Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Back to the moon

Why do we have to return to the moon? First, the obvious negative before the debatable positives: the fiscal drain is enormous. The article notes that President Bush called for a $12 billion commitment from NASA for the start of the program, with more to follow. That's $40 per American; what could every American do with that money back in their pocket? Further, is it worth it to you to get back to the moon for $40?

(And if $12 billion had to be committed to this program, why not situate some sort of Ansari X setup and let the best team win?)

It seems like all of the positives attributed to this project are speculative, at best. The "deep geological record" of the moon is of importance; if we know what's there, we don't need to return to confirm it, and if we aren't sure what's there, there is a chance that what is found won't be of any importance at all. It's an information search problem. The moon could also be a great opportunity to support robotic and human exploration of space-- while that is probably true, that just shifts the "Why look here?" problem from the moon to outer space. Do companies engage in such massive research outlays with such spotty prospects for anything good coming from it? Drug companies spend a ton on Phase III testing, but those are on drugs they know are pretty effective-- that's just to appease the FDA.

One plus that would likely come about would be a technology spillover...but at $40 a head for the entire country? Seems a bit...astronomical. (HA!)

1 comment:

KipEsquire said...

The space program was a leigitmate public good only in the context of the Cold War.

Unless and until China gets uppity in space (pun intended); we should have no significant NASA budget.