A debate on the funding of manned missions to moon and Mars

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Hello all -

My blog partner and I just posted a debate on our blog about Obama's desire to cancel funding for the Constellation program. I guess I'm surprised that people don't see the benefits both tangible and intangible of the Constellation program (most specifically the mission to Mars), and so I'm hoping that the people here, more versed in this than I am, would consider stopping over and giving their opinion by way of voting for the winner of the debate or providing a comment. The post is here: http://janeyouignorantslut.com/nasa-oba ... on-cancel/

(for those of you old enough, the domain is a nod to SNL and the debates Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtin used to have back in the 70's - nothing slutty about what we do there, just spirited debate on a range of topics)

Anyway - thanks for reading, and thanks for weighing in with your reasoned, informed opinions, if you choose to do so.

Best regards,



"Spinoff", which Dan mentions, is the arcane concept that NASA can develop useful technology, but only as an accidental byproduct of human spaceflight. The reality is the compete reverse. Those NASA projects that provided useful new technology, and they certainly do exist, although they are a small part of the NASA budget, were almost entirely projects that were funded to develop the specific useful technology, not developments that were really needed just so we could send people to the moon or the ISS.

Satellite radio and GPS systems - GPS was developed by the military and does not involve human spaceflight. ATS-6, the first experimental direct broadcast satelite was funded by NASA, a laudable accomplishment. But let's be clear; this was a specific project to test a direct broadcast satellite. It was not spinoff and was unrelated to human spaceflight. Also NASA stopped funding the project even though hundreds of villages in India were using it for educational TV reception.
Cordless tools - NASA itself readily admits that this is a myth: http://www.nasa.gov/offices/ipp/home/myth_tools.html
Medical devices. - One medical device of major significance, the da Vinci surgical robot, actually was developed partly with a NASA SBIR grant. Ironically the da Vinci has never been flown in space and probably will never be used there since it cannot be used if there is a communication lag between the operator and the robot.
Fire-resistant materials.- a very broad field that has existed for centuries; to my knowledge NASA has not developed anything that is now in general use.
Smoke detectors. Another myth: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoke_detector

The list [of myths] is really, really long.

>>that the entire population of space program associated employees of NASA will soon be out on the streets,

No actual "NASA employees", i.e. civil servants, will lose their jobs. But no civil servants (except the astronauts) put their hands on the Shuttle. Almost all the contractors who actually maintain it, the very people who have the knowledge that could allow a new generation of reusable spacecraft to be both safe and affordable, will lose their jobs. These are the only workers in the world with the decades of experience to tell us how to do the job better with the next generation shuttle, to finally make it possible for people beyond a handful of professional astronauts and billionaire tourists to actually fly in space.
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