many of them had their dreams borne of the space program.

A nation should be long-term greedy, not short-term greedy. Forsaking scientific development may be fruitful in the short-run, but after a while the technological deficiency will catch up. But no matter for humanity in general; there are plenty of other nations vying for the lead.

Michael

July 19, 2009 07:26 AM

Benefits of the space program -> http://techtran.msfc.nasa.gov/at_home.html

Hey I'm just helping you out.

Arnav

July 19, 2009 07:27 AM

Government participation in science is most effective at the basic research level, not at the commercial level. Space technology has brought us communications satellites (which in turn created a viable environment for global communication networks, such as the internet), advanced computer technology, missile technology and allowed for the development of technologies that furthered civil nuclear applications, solar technology and battery technology.

In addition, it pulled a significant amount of our population into the sciences, a draw that has paid dividends over the past few decades. Look at the entrepreneurs from the 90s; it's telling how many of them had their dreams borne of the space program.

A nation should be long-term greedy, not short-term greedy. Forsaking scientific development may be fruitful in the short-run, but after a while the technological deficiency will catch up. But no matter for humanity in general; there are plenty of other nations vying for the lead.

Uncle Rich

July 19, 2009 07:28 AM

The Apollo program pushed the development of the integrated circuit; the microchip. That's been of some usefulness to society, wouldn't you think? How big would your cell phone be if it ran on vacuum tubes?

jdavis

July 19, 2009 07:28 AM

compare the cost to a war that has cost 4,000 lives,injured 10,000 or more, and spent hundreds of billions on. now tell me about waste.

Arnav

July 19, 2009 07:29 AM

Government participation in science is most effective at the basic research level, not at the commercial level. Space technology has brought us communications satellites (which in turn created a viable environment for global communication networks, such as the internet), advanced computer technology, missile technology and allowed for the development of technologies that furthered civil nuclear applications, solar technology and battery technology.

In addition, it pulled a significant amount of our population into the sciences, a draw that has paid dividends over the past few decades. Look at the entrepreneurs from the 90s; it's telling how many of them had their dreams borne of the space program.

A nation should be long-term greedy, not short-term greedy. Forsaking scientific development may be fruitful in the short-run, but after a while the technological deficiency will catch up. But no matter for humanity in general; there are plenty of other nations vying for the lead.

Gerard Pernot

July 19, 2009 07:30 AM

Ignorance is not an excuse...
This paper is at best shallow, concluding without even justifying makes it just an other opinion.
TECHOLOGY is the name of the game. From computers to material, this project has provided excellent results. I agreee, it has not improved the Long Island Rail system, which is still dismal...

Jack - Illinois

July 19, 2009 07:31 AM

Mike, Where have you been? The space program brought us advances in medicine, foods, textiles, computers, communications, and the list goes on and on. Basically, it built today's world economy. We may have mismanaged it, but that's not the fault of the space program. Before you write another article, please do your homework.

We launch in five minutes

July 19, 2009 07:31 AM

Can't believe nobody has commented on the psychological impact the landing had on the Russkies and the Cold War

MG

July 19, 2009 07:31 AM

"there’s been little research done in space which has had great practical applications (please let me know if I’m wrong about this)"

Here you go

* CAT scans
* MRIs
* Kidney dialysis machines
* Heart defibrillator technology
* Remote robotic surgery
* Artificial heart pump technology
* Physical therapy machines
* Positron emission tomography
* Microwave receivers used in scans for breast cancer
* Cardiac angiography
* Monitoring neutron activity in the brain
* Cleaning techniques for hospital operating rooms
* Portable x-ray technology for neonatal offices and 3rd world countries
* Freeze-dried food
* Water purification filters
* ATM technology
* Pay at the Pump satellite technology
* Athletic shoe manufacturing technique
* Insulation barriers for autos
* Image-processing software for crash-testing automobiles
* Holographic testing of communications antennas
* Low-noise receivers
* Cordless tools
* A computer language used by businesses such as car repair shops, Kodak, hand-held computers, express mail
* Aerial reconnaissance and Earth resources mapping
* Airport baggage scanners
* Distinction between natural space objects and satellites/warheads/rockets for defense
* Satellite monitors for nuclear detonations
* Hazardous gas sensors
* Precision navigation
* Clock synchronization
* Ballistic missile guidance
* Secure communications
* Study of ozone depletion
* Climate change studies
* Monitoring of Earth-based storms such as hurricanes
* Solar collectors
* Fusion reactors
* Space-age fabrics for divers, swimmers, hazardous material workers, and others
* Teflon-coated fiberglass for roofing material
* Lightweight breathing system used by firefighters
* Atomic oxygen facility for removing unwanted material from 19th century paintings
* FDA-adopted food safety program that has reduced salmonella cases by a factor of 2
* Multispectral imaging methods used to read ancient Roman manuscripts buried by Mt. Vesuvius


From
http://space-exploration.suite101.com/article.cfm/practical_applications_of_space_technology

Took me 30 seconds on google to find...

Charlie

July 19, 2009 07:35 AM

Why is it that award winning economist talk about things that dont happen like they would happen only if the money was spent to make it happen. There will be no replacement for petroleum that is more cost effective than petroleum, even if we spend 176 billion on development. Talk less to Krugman and talk to a scientist....well one that doesnt have a political agenda. What a maroon.

Marco

July 19, 2009 07:36 AM

Just few R&D NASA commercial spinoffs of the space program in the 1960 include: 1) first fly by wire guidance computer (Apollo) used by aircraft today 2) first fuel cell (Gemini) to produce clean electric energy 3) first software to simulate how engineering structures behave and crash before they actually do(NASTRAN). An to mention staff that everybody uses: VELCRO, the foam used in sport shoes, the anti scratch lenses, cordless tools, water filters etc

Ron Horine

July 19, 2009 07:37 AM

Apparently you have no understanding of the value of AMERICAN MADE. The Soviet Union publicly proclaimed to the world that "all the Americans will find on the moon are Russians". That statement echoed a warning to all nations to stand aside while the communist nation demonstrates its ability for the good of mankind. Apparently you place no value on the influence of being first to the moon representing the product of a free nation. Given your one sided materialistic view on the value of money you most likely represent those who think Ronald Regan spent billions to strengthen or military while in the process of breaking the Soviet Union attempting to keep up with our nations build up. What value did you label on the failure of the Soviet Union ? The cost of freedom goes beyond physical attributes measured in personal gain. The benefits of demonstrating the abilities of a free nation to do what a communist nation could not do can be sumed up in one simple phrase based on values you cannot place economic gain...GOD BLESS AMERICA.

Robert P

July 19, 2009 07:37 AM

Epic Troll

lingling

July 19, 2009 07:39 AM

Don't forget the massive amounts of ultra secret technology developed by the space program. This will be used to defend the circa 100,000 people living in the underground bases when the world monetary system collapses and everyone is forced to resort to cannibalism or suicide.

CBuck

July 19, 2009 07:39 AM

The integrated circuit was invented long before the space program. Personal computers would have been invented anyway. Spy satellites did not depend on putting man on the moon. All we got out of this boondoggle was a pen that will write upside down. The Russians avoided the problem by using pencils.

David.Edenden1@gmail.com

July 19, 2009 07:39 AM

You have a very good point. The money spent on the moon landing anf the international space station could have better spent on basic R&D which would have still produced computers and satellites and robotic probes to explore the solar system.

You can correct me if I am wrong, but scientists did not push for the moon landing. It was conceived as part of the Cold War competition to prove which system was superior. In no small measure, it proved that freedom and capitalism was superior to dictatorship and communism.

You might want to redo your figures and put the moon landing as a percentage of military spending over the years to get a better sense of its cost to society.

My intuitive sense is that had their been no moon landing the military would he captured those funds.


R E Erdmann

July 19, 2009 07:40 AM

The microprocessor was a fall-out of the manned space program. Try and explain how this had no economic impact to anything. What a moron. Must be yet another liberal trying to re-write history.

Lyle Lofgren

July 19, 2009 07:41 AM

Several people mentioned personal computers, but only in passing. I was involved with manufacture of measurement instruments from 1960 - 2000, and can testify that automated test equipment and the PC's ability to easily analyze massive test data allowed us to quickly identify design defects and correct them, saving millions -- and that only at one medium-sized company. That wouldn't have happened without the space program.

Lyle

Dan M.

July 19, 2009 07:42 AM

Spending on people only helps for a day. Spending on research and technology helps forever. Medical telemetry used by EMT crews is a direct sppinoff of the space program. Go to a decent library and read the STAR reports -- they occupy about 40 feet of shelving. The solutions to technical issues do trickle down into the economy and everyday life.

