Is Space Exploration a Waste of Money?

Why should we go into space? I know we can find a better use for this money, like feeding the poor. It is so expensive, and for what? What good does it do us? These are all questions that those who believe the space program is a waste of money ask. The space program does indeed cost money. In 2007, NASA’s budget is 16. 8 Billion dollars (Office of Management and Budget [OMB] 2007, p. 2). That is all tax payer money. Money that could be spent somewhere else if NASA ceased to exist.

Or could it? The current Gross Domestic Product is 13. 6 trillion dollars (OMB 2007, p. 1).

In 2000 dollars (the last year the figures are available) the space business accounted for over 100 billion dollars world wide. Over 60 billion of that was in the United States alone (Dobbs 2001, p. 15). Adjusting for growth of the gross domestic product for high tech industry from 2000 until 2005 [52. 5%] and the GDP for the space industry rises from 60 Billion to 91 Billion (United Sates Census Bureau 2006, p.

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1). Taking this figure and adjusting it for inflation from 2000 to 2005, and the space industry was worth 103 Billion dollars in 2005, the last year data is available (Friedman 2007, p.1).

So, we have ascertained that in 2005, the space industry was worth 103 Billion dollars. In 2005, the total government revenue was 17. 5% of the domestic product (OMB 2007, p. 1). So the amount of tax revenue that space exploration brought in was 18. 4 Billion dollars. This shows that there is a 1. 6 billion dollar surplus with regards to the space industry. The space industry brings in more revenue to the federal government then tax payer dollars are spent supporting it.

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If we stop exploring space, there would be 1. 6 billion dollars less to feed and house the homeless.

Space exploration pays for itself and then some. Keep in mind that this is just IS SPACE EXPLORATION A WASTE OF MONEY? Page 2 of 5 revenue from direct space industry jobs. This does not include any spin off jobs that are created by the space industry. In 2001 over 500,000 people were employed in direct space industry jobs (Dobbs 2001, p. 59). The average high tech wage in 2005 was $75,500. Therefore, those 500,000 workers are earning and paying tax on a total of 37. 8 billion dollars using the same average calculation above, the revenue to the United States government is 6.

6 billion. Add these two figures (18. 4 billion and 6. 6 billion) and the total is 25 Billion dollars collected by the federal government. This represents a 9 billion dollar surplus. Without space exploration many of the high tech gadgets we use on a daily basis, and take for granted, would not exist. For example, the major use for civilian satellites is communication in one form or another. Satellite phones are now in use. Satellite TV and radio allow access to entertainment and up to the second news in remote locations.

The satellite TV business started in the early 1980’s with the introduction of the large dishes (Dobbs 2001, p. 79). The transmissions were generally intended for cable TV companies to rebroadcast over standard cable landlines. Consumers installed the dishes to intercept the signals directly. By the end of 1985 there were over 1. 7 million dishes in use (Dobbs 2001, p. 80). Today there are 16 million subscribers in the United States (San Diego Regional Technology Alliance 2005, p. 28). These subscribers pay on average $50. 00 (DirecTV 2007, p. 1).

That is 800 million dollars per month, or 9. 6 billion dollars a year, into the Gross Domestic Product. This equates to $1. 7 billion dollars in income to the federal government. Just like in the 1930’s, satellite radio was introduced prior to Direct To Home satellite television. XM radio started in 1992. They now have two geosynchronous satellites in orbit (Named Rock and Roll) that uplink over 100 channels of entertainment programming. It is now IS SPACE EXPLORATION A WASTE OF MONEY? Page 3 of 5 in use in both vehicles and residences (Dobbs 2001, p. 83).

By the end of 2004, there were three million XM radio subscribers. Each subscriber pays $9. 95 per month, so the total yearly revenues are 358. 2 million a year. The federal share, once again at 17. 5%, is 62. 7 million dollars (Sun Microsystems 2005, p. 1). There are a multitude of military uses for satellite technology. One of those uses that have crossed over into the civilian marketplace is the Global Position System [GPS]. The Department of defense launched a series of 24 satellites between 1989 and 1993. These satellites are located at an altitude of 10,600 miles above the earth’s surface.

Originally designed to allow communications with troops in the field, the Department released the constellation of satellites to the public. Since then, GPS has been utilized by backpackers, skiers, and boaters, police departments, trucking companies, and others to track and locate themselves or their personnel anywhere on the globe (Dobbs 2001, p. 88). So, let us recap the economics of space exploration. The cost of space exploration is about 17 billion dollars a year, right out of the taxpayer’s pocket. The amount of revenue generated from the direct spin off businesses is 150.

8 billion dollars. The amount of money put directly back into the taxpayer’s pockets is 33 billion dollars. The taxpayer gets double there money back. We cannot afford NOT to explore space. It gets even better. Now that we have looked at it from a totally economic side, let’s examine the science side. Medicine, energy, the sciences, and computer technology are but a few of the areas of research and development that utilize space technology on a daily basis. Spacelab has flown on the Shuttle twenty-four times, performing zero-G experiments that are impossible to duplicate on Earth.

