Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Stupidity in spaaaaaaaaaaaaace!

Idiots write letters

There's nothing like a successful space mission to set off the smugly ignorant. “Think about the children!” they cry. They wring their moist hands over the millions and billions of dollars that they assume were wastefully blasted into space instead of used for charitable works. This morning's San Francisco Chronicle provided a perfect case in point:
But what about the hungry?

The land rover Curiosity arrives on Mars safely. What a feat!

But $2 billion to find water on a planet when hundreds of children go to bed hungry, when teachers, police and firefighters are dismissed? Where are our priorities?

People might say, “But look what we get from our space travel.” When a child says, “Mommy, I'm hungry,” does her mother say, “I know honey, but isn't it wonderful we have Teflon”? What a country.

RMS-O, San Francisco
Damn! The stupid is strong in this one. Did you catch the “hundreds of children”? The ignorant letter-writer doesn't even appreciate the scope of the problem she is decrying. There are millions of children in the United States alone who lack adequate supplies of food, without even taking into account the more severe problems elsewhere in the world. Totally clueless people should not be giving others advice.

That, however, is not my main point. I want to underscore the stupidity of blaming NASA's budget for our failure to ameliorate social ills. As Isaac Asimov pointed out decades ago, it makes no sense to take money from one worthy cause to fund a different worthy cause when so many unworthy money-pits are right under our noses. The cost of the Curiosity mission was reported at approximately $2.5 billion (which the Associated Press foolishly cited as “budget-busting”). That total amount would barely have covered three days of the misbegotten war in Iraq. And you may recall that war did last a little over three days.

That sheds a slender ray of perspective-giving light on the subject, doesn't it?

In the meantime, quite apart from the exciting prospects of scientific discovery and exploration, Curiosity's budget supported (and supports) teams of engineers, scientists, and technicians. These people are a key component of the nation's tech base and infrastructure. Should we outsource all of their jobs to China or India? Besides, they pay mortgages and feed their children just like everyone else. None of the Curiosity budget dollars were simply blasted into space. They were spent on the ground, adding to the economic contributions of our technological and scientific endeavors.

Let's take up a contribution to shoot the San Francisco letter-writer into space. She'll be right at home in the vacuum.


Billy C said...

And don't forget the hundreds of commercial products based on NASA's research and technology. That two and a half billion isn't a cost, it's an investment.

I haven't seen a recent estimate of the return on investment generated by the space program, but I'm willing to bet it beats that of invading oil-producing countries.

NASA produces an annual report, "Spinoff", which "serves as a tool to educate the media and the general public by informing them about the benefits and dispelling the myth of wasted taxpayer dollars."

There's also an associated website here:

Zeno said...

The letter-writer makes a mocking reference to Teflon (I'm surprised she forgot to cite Tang), but this is to be expected from someone so ignorant. I maintain that weather satellites all by themselves more than make up for NASA's budget because of the dollars saved by more accurate forecasting. No one in the U.S. has been surprised by a hurricane coming out of the blue in decades because eyes in the sky give plenty of warning (even if some people are foolish enough to ignore them). But the clueless people prefer to carp about things they don't understand.

Gene O'Pedia said...

Yeah, Teflon. Discovered in 1938, patented before the end of WW II and used in countless ways, including as durable gaskets on chemical processing equipment at the Hanford site (Manhattan Project). All of which, I believe, was well before NASA or even any man-made satellites had been created.

And well before a future president was deemed to be the Teflon President. As opposed to Richard Nixon, who may very well have been the Velcro President.

Karen said...

I may be missing something, but what indication is there that the writer is female?

Zeno said...

I reduced her name to ambiguous initials, but you can see the full version on the Chronicle website.

event-eve_nt-eventos said...

False economies, to support commerce that the government doesn't and should, makes the reason for "ill fated fundings"...!
So funds NASA, and a lot of working americans, thought it be a pack of apes making up stories, and real real bad told ones ! Meanwhile this justifies, Governments to not manage their social problems! HEAVEN IS NOT HERE! Capitalism never works! It only does as a smoke screen of reality!
So World governments do not have much imagination how to run the World better. And so this justifies other skeems a "drug money or other"...! Which is dirty money if not war or slavery money!
HOW DIFFERENT IT WOULD BE if stories were not told! We would all learn something and feel more satisfied with ourselves!
IF USA GOVERNMENT CANNOT RUN NASA. It is because they do not know how!

Tualha said...

Poor Markuze, he's off his meds again. And in violation of his parole.

Bacopa said...

You may just be right about Mabus/Markuze.Zeno's been over at FtB a lot lately and Markuze might have have followed him here.

Dude is really weird. One atheist site gave him a whole thread of his own just to try to keep him out of other threads. Wow, most people do cute photoshops of piglets. Not this guy. Dude's a threat to piglets.