Dan Huth

July 19, 2009 07:43 AM

Diverse points of view are a good thing. However, I don't believe the purpose of space exploration is, or should be, immediate "big economic payoffs". Humanity cannot be, for the remainder of its existence, eternally tethered to one planet; the process of establishing human outposts beyond Earth has been and will continue to be enormously, profligately expensive; economic payoffs will likely be illusions for many, many years. I won't live to see them, I know that. But I suspect that five hundred years from now, the Apollo program and its successors will be studied and remembered in ways that the twentieth- century U.S. interstate highway program won't.

I realize, from the tone of your writing, that you understand what I'm stating; I also agree with you that billions of wasted dollars aren't good, no matter what glorious future they're thrown at.

ling

July 19, 2009 07:44 AM

Don't forget the massive amounts of ultra secret technology developed by the space program. This will be used to defend the around 100,000 people living in the underground bases when the world monetary system collapses and everyone is forced to resort to cannibalism or suicide.

D. Dixon

July 19, 2009 07:45 AM

When all of the natural resources of this planet are used up and there is nowhere for us humans to inhabit, we will use the useless space flights to continue our species across planets, and into other galaxies. Pointless indeed, god forbid we do have to blow up an asteroid heading for our planet. Even if your story was the truth (which it's not) and wasn't written just to satisfy your article quota to rate a paycheck this week, you should still see beyond what it is the program does for today only. Not everything has to be profitable to be good.

Henry Davis

July 19, 2009 07:45 AM

Despite having a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University, you obviously have no clue. Has everyone just gone stupid and forgotten World War 3? World War 3 was commonly known as the Cold War. You are just writing this article to be provocative. Stop it and apologize to your readers. The space program has been proven time and again to be the only program that truly pays us back ten-fold for the money spent. I want to get off this planet and away from idiots like you. Mars here we come.

spark240

July 19, 2009 07:45 AM

I wish the interstate money had also gone to the space program. Sprawl and personal-automobile dependence have/will cost us incalculably more.

T Wiley

July 19, 2009 07:47 AM

There is limitless economic value to be obtained by space exploration. I think the real question is how much have we lost by not investing MORE money. You know what percentage of our budget goes to NASA? Only .55%. Our defense budget on the other had is somewhere around 21%. There is a good possibility that the moon and the gas giants contain quantities of helium-3, which is rare on Earth but has a good chance of solving our energy problems. Thats only one example. Someday there will be people writing about Extraterrestrial Economics and the golden age that was brought about by space exploration.

Larry

July 19, 2009 07:47 AM

"unless I’m wrong, there’s been little research done in space which has had great practical applications (please let me know if I’m wrong about this)."

It's sad to see the old messageboard practice practice of flaming just to receive comments has infiltrated print media websites. The decline in quality is another ring in the death knell for traditional magazines.

Forrest Gump

July 19, 2009 07:49 AM

Ever heard of Velcro? :p

Andrew

July 19, 2009 07:50 AM

*Roll eyes*

Intercontinental ballistic missiles. Those were nice to have....

Just because YOU don't see it, doesn't mean the economic benefits aren't there. Half the technology for your iPhone alone came from the space program.

Ron

July 19, 2009 07:53 AM

Over the long haul Earth will, at some point, become inhospitable for human existence. Where else is there to go?

Arams

July 19, 2009 07:53 AM

Let's just say it gave us more than economists ever could give, even if we gave economists 100000x the funding.

Cristobal DeLicia

July 19, 2009 07:53 AM

The impetus for the interstate highways, like the space program, was actually military strategy. It provided routes for military transport, and population evacuation, in case of attack by foreign enemies.
The civilian economic returns were incidental. BTW, Tang was invented before the space program. Its an urban myth that it was developed specifically for it.

Ron

July 19, 2009 07:54 AM

Over the long haul Earth will, at some point, become inhospitable for human existence. Where else is there to go?

gary

July 19, 2009 07:56 AM

my god are you serious? did you use a typewriter then mail this to this site. electronics alone are worth the expendetures.these are so many spinoffs from space development and research that you must be a luddite to not notice. have a glass of tang and go back to bed, for the good of society

Leonard

July 19, 2009 07:58 AM

You have got to be kidding!! Spin-offs??? Just in the medical field alone, the monitoring of vital signs is a huge and profitable business and has saved countless lives and improved the heath of many others. The need for miniaturization and low power consumption in the space program has had numerous spin-offs as well as more efficient storage batteries, telemetry and communication and I can go on for hours but I believe the person who wrote this article is so technically shallow, I would be wasting my time. Ask anyone in the engineering or technology field that is over 55 years of age and they will tell you how the "Space Program" has benefited each and every person on this planet.

It is bad enough to listen to the news and/or go online and find only the bad things about America, now the media is taking what is GOOD about America and tries to tell us it is bad.

What is the purpose of the media and this article in specific? To tear down America and the American people to the point that we can not function as a nation or to inform, enlighten and inspire America and the American people to be the very best we can be?

Leonard Bliss
Lexington, SC

Matt Wyatt

July 19, 2009 08:00 AM

Space is the future. I would like to see a lot of spending on fusion tech for power and propulsion. This has a pay off for your energy, gives me my space, and even gives a way to recycle waste from fission power plants. OH, don't forget about Tang and WD-40! :)

Jim V

July 19, 2009 08:03 AM

This article is a good example of what the world looks like when you judge the value of something only by "economic impact." In the history of the world the greatest art, innovations, explorations and inventions often had little or no immediate financial impact on the world in general. Just ask Christopher Columbus, Vincent Van Gogh, or even Walter Camp. Who's he? The guy who invented American Football, a sport in which the players made no money, or pennies playing for the first seventy years. Everything has its incubation period in which there is no immediate pay off. It may seem that sixty years is a long time without obvious payback for the space program, but in the grand scheme of things, sixty years is nothing. To view the value of something only economically is a one dimensional view. If man was not willing to venture out into unknown terrain without immediate economic gratification, we’d all still live in ancient Mesopotamia, where civilization started on this planet. Reaching out into unknown territory has always been the solution to society growth on earth. Reaching out the same way into space will give us the same result. It will take time.

jerry a

July 19, 2009 08:04 AM

Besides some of the benefits mentioned or alluded to here, let's suppose that the technology gained helped us stave off an asteroid hit? Or helped us learn critical science for survival, space travel, and discovery of future resources?
Sure, because it's government run, it's inherentlly innefficient. But some of the gains in technology and scientific knowledge in many fields including electronics, physics, climatology, land use and medicine just to name a few are absolutely priceless.
It was money better spent than on bombs, death and destruction.

Looking back on money wasted, is a somewhat wasteful act in itself, but similarly useful in helping to mold our future actions.

Dan

July 19, 2009 08:05 AM

This argument is based on complete and utter ignorance of the facts, and Business Week should be ashamed of running such tripe. The author is trying to make an "economic point" without using the actual numbers, and without looking at any of the actual spinoffs of the space program. The author should learn how to do research before writing an article, and the editors who greenlighted this should be reprimanded.

Martha Adams

July 19, 2009 08:06 AM

I think Mandel has a point here, but he fails to write about it in an appropriately complete context. How about failures of multiple wars; of religious ideology; of suppression and censorship; of ignoring no-treatment costs of medical treatments; of American economic development of a system to feed immense amounts of money to a few people? I think Mandel's success in writing this piece only works because he ignores so very much.

-- Martha Adams, 2009 Jly 19

Robert Simone

July 19, 2009 08:06 AM

Talk about wasted spending, think all the social programs, or the war on drugs. What great results these have produced. Pride and attitude alone may be worth the cost of the space program. Something that seems to be lacking in so many people in this country today, including our first lady.

sergio

July 19, 2009 08:11 AM

you are correct...one only need read Richard Feynman's (Nobel, Quantum) discovery about the ineptitude of the science of the Space Program and the antiquity of the computing devices used by NASA to realize the entire space deal was a colossal waste of money...

research to do

July 19, 2009 08:11 AM

MM needs to go back to school to learn to do his research and take off the "economic goods I can touch" blinkered perspective. My grade 7&8 students would have done a better job of recognizing both the plusses and minuses of NASA and the national highways and then giving an opinion.
Actually, I would probably return this to MM as "incomplete due to lack of balanced view" in an analysis report!

Michael P.

July 19, 2009 08:13 AM

"great economic and innovative failures of our time"

I think you are an idiot. Did you do your undergrad in economics in Cuba or Soviet Russia?

This statement has little basis in fact. Better than half the crap in your house and in some cases the materials used to build your house came to be or were improved as a result of the space program. Many companies still around today, providing jobs I may add, came to be as a result of the space program.

This article is too stupid to really comment on. Quite the educated, researched piece - of crap.

ErnieK

July 19, 2009 08:13 AM

The author is this article is simply ignorant.

