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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Nicholas Waller Moon Landing Songs (18) RE: Moon Landing Songs 11 Jun 09

Mauvepink "I wonder if the space programme money was put into those countries how many would be saved"

Space missions, being rather exotic, visual, much-publicised and apparently unconnected to earth, do attract a lot of "this money could be spent better elsewhere" comment, as though it represents a huge proportion of the US government's costs. There is an interesting Death and Taxes poster that shows shows using graphics how much space consumes these days (well, 2007) compared with all the other US commitments, and NASA makes a pretty small circle, on a par with the "Tenant-based Rental Assistance" budget in the HUD at around $16 billion pa.

Back in the 1960s things were different and Apollo was indeed expensive, but it still was a very long way from being the most expensive thing the US government was doing then. For instance, total US military spending, including Vietnam, was apparently $83 billion in 1969 alone, whereas the Apollo programme 'only' cost about $25 billion over 13 years, so about $2 billion a year (in 1969 dollars).

Taking NASA and the space programme as a whole, you could probably argue it has overall been fabulously successful, profitable and useful, not so much in terms of exploration but due to weather-forecasting, geological and communications satellites and so on.

There is also an argument that the USA and USSR getting deeply involved in the space race helped avert much more costly conflicts in other areas, for instance nuclear war (which, conceivably, spy-in-the-sky satellites also helped suppress). Without space, there might have been more Cuba/Turkey-type face-offs, one of which might have blown up.

You could say it's a bit like those ancient wars where two evenly-matched armies picked a champion to fight for them in single-combat, to avoid the death and mayhem involved in actually having a full pitched battle. (That might make a song... the race to the moon as a battle of champions, Apollo against Soyuz - Apollo wins - and the combatants bury the hatchet in the 1975 joint Apollo-Soyuz project).

Finally, there are getting on for twice as many people on earth now compared with 1969 - 3.6 million in 1969, 6.7 million now - though I don't know if that is at all relevant to anything. But at least Apollo hasn't actively caused billions of deaths!

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