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NASA Faces Major Budget Cuts 309

jfoust writes "A House of Representatives appropriations subcommittee approved Monday a nearly 10 percent cut in NASA's fiscal year 2000 budget, with most of the cuts in science and aeronautics. If approved, it would mean most of the currently-planned space science projects, including missions to Mars, Pluto, Europa, and comets, plus new space telescopes, would be canceled. Check the details at NASA Watch and SpaceViews. " If you're a US citizen-write your Congressperson. This is idiocy.
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NASA Faces Major Budget Cuts

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  • Well, where to begin?

    People seem to have the wrong impression about NASA. People seem to think that NASA missions typically consist of some multi-billion-dollar spacecraft gallivanting merrily out to Pluto for no reason whatsoever, burning hundred-dollar bills as fuel all the way.

    One of the biggest programs that will be affected by these budget cuts is NASA's EOS (Earth Observing System.) This is Earth science (that's right .. Earth science.) When you look at spacecraft such as Landsat 7 and its Enhanced Thematic Mapper instrument, the uses are virtually limitless. Historically, remotely sensed satellite data has been used to

    • quantify and project climate change
    • assess the impact and assist in the cleanup of natural disasters (i.e., Mitch)
    • provide early warning for widespread famine

    Data provided by the Landsat program has saved millions of lives. It has saved millions of lives. That tradition will continue (and improve) with other such Earth-observing spacecraft such as the upcoming Terra, with its MODIS and ASTER instruments. The positive results of NASA's Earth science programs alone more than justify the operating costs of the entire agency; ironically, it will be Earth science that is among the hardest hit by these budget cuts.

    Beyond that, the space science is worthwhile to mankind as well, even if people don't realize it. Getting to know the inner workings of our sun is worth it. Exploration of the planets and their satellites is worth it. Gaining insight into the operation and origin of our vast universe is worth it (although this tends to chap the collective asses of fundies who feel we're going to burn in hell for having the audacity to be curious.) And doing work and performing experiments on board the shuttle in low-Earth orbit is worth it as well; people who complain about John Glenn's trip back as being a "PR stunt" or a "joyride" rarely forget to mention that that mission had more scientific experiments to perform than any previous shuttle mission.

    The bottom line is this: NASA is an island oasis floating in a sea of pork. Sure, some people don't like "the space program." Some people are ideologically opposed to it. Some people just don't understand what NASA really does. But cutting NASA's budget is a Bad Thing (TM). Trust me.
  • Umm...there are disturbing GAO reports about whether the F22 can even come close to its currently defined mission parameters, especially the "supercruise" one...

    Congress, being a bit burned perhaps by the FA18E/F debacle, is getting back a bit. But that one is a done deal. Nothing can turn that one back now. Bye-bye, F14D. Buy Buy, FA18E/F.

    The F22 is a pretty cool looking airplane. But that is the STUPIDEST reason to fund it (right next to, "well, there are lots of voters in my district who work on it") And it would probably be a worthy plane, but is its cost (+50% of an F15 or so) going to equate to +50% performance over an F15? No.
  • True 'nuff. That surplus doesn't even exist yet, and may never depending upon accuracies.

    I'm vaguely concerned about any privatization of NASA. Let's call such a new body, hmmm, "Ground-to-Space" (G2S) in homage to a particular Brunner novel I'm sure many of you know...

    My primary objection is that G2S would potentially come with far less public oversight than NASA. Given that the Gov't (especially DoD and NRO) would probably be a *major* customer, this would open the door towards "black" programs and so forth, and various forms of skullduggery. It might even be tempting to violate the treaty against militarizing space...
  • sure we can then divert all this tax money to beefing up the military (during peace times) and spend some more on weapon reasearch. im quite sure these activities would be much more valuable to the tax payers and give them their "benefit of reward". if anything the science and space programs don't get enough funding.
  • Cutting NASA's basic research would decimate both earth and space science. Particularly with the potential damage that global climate change could effect, this seems incredibly short sighted.