Hi Que

July 19, 2009 08:14 AM

In the last 40 years the pace of innovation has accelerated at a pace greater than any other time in recorded history. Is it coincidental that it started with the Lunar program. NO.
The development of small computers and ICs led to the microcomputer revolution of the 70s/80s. Ubiquitous computing power has given every science and technology an innovation explosion. Because now any or institution could innovate without big grants from the government or access to government computer Computers help create more powerful technologies. The growth of innovation has been logarithmic.

GooGoo

July 19, 2009 08:15 AM

Micheal, you really need to print a retraction and apology. There's a reason that journalists are not respected like they used to be, and that's articles like this that simply support the writers uninformed opinion without even the most basic attempt made at research. This is shock-jock stuff at best. If you wrote this of your own violition, shame on you. If an editor pushed you to write this in its current form, shame on them. This is not journalism, it's a festering faux-journalistic sensationalistic turd. Try again, Michael. You can do better.

John from Niskayuna

July 19, 2009 08:19 AM

Michael Mandel, you clearly need to go back to journalism school.

Personal Computers
Solar power
Weather satellites
Halogen lights
Microwave Ovens
Lasers
Kevlar
Fiber optics
Pacemaker batteries
Compact Disks .
M R I medical scanners
Electronic ignition for automobiles
Scuba for firefighters
Cellular phones
Anti corrosive paint for bridges, boats, & the Statue of Liberty
GPS Navigation Systems

John Gabriel

July 19, 2009 08:25 AM

Unfortunately you are correct. Nasa has hired a lot of fools who have now retired quite comfortably. These same fools were nothing but dead wood and parasites most of their tenure at Nasa.

One can say the same about the Texas state of education. It is run by morons commanding large salaries and delivering ruin.

ts eliot

July 19, 2009 08:26 AM

Idiot. This person actually has a degree in journalism or economics?? Most likely a 6th grade dropout with a degree from a diploma mill, living in a trailer park.

James H Shewmaker

July 19, 2009 08:27 AM

In 1957, the USSR launched the first man-made satellite. The next few years saw the USSR expand its sphere of influence on earth and continue to develop its space program.

The USA was caught flatfooted and had to start by playing catchup. As long as the USA continued to have no focused goal except "keeping up" with the USSR, we were at a strategic disadvantage.

In the meantime, in Cuba and in parts of Central and South America, the USSR continued to build its military potential against the USA.

In 1960, while attending the UN, the USSR's premier engaged in a number of belligerent interruptions which seemed to imply that he intended to continue the expanionist policies of the USSR to the point of complete domination.

The purpose of the NASA program from 1961-1969 was to leap ahead of the USSR and to raise the bar strategically. At first the USSR continued to rival the USA in Space development.

The manned landing in 1969 not only trumped the USSR in strategic development of Space, but it also sent a message to those nations who were not yet militarily defeated by the USSR but who had because of intimidation been allowing the USSR to dominate their policy decision making that their was a country who could out pace the USSR and who might be able to provide an alternative.

In this way, the Space program succeeded on many fronts. It succeeded by quelling the USSR's efforts to exploit space for military purposes. It succeeded diplomatically by convincing some countries who had felt that the USSR was unbeatable that they did not have to yield to every whim of the USSR, and it succeeded economically because it expanded our economic partnerships with those countries who began to feel that we were more than just a wannnabee on the world stage.

For anyone whose main concept of the USA is based on post-World War II events, please allow me to remind you that the USA was slow to get involved in both World Wars and that many countries were not convinced in 1961, that we wanted to be a world player enough to avoid going back into the same isolationist mentality which had prevented our early involvement in the problems of the past.

In other words, many nations saw us as bluster with minimal endurance. The Space program and other events of the 196os and 70s changed the view of the USA in many capitals.

Mott

July 19, 2009 08:29 AM

How to write an 'article' by Michael Mandel.
Step 1) Come up with broad topic that I have no experience in whatsoever.
Step 2) Generalize, theorize, and lament on topic without a thought to research.
Step 3) Tuck into folder of amazingness alongside such wonders as Rational Exuberance: Silencing the Enemies of Growth and Why the Future Is Better than You Think, published in 2004.

This future sure is awesome, great job! Let me know what island they eventually float you out to, I'd love to bomb it from orbit.

Who is this writer ?

July 19, 2009 08:29 AM

rticle is " just plain ol.... wrong "

Randy M

July 19, 2009 08:32 AM

Very short sighted and slanted opinion.Maybe NASA should have patented all of the technology or at least get royalties for everything they pioneered.

Chuckles

July 19, 2009 08:32 AM

Amazing that this 'article' got posted, is there no editorial review done at this organization?

haydesigner

July 19, 2009 08:33 AM

Sadly, I think @Joseph Faclo said it best already:

"This isn't journalism, its typing. This should be against the law: a sensational headline in a major publication with no substance whatsoever. Pathetic."

Seriously, Michael Mandel?
Are you really that ignorant of technology?
Or are you just trolling for page views?

GrandestR

July 19, 2009 08:36 AM

Please go check NASA's website section on CURRENT spin-off technologies:

http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/spinoff_spotlight_archive.html

Or type the words Space Program Spinoff into Google (ahhh... another technology from the moon program - see below) and you can spend the day reading about all the advances past and present. Can't see the benefits, some people say? You're just not looking.

Now, to the past - One could argue that the following advances would have eventually been made without the moon project/space program, but here's just a sampling of some that came sooner, rather than later: miniaturization of technology from computers to phones; high density batteries (for cell phones, laptops, PDAs, ipods); lithium batteries for electric cars, buses trains and for smoke and CO2 detectors; development of advanced fiber optics; shoe and clothing materials - look at your Nikes or whatever you wear and think... hmmm space shoe? Yep, and spandex is a direct outgrowth; fire-resistant fabrics that save children's lives and protect firefighters; GPS systems; enrichment of baby foods and formula; freeze-dried foods; advances in (not the original work on) cordless power tools and kitchen tools. And even more: Computer-based scheduling system that uses artificial intelligence to manage thousands of overlapping activities involved in launch preparations now used for commercial applications that provide real-time planning and optimization of manufacturing operations, integrated supply chains, and customer orders; insanely fast semi-conductor speeds, allowing us to have this interchange easily on our computers; visual display technology that allows thousands, even millions and millions to see the same information on a computer screen at the same time as it is manipulated and updated - think online hotel and airline booking. How about scratch resistant eyeglasses and lighter plastic lenses? Solar panels; environmental resource management through revolution in camera/lens technology. (Not to mention defense application of same.) Almost every image scanning technology we have today has grown out of the moon program. Explosives and radiation sensors. The jaws of life hand-held version for freeing people from vehicles. There aren't just a few developments, there are thousands and thousands. Jeez... wake up.

Mak

July 19, 2009 08:41 AM

Wow - I don't think I have read a worse business article than this. The writer either lacked the ability to do thorough research, or he purposely hid information to express his idiotic views on the space program. Either way, Business Week loses credibility! Google 'NASA spinoffs" and you can find a list of technology that came from NASA.

ben

July 19, 2009 08:46 AM

Think Velcro and computer operating systems.

Moron...

Hal Foodman

July 19, 2009 08:47 AM

I do not know when you were born, but I suspect from your article that it was after the 1960's. I was a participant in the development of the space program and it was much more than just going to the moon. From NASA we got weather satellites that have had a dramatic and positive impact on all of our lives, communications satellites that have brought the Internet, phone service and TV to every region of the world, and the rapid development of the material sciences that have improved every aspect of our lives. Without NASA it would have taken decades longer to move the development of the transistor into the early integrated circuits and finally the microprocessor. Even super glue would not have been here as soon as it was. How about green energy? Where do you think the solar panels were first used?

If we fund the manned exploration to Mars it will be the biggest boon to our industrial expansion and scientific development in generations.

What has produced nothing worthwhile in the period you are talking about have been the wars the world has engaged in.

Putting money into science and in particular the exploration of space is very worthwhile.

Try reading the history of the times and use your imagination and you will realize the enormous benefit of these programs.

Joel M

July 19, 2009 08:52 AM

Even a staunch anti-space advocate would have to admit that this article is horrible, uninformed and wreckless. For Business Week to not withdraw it or not apologize for this weak and lazy attempt at jounalism is an embarassment. I hope your owners/investors take some notice of this travesty upon the brand. This "article" barely reaches the level of a juvenile blog rant.

Okay, here's my list, off the top of my head: microcircuitry, computers, endless software innovations, miniaturization, a vast array of sensor technologies(used widely in medicine and transportation), advancements in telecommunications, advancements in precision manufacturing, instantaneous global communication, radar mapping, GPS, and the materials science that developed most of the materials that are a your very fingertips as you read this.

Give me a break. We have seen nothing in history that has spurred more advancement in technology and knowledge on so many levels. And the surrounding industrial base is quick to make commercial use of the spin-offs. The only things that might compare were the two world wars. I strongly believe that an aggressive space program is a much, much better deal.

Let's get on with it.

