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NASA - The Best Trillion Dollars Human Beings Have Ever Spent, and the Single Greatest Achievement in American History.
So… Lets start with the libertarian argument. NASA, in its entire existence, has spent only 790 billion dollars, even adjusted for inflation… And we presided over the collapse of The Soviet Union, in large part because of it. We’ve spent over a trillion dollars on Afghanistan. I think The Soviet Union, at the time we were investing in NASA, was a more credible threat than Afghanistan was a decade ago.
“Well we shouldn’t have been in Afghanistan”… Fair enough. Would Reagan have watched the Berlin Wall collapse without NASA? Would his veiled threats of “Star Wars” have sounded a bit more like the ravings of a madman if we hadn’t established a worldwide communications networks and landed on the moon? Alright… This was the cheapest, and least life consuming conflict between two enormous world powers that has ever existed.
What about the economic impact? Do you like personal computers? No business needed computers that small when NASA did most of the research that brought them into existence. Solar panels, Siemens? You mean NASA panels, and… those contractors… GPS, satellite imaging…
If you’re not a libertarian, and you don’t care about the economy, and you just want to be a flower loving hippy daisy, and live by a river making love and music? Well, if you get hurt do you want to go to a hospital? Would you like to give birth in one? X-rays, ultrasound, MRI?
Lets say we didn’t have NASA… Would our bluffs have eventually been called? We’re really not a warring people. Would bombs have dropped? If that’s the case, I’d say about five billion of us owe our lives to NASA.
Maybe humanity is ready for a human space program, funded voluntarily, by people who love science. Maybe we’d donate more than 19 billion dollars a year to it internationally… If we did. It would be the best money we ever spent.
Till we do, I'll take any NASA investment of the last 50 years, against almost anything anyone else on the planet has done, and I'll give odds.