The experiments that Space Lab was performing will be taken over by the IS SPACE EXPLORATION A WASTE OF MONEY? Page 4 of 5 International Space Station (National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA] 2000, p. 1). One of the medical benefits of space exploration is the ability to study the human body in a weightless environment. NASA has developed an entire catalog of sensors, both exterior and implanted, to monitor a large number of physiological processes. Using this recorded data in spinal cord injury cases, researches have a better understanding of the mechanisms of injury.

Space flight has made possible load studies on the muscular and skeletal systems, study of a growth factor that is affected by weightlessness, and implanted sensors that will help monitor a patient’s status (Edgerton, Roy, Hodgson, Day, Weiss, Harkema, Dobkin, Garfinkel, Konigsberg, & Koslovskaya 2000, p. 51). Fuel cells are an example of an energy technology that is a spin off from space exploration. NASA started utilizing fuel cell technology with the Gemini space program in the 1960’s (Department of Defense – Fuel Cell Testing and Evaluation Center [FCTEC] 2001, p. 1). NASA continued to sponsor research into a better, lighter design.

Pratt & Whitney was awarded a contract for a newly designed fuel cell in time for it to be used in the Apollo mission. It is still used on the Space Shuttle (FCTEC 2001, p. 1). With the realization that fossil fuels will not be able to sustain our energy needs forever, the need for a commercial fuel cell has been recognized. Fuel cells have the ability to meet the energy needs of the United States (Blanks 2004, p. 61). It is entirely possible that by 2031, over 90% of the homes in the United States will be powered by fuel cells and will be off of the nationwide power grid (Blanks 2004, p.63).

These are just a few of the intangible but real scientific advances that have been made possible by space exploration. Without space exploration, the microgravity experiments could IS SPACE EXPLORATION A WASTE OF MONEY? Page 4 of 5 not be done, and spinal cord patients could not be helped by the developing technology. Fuel cell research would not, in all likelihood, be as advanced as it is today. The benefits of space exploration are being used on Earth today. Space technology has left its mark on every aspect of our lives.

From satellite TV and around the world live news, to fuel cells and medical research, the research, technology, and innovative products that have come out of space exploration cannot be overstated. And with a net gain of about 16 billion dollars a year directly into the coffers of the federal government, it allows for funding social programs, not eliminating them. References Blanks, D. (2004). Fuel Cells. Air & Space Power Journal, XVIII(1), 61-76. Department of Defense – Fuel Cell Testing and Evaluation Center. (2001). Fuel Cell Basics.

Retrieved April 24, 2007 from Fuel Cell Testing and Evaluation Center web site:http://www. fctec/com/fctec_history. asp DirecTV (2007) Package Prices. Retrieved April 27, 2007 from DirecTV Web site: http://www. directv. com/DTVAPP/global/contentPage. jsp? assetId=2700001&CMP=KNC-PG- Google&HBX_PK=directv&HBX_OU=50 Dobbs, L. (2001) Space: The Next Business Frontier. New York: Simon & Schuster. Edgerton, V. , Roy, R. , Hodgson, J. , Day, K. , Weiss, J. , Harkema, S. , Dobkin, B. , Garfinkel, A. , Konigsberg, E. , & Koslovskaya, I. (2000). How the Science and Engineering of Spaceflight Contribute to Understanding the Plasticity of Spinal Cord Injury.

Acta Astronautica 47(1), p. 51-62). Freidman, M. (2007). The Inflation Calculator Retrieved April 27, 2007 from The Inflation Calculator Web site http://www. westegg. com/inflation/ National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA]. (2000). Spacelab. Retrieved April 24, 2007 from NASA Web site: http://liftoff. msfc. nasa. gov/shuttle/spacelab/ Office of Management and Budget (2007). Budget of the United Sates Government, FY 2007, Retrieved April 24, 2007 from The White House Web site: http://www. whitehouse. gov/omb/budget/fy2007/tables. html. San Diego Regional Technology Alliance.(2005).

California’s Wireless Wonder. Retrieved April 27, 2007 from Free Space Optics Web site: http://www. freespaceoptic. com/WhitePapers/WirelessReport. pdf Sun Microsystems. (2005). XM Satellite Radio. Retrieved April 27, 2007 from Sun Microsystems Web site: http://www. sun. com/datacenter/consolidation/docs/XM_Radio. pdf United States Census Bureau. (2006). Gross Domestic product in current and real (2000) dollars by industry. Retrieved April 27, 2007 from the United States Census bureau Web site http://www. census. gov/compendia/statab/tables/07s0649. xls.

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Is Space Exploration a Waste of Money?. (2017, Apr 14). Retrieved from

Is Space Exploration a Waste of Money?

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