Hermann

July 19, 2009 08:55 AM

This is a poorly-researched and superficially-conceived article. In many respects, it has the quality of a "troll" posting on 4chan. I would invest time to deconstruct the errors in judgment and reasoning in this article but since it is more or less an opinion piece, and everyone has a opinion, there is no point. The sad thing is this brand of drivel is emanating from BusinessWeek, an institution with supposedly authoritative gravitas. But then again, BW missed the signs on the dot.com burst and the recent mortgage cataclysm, so maybe my opinion of BW will change as of now.

tanelson

July 19, 2009 08:55 AM

Science is how the human species advances.
If we don't invest in science (R & D ) and space exploration, humans will eventually go extinct.
Through science, we have learned to predict the future better than any other species and thus survive and thrive.
The more science advances, the further into the future we can accurately predict. We know the Earth is going to eventually become uninhabitable. When you understand the size of the galaxy, we live in a small niche environment. Science also informs of how vulnerable a species is when it can only live in a narrow environment and does not have enough diversity to survive out that environment.
We are not competing against other life, we are trying to insure the survival of *ANY* life from Earth before it eventually ends.
How much is that worth economically?

TK

July 19, 2009 08:55 AM

The sale of Business Week for $1.00 is looking kind of pricey after reading this article.

mason

July 19, 2009 08:56 AM

good work by all you ahead of me who debunked this lame attempt at offering an educated opinion.
For me, the economic benefits should never be the reason why we do anything like this. We should learn for the sake of learning and teaching our kids what we learn so that they can advance the study.
If all you care about is a profit you are the reason why our economy sucks as it does these days. Short term exploitative mentality applied to a long term reality equals pointless executive frivoleges (frivolous privileges) and investors who feel Madoffed!

Philip

July 19, 2009 09:00 AM

You are right on!

Instead we should continue to give billions to the economists(like you) at the Fed who could use the money to do more screwed up research on how to control the economy through wrong-headed experiments like lowering interest rates in the middle of a boom, lying about inflation (money suppy growth), reducing reserve requirements for banks, meddling in real finance and credit extension (that they know nothing about) and using the citizens of the U.S. as guinea pigs for their blackboard experiments so their fat banker freinds on wall street will take them to lunch on Nantucket Island.

Now that's whey I call real value added!

Panamadad

July 19, 2009 09:06 AM

Congratulations on providing insight in to your complete ignorance. Makes me wonder how many other of your articles are full of baloney. Good luck with your career as a hack.

Ace

July 19, 2009 09:21 AM

The space program was partly intended for the development of ballistic missiles to prove we could deliver weapons (nuclear) to any point on the globe. Another intention was to prove our technical prowess to everyone.

However, as far as expenditures and economic drains are concerned, nothing has cost more than the development, construction, and deployment of nuclear devices, aka weapons of mass destruction. An equivalent of half the amount of the Apollo program was spent on the Manhattan Project alone.

The space race might be over, but our zeal to spend trillions to build more and more bombs has never ended.

mg

July 19, 2009 09:24 AM

"A practical Approach To Space Exploration

1) Turn the ISS into a repair station. Collect old satellites repair / refuel and place back in orbit."

OK, the ISS orbits at about 200 miles up, and on an orbital plane that's tilted quite a bit from the equator. Most of the satellites that are commercially useful are in geosynchronous orbit - 22,000 miles up. and their orbit is precisely aligned with the equator.

I live in the US - I'm only 10,000 miles from some areas of Asia - half the distance. Does this mean it's practical for me to service cars from Asia?

Proposing "practical" solutions when you don't know the basics of what's going on might be fun, but it's a waste of bandwidth. Just like the original article.

brutus inquisitor

July 19, 2009 09:33 AM

Since the space projects do not come with an ROI as part of the package, then why are you beating that drum?

Space rock mining, well--that would be a different story...

Brandon W

July 19, 2009 09:44 AM

Maybe we ought to be paying attention to the planet we are ON, first? Don't you think? Maybe stop wasting resources and money on Hollywood-esque Star Trek fantasies, and burning through hundreds of billions of dollars yearly creating ways to kill our fellow humans? There's your balanced budget and a health care system, right there.

Joe

July 19, 2009 09:50 AM

Given your background as a journalist, I would give you a B for grammar and the big F-bomb for imagination.

Now I will put the buzzwords in you head that will start the conversation.

The High Ground. Miniaturization. Elastomers.

Brandon W

July 19, 2009 09:53 AM

It's obvious that way too many people here completely misunderstand what a blog is about. A blog is a place for opinion, conjecture, and asking provocative questions. Which is why blogs will never replace journalistic writing; each have their place. But learn the difference.

If you don't understand what a blog is about, you're the idiot, not Mr. Mandel. I may not always agree with him, but I respect that he's making an honest effort and providing a forum for people to think and talk about a economics.

Arthur L Smith

July 19, 2009 10:00 AM

The space program accelerated the engineering of semiconductors. Lighter was better. Vacuum tubes weigh a lot compared to transistors. I know. I worked on aircraft that used both tubes and semiconductore. Without the space program of the 60's we wouldn't have iPhones, XBOX360s, digital wrist watches, calculators, or personal computers. The economic payback was many times the cost of the program. If mankind stops exploring then we may as well go back to the middle ages. We will eventually use up our resources. We better have a plan or we will go extinct.

MDI

July 19, 2009 10:03 AM


1. As Randy Pausch says in his Last Lecture, one effect of the moon landing was to inspire a generation that anything is possible. This alone was worth the cost.
2. You assume that all the space R&D money would have been spent on other R&D programs, a highly dubious assumption. If Congress had the choice of spending the money elsewhere, it would probably have gone to highways or federal buildings in that Congressman's district rather than scientific or technical research.
3a. Many, many advances in technology made the space program possible and for no obvious commercial payoff. Explain how the private sector would have paid for all of this research without a clear economic benefit on the horizon.
3b. Explain how the proprietary discoveries by private companies would have been shared across society as were many of the space race discoveries.
4. Why do you see "the heavy hand of government" in the space race, and not see it in the Interstate Highway system. The location of the Interstates created and destroyed communities, and helped lead to much of the pollution and greenhouse gas problems we have today. And contributed to our continuing dependence on foreign oil by expanding auto travel and the switch from rail to trucks for long distance shipping. The Interstates were a tremendous contributor to the economic advancement of this country, but also have had some very negative consequences as well.

PatriotKimo

July 19, 2009 10:06 AM

Hendrick's an idiot ["Hendrik July 19, 2009 06:43 AM Wonderful argumentation. Now apply the same logic to our great military which produced high economic rewards like.... uhm.. like vietnam, iraq, afghanistan and other wonderful achievements."] The military didn't create any of those. Remember? We're a democracy wherein illiterates can elect liberals. V.N. was started and deepened by Dems, remember? The mil just went where told, and as far as the actual fighting: they WON where they were told to go. WWII & WWI we WON; those two wars are examples of a good military WITHOUT the politics and civilian micro management. Bush/cheney/rumsfeld were just as bad as Kennedy/Johnson/McNamarra - oh, did i sully the name of obama who enjoys the media equating him to another kennedy by pointing out that kennedy and bush were similar in war? sorry.

Rich Tietjens

July 19, 2009 10:07 AM

Michael Mandel is clearly unfit to write articles even peripherally related to technology. He should stick to what he knows, because he clearly has no idea how many technological innovations we take for granted today can be traced directly to the Apollo program. One of the most important, from the point of view of preserving human life, is the lightweight high-pressure oxygen tank carried by firemen, who use it to enter burning buildings and rescue trapped victims.

But perhaps Michael Mandel would rather die in a fire.

GrandestR

July 19, 2009 10:07 AM

Another point, tangential, but noteworthy, I think. If the $179 billion in 2009 dollars figure is accurate, (which I believe it is overinflated - it's more like $152 billion)then from 1961 when JFK "launched" us on the quest to 1972, we spent an average of appx. $16 billion per year. The Vietnam War at the same time cost us close to $700 billion or around $55 billion per year (in 2009 $) not to mention the human and social costs. We have spent over $900 billion on the Iraq and Afghan wars, or an average of about $130 billion per year. (Again plus human, social and diplomatic costs.) Technological advances from these war efforts? Hmmm. Imagine if some significant percentage of those war endeavors had been handed over to NASA for more exploration and tech/engineering development. Let's say 25%. That would have been 400 billion in EXTRA development dollars. Not to mention the savings of tens of thousands of lives taken or the wounded who suffer in obscurity, and the internal agonies we have gone through over the rights and wrongs of such wars. Just during the Iraq/Afghan era we might have been able to spend $225 billion on space and its resulting tech benefits would have been enormous. Funny how we can find money for crazed adventures in war, but have to bicker and trim NASA and other scientific/engineering projects.

