Not only that, but many of the items developed for NASA’s manned program must meet other government standards. The fruits of a company’s labor for NASA probably gets to waltz through the EPA, FDA and OSHA if it later gets transferred to the open market. That’s part of what I meant when I said “created with people in mind.”
The space program is a form of corporate welfare, one of the finest ever devised. It is a place where a corporation can lavishly spend R&D money when it might not otherwise be so inclined.
And, by comparison to the rest of the federal government, the manned space program is cheap, without even counting the massive payoff the country gets for all that tech transfer. This year, our groundling Administration has seen fit to cut manned space down to a mere six billion dollars. (Ahem, perhaps it’s time to switch them rockets on over to kerosene…)
Six billion ain’t jack shit in terms of the federal budget. It’s one-fityseventh of the Defense budget. It’s roughly what the Department of Justice spends on drug control, while the entire drug war’s budget outstrips NASA’s total budget by over three billion dollars. I’d like to see John Walters have to justify that sum in terms of payoff in lowered crime, fewer workdays lost, hospital fees, etc. It would be a pain in the ass.
But someone thinks it pays off, otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it. Similarly, a lot of us think that the benefits of manned space far outweigh the cost. Frankly, it’s a little bit insulting to see NASA berated every year with the naive question, “why don’t we spend our money on problems down here?” By bringing new technology to American business on the cheap, NASA’s doing a better job of that than a lot of other government programs I can think of.
Source: FY2003 Budget Request