    The NASA Earth Observing system is a series of remote sensing satellites designed to study the Earth as an integrated system. It is one of the primary means of monitoring and understanding global climate change.

    To get a sense of the work that is being done, check out:

    Cuts to this project seems unreasonable given both the budget surplus and the maintained funding for the space station with has much higher costs with less certain results.

    For the record, I am not completely impartial. I am getting my Ph.D. in geography and work heavilly with remote sensing. I am currently funded through a NASA research grant relating to the MODIS sensor on the TERRA satellite.

  • What's idiocy? The fact that billions of dollars are spent annually on projects that won't gain humankind anything significant before the end of humanity is idiocy. Perhaps if these resources were utilized on the planet we already occupy, we'd all be better off as a result.
  • This is as brilliant an idea as the NASA budget cuts are bad.

    When will those beltway idiots get it? All of this came pretty directly from NASA. No doubt beltway idiots slowed it down a little with plenty of red tape and whatnot, but ALL THIS TECHNOLOGY came from the space program in one fashion or another.

    What a bunch of idiots - worse, us for letting them stay in a position to do things of this sort...
  • i feel frustrated when i see the ridiculous amount of cash that goes into NASA as compared to other science pursuits.

    We've got a planet full of people decaying from myriad of diseases. Though I admit that AIDS and cancer are well funded, I do not believe that the level of severity of these matters corresponds to their current financial piece of the american pie. I'm not a people-lover, but what i know is that we through our money down the toilet (taxes) to support a product of the cold war.

    And what about other ways to spend our taxes? Our money should be funding projects here on earth. Projects to understand ourselves, how our body functions, how our mind functions, and how we think. We should be interested in what lies at the bottom of the sea, the history our planet, the history of our people. One can persume that these areas of science have been well researched, but thats persuming that we have found all the answers we need (and that is more bs). And yes.. all this scientific research doesn't have to have bring in financial success.

    How is it then that so many people support such a financially wasteful cause as NASA? Part of it is a result of our american heritage. We are a people who have always wanted to test our limits, move away from stagnant society and find freedom in a new frontier. This has obviously carried over into how the population looks at space. It as if there is an urgency to escape this planet, in the hope that we will find somewhere better to live. Perhaps somewhere where all the women are blonde and tall. Somewhere that has enough resources to make a millionaire out even the humblest of men. Or just somewhere to escape the realities we've created here on earth. Whatever it is we need to realize that the fervor to test this new frontier might not be as wise as we envisioned during the cold war. We do not need nuclear stations in space to attack enemies. We do not need colonies on mars so that we can vacation there during the winter months. So stop thinking about it like that please. A second argument that might sufficiently explain why we american feel sympathetic to the NASA cause is that its a very popular science at the moment. Its popularity, a result of the national focus on the space program during the cold war, seems to distract people from scientific pursuits that are left without major support. I don't want to demean what scientific contributions NASA has provided, but to use it as an engine for popular support in science is simply saddening.

    I hope people get off this pro-NASA campaign and realize what they are missing. Let the commercial pursuits of NASA (satellites) be managed by private corporations. And get NASA to be more efficient, by cutting their budget, in pursuing what matters, an understanding of space (through scientific data retrieval and observation of our universe, go FUSE!). And make the international space station what it is, "international"... there is no reason to have international presence in space when there are nations here on earth still struggling to survive on earth.

    please just think about it

  • Entertainment and marketing are a means to an end. We need to put more support into space exploration and if the only way wwe can do that is through a theme park, I say build the sucker. NASA should open it's doors to commercial marketing also. I can see it now, the fuel cell of the space shuttle painted up to look like a Coke can. Maybe some STP stickers will make it look like a race car. Marketing is wonderful thing.
  • Actually, if I recall, China is gearing up to send some people into space in the near future. I think they even had some Russian help in it, but I don't recall all of the details of the article.

    Either way...if it can make some of the higher ups a little edgy about the thought of it, you might be right.
  • Why is it that people think that tax cuts are only for the rich? The middle class pays most of the taxes anyway, so they would be the ones that would benefit from an across the board tax cut. Is it that they might only get $500 back, but someone else might get $50,000 back?. I don't care. IMHO, if someone is paying a ton of taxes, they deserve to get a lot back when it comes to cutting taxes.