Space-Rocks

July 19, 2009 10:10 AM

The individual that wrote this article is an idiot. This is the worst yellow journalism I've encountered to date. Why don't you get a job filling beverage cups - or at least outline this garbage as the personal opinion of an individual with an IQ of a cartoon character.

DrSheppard

July 19, 2009 10:11 AM

Based on this article, Michael Mandel, BW's award-winning chief economist is an idiot. They need a better brain as a chief economist. BW's credibility as a source suffered badly with this un-thought, un-researched and un-believably shallow article. I'm not going to bother to read more posts by Michael Mandel.

etienne

July 19, 2009 10:17 AM

What audacious drivel. The space program, brought us well ahead in many areas that have had tremendous economic payback; satellite communications, computer programming and hardware, materials technology, and electronics to name a few. The interstate program has given us great mobility but increased sprawl and dependence on fossil fuels and an automobile driven economy.

Ron Mc

July 19, 2009 10:18 AM

Thanks for writing this article, although has you can see, the truth often attracts vilification. All of the benefits of the 'space program' would have been achieved at far less cost by focusing on unmanned near-Earth activities. Robotics is thirty years behind because of NASA's decision to emphasize manned flight to the Moon. Proponents like to pretend that there is no 'lost-opportunity' cost of the push to the Moon (or Mars) - but they are dead wrong. Thanks again.

ronwiltx

July 19, 2009 10:27 AM

Let me come at this from another angle. We drop $3.1T for another aircraft carrier, or $220M for another F-22 and everyone cheers. Congress crams billions more down the throat of the military. Look at the politics of the Warthog, where NJ, PA and MA forced the Air Force to keep buying planes it did not want. But, spend 5% of the cost of a carrier on going to the moon and suddenly the government is bad. Allocate $780B (actually we have spent about $180B) on the stimulus and suddenly the country is going broke because we are giving money away.

Going to the moon cost $176B and less than a dozen lives. What did we get out of spending over 50,000 lives and trillions of dollars on a corrupt regieme in Vietnam and thousands more lives and trillions of dollars on a war of choice in Iraq?

PrismBusinessSolutions

July 19, 2009 10:38 AM

Thank you Michael for publishing with hard facts a confirmation of what many have felt with dismay. For 40 years.

The moon landing is a strong candidate for "Most Overrated Event of the Century"--or possibly human history.

As for the entire space program, I am still unclear what it has brought us beyolnd Tang juice drink.

Alexander S. Prisant/Prism

Kenton Hoover

July 19, 2009 10:38 AM

"Low Cost" / Personal Computers

...were not a result of the space program. They were a side benefit of the Minuteman missile program. The RTL components used in the Apollo Guidance Computer were the those developed to decrease the computer weight in Minuteman. [cites are "Inventing Accuracy" and "Getting to the Moon: The Apollo Guidance Computer"]

Many of the benefits listed in other comments are not benefits of the manned mission program but rather were those of the satellite programs. Those programs were both offshoots of increasing missile throw-weights and ranges and of a desire to better fight the Cold War and "win" a nuclear exchange. Satellite programs like Landsat owe their development to Discoverer/CORONA satellite photography platforms not Apollo and GPS's ancestor was Transit/SATNAV not Mercury; Transit was a satellite system put in place to increase the accuracy of Polaris and Poseidon missiles, and GPS was partially supposed to do the same for mobile MX and Trident.

The most notable spinoffs from the manned space program were in medical technology, from telemetry to heart valves.

That being said would the government have put so much money into any R&D program if there hadn't been a goal such as getting to the moon? Instead, I think LBJ would have just taken the cash and further wrecked our society with his social programs, whose spin-offs have been expanded urban poverty, crime and a culture of despondency which may have set back African-Americans by twenty or more years.

N. Richardson

July 19, 2009 10:53 AM

I remember when the Sputnic was circling our planet. That was when U.S.A. produced the best cars, TVs, air craft. If you wanted the best you bought american. Then we started both the space and arms race which has provided grand, ego building, entertainment; USA! USA! USA!

d n

July 19, 2009 10:53 AM

Well
Would it contribute a little bit to the collapse of Soviet ?

Ken

July 19, 2009 10:57 AM

We as Americans did get plenty for our money. The space programs kept people working and paying the taxes that helped pay for the liberal handouts including welfare, free abortion clinics and section 8 housing. Anyone that plans to try to reduce the importance of the space program to us and our future is completely out of touch and should realize that money can’t solve the problems that are existing in our society presently.

RIck H

July 19, 2009 10:59 AM

It saddens me and scares me at the common lack of critical thinking and analysis we suffer from even now when there is such a wealth of information available. So many people make decisions based on fear, prejudice, assumption, bias, or blind faith rather than on rational, analytical method based reasoning.
This article is a case in point... factually worthless, but representative of a kind of 'thinking' which far to often gets equal billing with rational, reasonable arguments/discussions.

We really need to teach our children and ourselves how to think logically, reason rationally, follow analytical thinking methods, understand constructive debate.

Otherwise we devolve into simple non-constructive yelling matches of "I think the earth is square". "NO, I KNOW it's flat" and so on... where every 'opinion', no thought' is expressed as if its an equal.

We see this in so many arguments today... fits over statistically irrelevant risks, when every day 140+ people die in auto accidents - yet we spend time and resources minimizing trivial risks. We spend billions on research for cures for fairly rare diseases, when simple obesity and smoking kill hundreds of thousands each year... The list is endless...

Pure science, ergo seeking knowledge is not only priceless it is essential to what makes us human. We reason, think, and communicate upon which all else is based.

bob

July 19, 2009 11:08 AM

This would be spew. Nothing more.

Dumbspecies

July 19, 2009 11:11 AM

O, witness Ye, the perils of lending expression to myopic thought.

Quoted from Douglas ADAMS

July 19, 2009 11:19 AM

Many of the people living on this planet increasingly are of the opinion that we’ve all made a big mistake in coming down from the threes in the first place. And some say that even the threes had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.

CE Cooper

July 19, 2009 11:23 AM

This is piece of thoughtless (in all meanings of the word) typing demonstrates why professional media is losing its market to "amateurs." Supposedly the difference between professional journalism and amateur reporting is the quality of the research and writing. This piece fails on both counts.

MG has done an excellent example of delineating the basic technical benefits of the U.S. space program. The economic value, let alone the impact on the quality of our lives today, are exponential to the costs of NASA's Moon Landing program. I feel even Mr. Mandel must recognize this when using his mobile phone to check the weather, the stock reports and the top headlines while getting cash from his ATM with the comforting confidence that an Emergency Medical Team could save his life with advanced monitoring and knowledge should he keel over from the sheer gall and greed of our corporate executives (who would agree with him that the space program is a waste when they could better use the money for another extravagant party).

Either this is a propaganda piece designed to encourage further federal spending on corporate welfare or the editors of Business Week should be sacked for incompetence.

If this piece could be published with so little and such poor research, what confidence can we have in the rest of Business Week's financial reporting?

beta

July 19, 2009 11:25 AM

You are just short-sighted like most economists.

pavillion

July 19, 2009 11:26 AM

Could you do an article on the "Great Society" as well? How much of a liberal boondoggle has that been? Don't forget, we got Tang and Velcro out of the moon missions as well as defensive superiority in Space over our agressive enemies.

BusinessWeek, a magazine written by DBs...

deer_oil

July 19, 2009 11:27 AM

What's surprising is how rarely anyone mentions the obvious fact that Apollo had so little commercial pay-off.

The people who cite any benefits from satellites are being obtuse. The columnist did not confuse spending on Apollo with satellites. Apollo, with its Resistor-Transistor-Logic (RTL) did not even help with low cost computers. RTL was obsolete in 1968, cheap at the surplus stores, and it was the newer TTL IC's of the Minuteman that jump-started mini-computers. Compared to the $176 Billion we spent, Apollo has little claim to advancing fuel cells, which are still not a commercial item. Can Apollo even claim Velcro ? The race to the moon was a money sink, a "prestige project" in a race that also helped bankrupt the Soviet Union.

This is not journalism; it's an opinion column. It's FWIW analysis, not simply reporting the facts.

ken beard

July 19, 2009 11:32 AM

through lack of money the russians weren't first on the moon but they intend to correct that by being first on mars.

David S

July 19, 2009 11:32 AM

How small a mind must you have to wrtie an article like this. The space program as spun off huge industries based on its technology developments in medicine, Computers, and other areas.
The space program has inspired school children to go into science for decades.
Too bad business week doesn' take the same opionion of wasteful military spending.

glmory

July 19, 2009 11:41 AM

This is probably true. But the second we build a self-sufficient colony off of earth that stops being true. Exponential growth will colonize the solar system in just a few centuries and people won't even notice economies as puny as that of America.

Bernt Wahl

July 19, 2009 11:43 AM

I can't believe what I just read, economically the space program produced a 17 times return on investment. Besides money spent on Douglas Engelbart's work at SRI to create todays comupter, it would be hard to find a government project with a greater return on investment.

You also missed the social impact of keeping the country together during a time of social unrest and tragedy.

caloot

July 19, 2009 11:48 AM

Stupid hind sight. This is a very under-thought and under-researched article. It doesnt even begin to delve into the real reason for the space race, the cold war. The man to the moon mission was NOT some american ego driven joke as you imply. It was at the heart of the american military responce to the cold war. The actual mission to the moon was beautiful cover for a more important mission. The use of space, was a strategic, military, cover. Allowing the advance in huge fields of science that at the time were on the verge, and in the vision, of the scientists and military officers involved. Intercontinental ballistic missiles were at the heart of this drive. And spaced based warfare was seen as the only rational continuation of this assured mutual destruction theory. Space was seen through the eyes of fear. Its economic advantage was to maintain the 'assured mutual destruction', of both countries. Not to embrace the next step in this war, 'space', would have been seen as failure, or at least portrayed as such, by the international community. To consider these advances to be an economic mistake... .AND HERE WHY. Your article compares the 200 billion of the space program to the 200 billion of the highway system. OK SO. the space investment produced HUGE Finacial industy. how do you mean you ask? ok well that manned moon mission brought you cell phones... the internet... satelite navigation... microwaves.... brought you huge amounts of new synthetic materials, new batteries, as well as an almost endless line of new products and possibilities. All have developed into multi billion dollar industries that earn this country Billions and maybe even trillions on the dollar. The highway system brought us gass fueled climate change. and a crumbling infrastructure that needs to be constantly repaired with the money made in the science and tech sectors. As well as a green industry (which is led by space created technology) being driven by the very climate change that the highway system created. This doesnt even touch the achievement that the moon landing was, in human development, in philosophical debate, in our understanding of our place in the universe. Mr. Mandel, your ideas are not even close. They are wrong.

ken beard

July 19, 2009 11:49 AM

through lack of money the russians were unable to be first on the moon but they intend to correct that by being first on mars!

Darr247

July 19, 2009 11:53 AM

I would rather have an efficient country-wide rapid/mass-transit system for the $220 billion spent instead of the highway system we have. The interstates were built alledgedly for defense, but it was the auto industry that pushed for the system's expansion so they could sell 2, 3, 4 or more cars per family. Now semi-tractors have taken them over, further eroding the rail system we once had and causing massive premature damage to the roadways with their excessive weight-per-axle compared to cars and pickups.

What's your next article going to be... how it's misappropriation of taxpayers' money paying for the most-wasteful research and development program in history, the public k-12 school system?

Real Physicist

July 19, 2009 11:55 AM


The writer of the article is obviously a lazy and simplistic thinker.

But the rest of you are MUCH WORSE.

If you can concentrate your puny brains for a few minutes, you'd realize that a lot of you are having trouble following the boundaries of the discussion. Even this doofus writer was talking specifically about the "race to the moon" (and its economic benefits).

Get ready, you self-righteous cretins. The answer is: long range, remote-controlled weaponry that can carry enormous loads.

What? The peace-loving United States government spent hundreds of billions of dollars on weapons (and public relations) during the Cold War? How weird!

Sadly, most of you economic wizards have decided to rant about gps, satellite, and tang.

For all the ridicule thrown at conspiracy theorists who think the moon landing was faked, they are still worthy of respect compared to you bunch of poseurs. At least the conspiracy theorists know how to actually think outside the box, do research, and make coherent arguments.

In fact, the theory that it was faked is much more reasonable than the flabby, childish, and transparent explanation parroted by people like you that after wasting billions of dollars and vast amounts of human sacrifice (in lives and in time), the U.S. government suddenly decided that taking some supernaturally perfect, first-time photographs on the moon's surface and showing the Soviets images of Americans mugging for the camera, that it was time to end the lunar program.

Oh, no! I must be a Communist spy to write such terrible things about JFK, Neil and Buzz!

PATHETIC. All of you. I'm embarrassed to call myself an American businessman.

Bob Rodgers

July 19, 2009 11:59 AM

Mandel negelcts the post lunar program public benefits from the space program. Among them are:computer chips ( we all benefit); fire resistant polymer clothingand coatings on implantable medical devices; an advanced helicopter control system; technology developed by NASA used to develop a device which more accurately judges heart health; and many more. A 5 minute web search would have given Mandel a perspective on the many downstream technologies and products which had their origens in NASA research.

Sam C

July 19, 2009 12:00 PM

There are times when I truly believe the human race is doomed to extinction. This idiot's spew is definitely one of those times. Yeah, we put the money into a rocket and shot it up to the moon. It's laying up there now. None of it was spent here on Earth. Go back to grade school sonny. Looks like your public education didn't take the first time around.

ken beard

July 19, 2009 12:03 PM

through lack of money the russians were unable to be first on the moon but they intend to correct that by being the first on mars!

Miami Mike

July 19, 2009 12:07 PM

You're fired.

You have no idea what you're talking about, and you obviously haven't taken the time to do even the most basic, cursory research.

Let me suggest that you consider a future career in which total ignorance of the material isn't a handicap. Oh, wait, you are already doing that!

Michael

July 19, 2009 12:08 PM

Wow. What amount of thought actually went in this article. None! So as the author sat down to his laptop, used his cellphone, goes on drives using GPS, uses the Internet, all the while totally out in the weeds on how any of this came about. How you may acutally be paid to write is beyond me.

To the other posters, I believe the purpose of the article was to get others to educate this moron and save the before mentioned moron time on actually looking up anything.

Oh look! the Internet it must be magic!

Sam C

July 19, 2009 12:12 PM

Award-winning economist? The current economy makes a lot more sense now.

Anthony S.

July 19, 2009 12:12 PM

I guess we are all supposed to be outraged that someone purporting to act as a rational observer has ignored virtually all of the benefits of the space program--including the sense of shared purpose and identity it fostered. Then Michael Mandel can pat himself on the back for being so thought provoking and Business-weak can count the hits on the page. This whole game has gotten stupid. Anticipating the next article, which will be similarly dumb: If you think private industry would have gotten us to the moon in the 1960s, you are retarded. There was a little something called The Cold War going on, which was an an international prestige war with profound economic consequences. Look it up on Wikipedia.

GrandestR

July 19, 2009 12:16 PM

Just an FYI - Velcro was invented in the early 40s. Teflon was accidentally discovered in a lab in 1938. And Tang was around in the late 50s. In fact, General Foods or Mills used the fact that astronauts drank it in space as a marketing strategy. As to Deer_Oil's gibberish about RTL's and TTL IC's: "RTL was obsolete in 1968, cheap at the surplus stores, and it was the newer TTL IC's of the Minuteman that jump-started mini-computers." James Buie at TRW invented the TTL in 1961. They were in widespread commercial use a year later. RTL's successors, by the way, FBWs, are still used in the Shuttle's guidance system. The Apollo computers were the first to use Integrated Circuits. These developments, by the way, are never linear, but parallel and issue from matrices of knowledge. And if this stuff was so easily available, why didn't someone else follow us to the moon immediately? We had done all the research and development. All the Russians or Chinese or hey, even the Brits had to do was run down to the electronics store and go through the remnant bins. Absurd.

Horatio H

July 19, 2009 12:16 PM

For those who lowered the discussion to personal attacks, go to your MMA blog where you make sense.

This brief article's purpose was to encourage thought and discussion. It was successful.

It is always good to reflect, re-access, and discuss. Group input is much more expansive.

Phil

July 19, 2009 12:17 PM

re. spinoffs: The manned space program had nothing to do with progress in unmanned space systems, like communications and GPS. We are just now finishing the International Space Station just in time to junk it in 2015.
The payoff is not in economic benefits, but in image and national self esteem. But at what price? Pens that write upside down don't justify anything.

Lyndon B. Johnson

July 19, 2009 12:24 PM

So the space race / moon shot was an economic failure? At least a lot of new technologies and scientific knowledge resulted from the efforts.

It PALES IN COMPARISON to the gigantic failure and waste of "The War on Poverty," which began in the 1960s and has produced no benefits while only taking and taking from society!!

And now 40+ years later Obama, with his filibuster-proof rubberstamping all-Democrat Congress that own Washington DC, are intent on exponentially expanding this lunacy in an insane quest to waste untold trillions of taxpayer dollars while bankrupting the USA.

The 2010 mid-term elections cannot get here soon enough.

for shame

July 19, 2009 12:38 PM

"provides his unique perspective on the hot economic issues of the day" ...you said it

Tom

July 19, 2009 12:44 PM

Sure got your ass handed back to you on this article, no? Americans are proud of their space agency - you should be too.

ComeOn!

July 19, 2009 12:47 PM

Yeah, lets spend all our resources trying to keep all people well fed and educated. It is still possible, isn't it? But will it be possible when the world population reaches 10 billion? 12? 15? We have a tiny window of opportunity here - no more than 50-60 years - to develop the space technologies, to try to leave Earth, or to die.