    Our current surplus is due more to the recent capital gains tax cuts than the big tax increase on the rich in 1993. I know a lot of people who increased their activity in buying/selling stuff that would be taxed as a capital gain after that. They are paying more in, but it's at a lower rate, so that's acceptable. In fact, what I've read was the 1993 increase didn't net that much more because the people affected by these increases could just find away to reclassify such income as capital gains or something else. I knew a guy who owned his own computer contracting business (consisting of just himself) which was structured so that all of his income was classified as capital gains, which was taxed at a rate much lower than it would be if it was classified as regular income. An additional bonus was that he didn't pay FICA either.

  • Well, I think NASA should stick around for a while yet, but I do think that private sector investment is on the verge of becoming realistic and relevant. Does anyone else remember the announcement a few months ago that some hotel (Hilton, I think) was looking into a space station hotel-conference center? And that's just the barest bump of the tip of the iceberg.

    And just wait for the 31 July moon crash---if that kicks up any water vapour, expect to see a working moon colony within ten years, largely or entirely financed from the private sector. Talk about cool!

  • I think the goal of society is both of these issues; they are not exclusive. That is the purpose of society to accomplish things collectively, as it tends to be much more efficient than billions of individuals acting as their own island society.

    These "local issues" were federalized for a reason. States and localities were (are?) doing a terrible job on health and welfare issues for their citizens. It was only a few years ago that local governments in southern states only served the majority populations, neglecting their minority populations. And it wasn't a begin neglect. Equal protection under the law and the Constitutional rights of neglected populations are a legit reason for the federalization of what were traditionally local issues. I work for the National Governors' Association, and they argue that governors should be the implementers of many of these programs currently administered by the federal government. I would be in trouble with my bosses if they heard this, but the sorry way they treated their citizens is why the feds took over many of these programs. I'm sure the U.S. Conference of Mayors feel they are the ones who should be running these programs instead of the feds, but their record is worse than the governors. It's all a question of who gets to spend the money, and while governors have made great strides in working for all of their citizens, I'm not ready to hand them over all the decision making power and money.

    Of course, some say the only true function of the federal government is to run the military and protect the country from invasion. The federal government organizing the marketplace is a scary idea. If you think the feds inefficiency at running social programs is a problem, wait until you see them determining and implementing what they feel advances society. Funding for programs like NASA or NIH should be re-thought. What's the point? Should the government be involved in funding science and research? I think so, but it will have to compete for funding with all the other programs citizens want the feds to run. The little libertarian in me says it will be the machinations of the free market that will determine advances in society as a whole, and if the market can't bear space programs or scientific research, it won't happen until conditions are right. But he's very little.

    But, back to the point, I don't think it is a binary situation. Advances in our society can lead to more comfortable lives, but advances for advancement's sake shouldn't be the only goal for society. There are a lot of people who would be quite content and really happy in a society where we all lived healthy and comfortably, because that's more than they have now.
  • First off, cutting 10% but maintaining funding for the space station means you are losing more than 10% of both the projects, and IMHO the results.

    Second, NASA does a lot of Earth Science funding. The whole Earth Observing System (EOS) is NASA money. If global climate change is real, the information from these satellite are going to have a lot more impact than, "Oh, Look where we went in the Solar System."
  • One would think in todays modern society that space and space research would be at the forefront of technological advance and funding. What happened to ALF?
  • by great om ( 18682 ) <om@goldne r . o rg> on Tuesday July 27, 1999 @03:25AM (#1781837) Homepage
    you know how on tax forms it has a little check box (give $1 to Democratic or Republican election cpagain) I think that all of the major orgnizations that get their funding from the federal goverment should be listed on the tax form (i'd give a buck a year to get us into space --hell, i'd probably give 100 bucks a year for it)

    thiis would also allow other groups to get funding based on their popularity (don't like literacy programs or the NEA --don't check that box)

  • No country in the world has ever attained prosperity by paying back it's debts. The USA is large enough to sustain the debt load that it has, and the amount of money that has been lent out is helping to offset interest costs. No worries. Fund NASA.
  • Military spending as a percentage of GDP has been halved since Clinton took over. You can see what percentage of is being spent by just looking on the back of your tax instructions. A higher percentage is being spent on interest and entitlements. Good strategy. Spend more to let people sit around than on defense of the country. And we wonder why there is a morale problem in the military and the Navy/AirForce can't keep enough qualified pilots.