This is the next logical step in human evolution. We can not overpopulate the Earth endlessly, and obviously we can not control the population number. All technological advances in agriculture, energy, carbon emissions are just postponing the point of no return.

Jer

July 19, 2009 12:48 PM

Perhaps it is the economic ramifications of bad journalism we should be concerned about. I wonder if laziness and poor research can be somehow blamed on NASA as well...

MG

July 19, 2009 12:52 PM

@ Brandon W
"It's obvious that way too many people here completely misunderstand what a blog is about. A blog is a place for opinion, conjecture, and asking provocative questions."

And since when does stating opinion without any fact to back it is ok for a major magazine/site/anything?

cm

July 19, 2009 12:57 PM

I'm speechless.

Mike Mandel

July 19, 2009 01:00 PM

Thanks to everyone for the comments. I will collect all the potential spin-offs that people suggested, and see if I can identify the ones which are closely tied to the manned space program. I already know that some, like Velcro, way pre-date the space effort (it was invented in the 1940s).


Ken Brown

July 19, 2009 01:14 PM

This article shows the ignorance of many people. The misconception that the space program has been a drain on the US economy with little return is due to the fact that NASA does a poor job of communicating and transferring its intellectual achievements to the public and industry. Private commercial entities, like the New Space sector, could benefit immensely if access to technology developed at tax payer expense was easier to find. NASA needs a marketing division that actively seeks companies that can benefit from the technology storehouse they posses. The addition to their budget is paltry in comparison to the economic return in jobs, goods and services that would result. They should also showcase their spinoffs through the media to show the American public what they have accomplished. There are now excellent TV channels such as Discovery, The Science channel, The Learning Channel, etc that often feature space oriented programs.

NASA excels at long term "pure science" projects. While these projects have little to no commercial value in immediate terms, it has been shown many times that "pure science" pays off in the long term. This type of non-commercial research can only be taken on by government institutions that can and should think in terms of the future. Unfortunately, it is not possible financially for the private sector to operate this way.

I am currently attending the Space Frontier Foundation's NewSpace conference at the NASA Ames facility in northern California. The Ames group presentation included a large number of examples of advances in medical science found through our space program activities. All of them have immediate benefits to the health and well being of the population of the world. As we plan to return to the moon, explore mars and beyond, a staggering number of hurdles will have to be overcome. How do we recycle water, grow food, develop and utilize efficient power systems and maintain the health of a crew away from our home planet? As these difficulties are overcome, we will improve everyone lives on the pale blue dot we call Earth.

Sanchez

July 19, 2009 01:15 PM

Everybody read this:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/19/opinion/19wolfe.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&em
Mr.Mandel should read it too, and write about something else.

Alberto Smith

July 19, 2009 01:16 PM

There was no grand scheme.

The Apollo space program was for American's morale and America's image versus the dreaded Russians. Nothing more.

Spin-offs happened, but by chance not purpose.

GrandestR

July 19, 2009 01:22 PM

Hey Hey LBJ - War on Poverty failed? In 1959, 18% of our population was below the poverty line. By 1970, two years after LBJ had left office, the rate had dipped to 10%. It stayed around 10 to 11% until 1980 when Ronald Reagan became president, when it slipped back up to about 13.5% for a while. Now it's back down to under 12%. So, if cutting the rate almost in half was a failure, it seems to me that in order to succeed we should have doubled out efforts, not tossed them out altogether.

Pete

July 19, 2009 01:36 PM

This article is ridiculous. Amongst the more absurd suggestions is that this took money away from energy research, which cost us in the 1970s. All the energy problems of the 1970s could have been fixed by anybody with access to a college economics textbook. Remove price controls on oil and problem solved.

When it came to understanding what inspired and transformed the human spirit, Kennedy was a genius. The space program was a great inspiration for technology and its uses in this country.

Steve Son

July 19, 2009 01:55 PM

The biggest spinoff was the human capital generated. Specifically, the Apollo program drew in the best and brightest into fields such as engineering that generate true wealth for our country. This is stark contrast to "paper shuffling" careers (business and finance) where little contribution is actually made...OR WORSE those who write about the "paper shuffling" for a living!

This has to be one of the most myopic and just plain naive articles that I have ever read.

Jim Spellman

July 19, 2009 02:01 PM

Very interesting, and very ignorant on the part of Michael Mandel, Business Week's award-winning chief economist: "Between 1962 and 1972, the U.S. space program spent $176 billion (inflation-adjusted in 2009 dollars). In magnitude, that comes close to the mammoth federal expenditures on building the interstate highway system over the same period (outlays from the Federal Highway Trust Fund totalled $220 billion in 2009 dollars from 1962-72)."

In 2009 alone, the U.S. will consume approximately 50 billion pints of beer (200 million gallons), ranking #2 in the world behind China, and ahead of Germany.

At the going Pub rate of $3.87 plus tax, that's $169 billion in ONE year that's being pissed away, literally and figuratively. In magnitude,that would be NASA's budget for the next EIGHT years. BTW -- The 6-8 million tons of wheat, barley, rice, corn, sugar, malt and other items would feed 43 million starving people.

Sources: http://www.wallstats.com and http://www.federalbudget.com

Brian Richards

July 19, 2009 02:29 PM

This article is the worst kind of journalism; it is nothing but one lie after another.

The writer advertises his ignorance, as well as the lack of scrutiny of his editor, and the lack of credibility of Business Week Magazine

There are huge benefits to the space program -- everything from computer hardware and software advances, materials technology, design testing that is now commonly used in automobile and other manufacturing, Just so much.

Do an internet search for thespaceplace and you'll get a short list that is pretty long.

This article is ignorance to the highest power.

If this writer has a job anywhere he should be fired from it, to save the reputation of the people who employ him. His boss should be fired, too.

200 proof stupidity in a Mason jar.

Greg

July 19, 2009 02:30 PM

Science doesn't work the way many think, and changing directions at a whim like this (10 years on space, then back to your regularly scheduled programming) just destroys scientific generations, and encourages the next generation not to go into basic research.

A senior scientist, with 20-30 years in a single field applies for grants from whichever govt agency has money at the time. Normally that would be from NSF or NIH, but in the 80's those budgets were slashed to fund the ISS. So the senior scientist thinks up some possible application for their research that the ISS could make use of and asks for money. A handful of them get it. The research is funded, and NASA claims it as a spinoff.

If NASA hadn't had funding for research on the ISS, some other agency would have. If that agency had actually been dedicated to research, they'd spend their whole budget on research, instead of ~5-10% like NASA/DoD do. The world would have had 10X as many spinoffs from directly funding basic research.

Senior scientists can't
pluck themselves from one field and jump to another just because the country has a 10-year infatuation with space. It takes nearly 10 years just to get a Ph.D., and then you're the most junior of scientists at best (postdoc). It's academic suicide at that point to abandon the field you know and forgoe publishing right away.

That said, manned space flight is inspiring. Most scientists today *were* inspired as kids by the space program. But there was little point in inspiring all those young scientists when there weren't going to be research positions for them when they got through basic training (Ph.D.). Could we have funded and inspired our young scientists in a more sustainable way, and gotten a more insipred scientific community? All the countries with growing rather than shrinking scientific communities seem to say so, as none of them have had, until now, manned spaceflight programs.

Spaceflight is an engineering and management problem. It can use science, but that isn't the hard part. Without Velcro and ICs, the flights would still have flown. The Russians did fine without, and in many ways have better spacecraft today. Without NASA, most budding scientists would have still become scientists, they just wouldn't have fond memories of the manned space program.

Innovation is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. NASA should only be claiming 1% of the economic impact it has.

NASA also cannibalizes the operational U.S. space agencies, the DoD and NOAA. They are continually being pressured to use NASA's inadequate launch vehicles and facilities, and losing funding to the more visible and less useful NASA programs. NOAA is often forced to cancel satellites and to use inadequate NASA launch vehicles, yet it is NOAA who warn us to evacuate and harden up for billion dollar storms and provide similar protection to our commercial satellite fleets.

dw

July 19, 2009 03:05 PM

As so many have pointed out, so much of what we use today is based on what came out of the space program. now lets look at what we have done since that time. after all it has been 40 years right? we should have done a lot of new inventions right. No? about all we have done is perfect what was created then. we have barely done more than that. and dare I mention it, but I think we have spent a lot more money since then, with a lot less to show for it! so I am not sure that we didn't get a lot more for what we spent than we have of late

Aristotle

July 19, 2009 03:40 PM

Govt printed money and handed it to smart people who invented new technology to achieve a seemingly useless goal. The new inventions found their way into military use and then into commercial uses. Today idiots like the author can type half baked articles on the internet because of all the work done by the scientists who were apparently being funded for useless goals and question the economic value of their goals.

Lets compare this to govt prints money and hands it over to idiots who's greatest innovation is CDO's that led to speculation in housing market and for which the whole nation is paying thru their nose. Oh wait I forget these people are MBA's from ivy leagues who actually create economic value.

Jack Roush

July 19, 2009 03:52 PM

Sorry Michael, but this article is a piece of crap. No research, nothing to back your claims - how the hell did you get BusinessWeek to publish this thing?

A college-age journalism major could have written a better article then this. At least try and pose something that sounds like an argument against something next time.

JB

July 19, 2009 03:59 PM


I see nothing in the US Constitution that allows for a space program or NASA.

GW

July 19, 2009 04:30 PM

Interesting article.

If you would, please,
write another one on

"The Failure of Current Financial
and Economic Wizards"

I'm sure you could do
just as good a job.

Ha.

Brian Richards

July 19, 2009 04:41 PM

N. Richardson writes on July 19, 2009 10:53 AM:

I remember when the Sputnic was circling our planet. That was when U.S.A. produced the best cars ...

Like the Edsel?

By the way, Bob Rogers statement about five minutes of internet research would have saved Mr. Mandel a lot of face. Greg does a good job pointing out the value of basic research that the flat earthers like Mandel don't understand.

I suppose Mike Mendel is bucking for a job at a right-wing propaganda tank like Cato or Heritage -- where ignorance and an appeal to the uneducated is highly valued.

Brian Richards

Olaf

July 19, 2009 05:41 PM

This article is obviously fatally flawed, as many others pointed out. Why does everything have to add up to profit and dollars in someone's pocket? I would argue that right at this moment we are seeing the benefits of the Apollo program in companies who's founders were inspired by it. Even if the only result of the Apollo landings was inspiring people like Elon Musk of SpaceX and Robert Bigelow of Bigelow Aerospace to start their companies and bring commercial space enterprises a reality the money will have been well spent. It's short-sighted profit-myopic people like Mandel who are floundering the U.S.'s leadership in science and engineering.

Bauerton

July 19, 2009 05:46 PM

There are 3 kinds of liars—ordinary liars, damned liars, and NASA spin-off claimers.

Of course, when you spend many Billions of dollars on a human spaceflight program, you’re going to get some spin-offs. And a great many of the spin-offs 'supposedly developed by NASA' were actually developed 'quite independently by private industry', which used NASA as good advertising.

NASA loved it, because they could tout these achievements in front of Congress and look like they were doing something useful. "

{--Robert Park, Physics Professor, University of Maryland }

Carl G

July 19, 2009 05:51 PM

I agree with the post. Even Richard Feynman made similar comments about the lack of scientific output from the space program. He said that he hadn't come across a single scientific paper which had its origins in the space program.

Earth orbit communications and imagery satellites have huge direct benefit but manned missions are near useless. The space shuttle has been a colossal waste of money. The initial idea was that a reusable spacecraft would be cheaper than single use vehicles. However the opposite has proved to be true. It's just a multi-billion dollar PR machine. NASA is so desperate to justify its budget that it offers a free ride to any interesting scientific mission - but there are few takers.

Atom smashers have almost no technological benefits but huge benefits to fundamental science. Their justification is very different.

kenneth beard

July 19, 2009 06:32 PM

through lack of money the russians were unable to be first on the moon but they intend to correct that by being the first on mars!

David Rodriguez

July 19, 2009 07:22 PM

I have never read anything this stupid. Without the space program, Best Buy would only be selling hand-wired televisions. And I would have read this in a printed magazine, sent this comment in the mail, and then would wait a few months for the comment to be printed.

Makrus

July 19, 2009 07:49 PM

I agree with Kenneth. It seems to me, that Russia is once again a big player - and in many ways they have less economic worries than the US do right now. I'd certainly but money on Russia being the first on Mars (or maybe China)...

Brainwave Entrainment

Ballbuster

July 19, 2009 09:01 PM

BW Chief Economist, Mandel, who failed to predict the current financial meltdown and the housing bust, now issues judgement that the US space program has no economic value. Consequently, BW readers have sent a barrage of comments that question the intelligence of Mandel. In an earlier edition of BW, Mandel wrote an article entitled, "What good are economist anyway?" where he stated that no economist predicted the current financial woes. Failed to do his requisite research in both instances, lazy Mandel is easily proven wrong. In both instances, two simple research efforts would have revealed economist such as Roubini, Faber, or Schiff had published their prediction of the current economic turmoil and generated a list of economic benefits created by the space program. Apparently, Mandel likes to use grand-sounding rubric in his article but provides little substance to support his view. "Anatomy of a Retraction" is a good example of his use of such sensationalism. Consisting of only three sentences, Mandel's retraction lacks the depth BW readers are lead to expect from the word, "Anatomy", which connotes intricacy or complexity in the ensuing retraction. Instead of puffing-up his three sentence retraction, Mandel should have plainly entitled his retraction as "My Retraction." After reading the historical evidence, BW readers may conclude that Mandel is not only an imposter economist, but basically a loose cannon. BW readers deserve better. BW readers pray that Mandel disappears from economic scene after the sale of BW.

cm

July 20, 2009 08:43 AM

Are you kidding me? After the retraction, the first "caveat" on the value of the space program is now that we didn't get a viable private manned space industry?

This is like Monty Python's original "Spam" sketch - any economic analysis must at least once allude to the superiority of private enterprise and/or pose privatization as a criterion of successful government operation.

George Riley

July 20, 2009 11:48 AM

As an economist, I would have made a distinction. The moon landing was a publicity stunt, pure and simple. Manned spacecraft have had a negative return on investment -- the "Mars Lander" will be the next big boondogle.

Most scientific and commercial benefits from space programs have been and will continue to be from unmanned vehicles, including the telescopes (scientific) and GPS and communication satellites

Squeezebox

July 20, 2009 12:13 PM

Space travel vs. the Human Genome Project: Appollo et al was gov't run, gov't funded, and most of the results were freely shared with all. HGP was privately funded and the results copyrighted and patented. Pay to play. Which project will give us more innovations?

Tom

July 20, 2009 01:27 PM

Anyone who was not alive in 1969, including the author of this post, has no right to comment on this topic. You're all just a bunch of punks.

Mr. Shewmaker has it right - the race to the moon had NOTHING to do with spinoff technology. We were in the middle of the cold war - the Russians had already beaten us into space with the first satellite, the Cuban Missile Crisis was upon us, and everyone in the US feared that Russia would attack us any day with nuclear weapons.

The purpose of landing a man on the moon was to prove to the Russians once and for all that WE were technologically superior country, and once we achieved that, we never lost that edge. Apollo 11 set the stage for the fall of the Berlin Wall twenty years later, and the subsequent collapse of communism.

To ask what long term technological benefits Apollo 11 provided is to miss the point completely.

Scott Pasell

July 20, 2009 05:41 PM

Good Job Mandel, you must have learned how to do research from the NY Times.

TheWeloveting

July 21, 2009 03:33 AM

Make a greater use of Bigelow Aerospace inflatable space station
http://www.weloveting.com
Good Job

Philip Painter

July 22, 2009 12:09 PM

The amount spent on the space program was a rather small fraction of the money spent in the US on ice-creams. Since the space program finished people have been able to eat more ice cream and are now much fatter.

Mike Mandel

July 23, 2009 11:41 AM

I appreciate the people who took time to explain why they thought I was wrong. Thanks very much.

JIM HOPKINS

July 27, 2009 09:30 AM

THANKS FOR YOUR EFFORTS

IT MAKES THE 176 BILLION SPENT
LOOK LIKE
THE GREATEST,BIGGEST AND BEST BARGIN IN WORLD HISTORY AND THAT DOES NOT EVEN CONSIDER WHAT IT HAS DONE IN PROVIDING
FOR OUR NATIONAL SECURITY AND OUR NEGOTIATION ADVANTAGE ON GLOBAL CONFERENCE TABLES IN THE FUTURE.
GOD BLESS AMERICA

Vaughn Nebeker

November 3, 2009 12:10 PM

The DE10:DE10DE/R Computer chip & DE10:DE10:DE/S Computer chip Dose work. It atomphic senitive. allowing it to turn off the air flow of a sold fuel rockit. lince-ing law say's 15 time the value of desine. Wich is $100,000,000.00 per computer chip.
Cash up frount. No Creadit.

lgman

April 13, 2010 08:13 PM

this is shit u are gay

lgman

April 13, 2010 08:13 PM

this is shit u are gay

Thank you for your interest. This blog is no longer active.

 

About

Michael Mandel, BW's award-winning chief economist, provides his unique perspective on the hot economic issues of the day. From globalization to the future of work to the ups and downs of the financial markets, Mandel-named 2006 economic journalist of the year by the World Leadership Forum-offers cutting edge analysis and commentary.

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