  • Do these guys know the meaning of diplomacy?

  • Well it probably isn't the best idea, but historically in the US there have been some
    federal agencies that have been spun out (at least partially)...

    - Fannie Mae (used to be Federal National Morgage Association, now a publicly traded company)
    - RAND (used to be part of the US air force, now a non-profit corporation)

    There are other agencies have turned into corporations, but are still owned by the government:

    - USPS (US post office, delivers junk^H^H^H^Hsnail-mail)
    - FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, insures money in the bank)
    - Ginnie Mae (used to be Government National Morgage Association, government backed morgages)
    - TVA (Tennesee Valley Authority, a power company)

    One downside to privatization of an agency is the loss of regulatory authority. But since NASA
    never had any authority, this doesn't matter.

    The other downside is that as a separate corporation, you can't lose money (well at least
    not too much), NASA probably wouldn't be able to cut it as a corporation.

    But maybe NASA could be restructured into a non-profit model like RAND. RAND sells the
    reports they generate for $$$, and they have a huge endowment (get income form the interest),
    and lots of companies and the govt donate them money to direct their research. However, the NASA
    that exists today is too bloated and non-economically motivated, they are negative-profit.

    All it takes is an act from congress and a John Hancock from the president and poof, NASC
    (National Aeronautics and Space Corporation) could be born... However, as I said, this probably
    isn't the best idea...

  • It's a shame that few of our politicians are interested in exploring new frontiers these days. What's worse is with goverment regulations I doubt it is possible for a publicly owned space agency to make it based in the US. Or so the National Space Society has always lead me to believe.

    At least this will give the Democrats more money to spend on social programs. That will make them happy.

    Why don't we have a political party that is friendly to Space exploration? A lot of Republicans think it is a waste while most Democrats would rather take the money and stuff it into tree saving programs. No trees in space so it isn't worth the money I guess.

    I'm depressed.
  • Hear hear. The only thing that private industry wants from space is more satellites for TV, data, and cellphones.
  • ...a budget surplus? what happened to it?

    probably flushed down the toilet on the war on drugs

    (those stupid cartoons are not going to stop kids from doing drugs, Mr. President)
  • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Tuesday July 27, 1999 @03:34AM (#1781848) Journal

    If cutting 10% costs you every major mission that NASA is going to fly... don't do it.

    Either kill NASA, or disband it. But you won't save any money simply crippling it. You'll throw away a lot of money that will never be useful, because we can't fly those major missions upon which all depends. It's a false economy.

    It's time for an asteroid to directly impact Washington DC... a nice, small one... it only has to kill a few thousand people... THEN NASA would get any money they wanted... for a year or two, until the beaurocracy forgot... again... (pardon my spelling of that blasted "B" word)

  • I'm not sure that donations could ever add up to the kind of money needed to support a space program. The same is true of supporting the arts. These are programs that I'm not sure would survive privatization.

    I like to think of myself as a Libertarian but this is one of the areas where I'm not so sure; programs that the majority of people don't care enough to pay for on their own but that are still important in their own ways to our society.
  • Yes, we really need this stuff.

    Going to pluto has many cool points associatited besides actually getting to pluto.

    In the process we will need to discover more about how the human body can tolerate 0g for extended periods of time, including muscle and bone research, which has great impact on earthbound condtions and diseases such as multiple schlerosis, osteoperosis, and other degenerative diseases.

    We will have to discover more efficient and advanced power sources, energy and material recycling processes, and better insulations, materials, and armors.

    A small sample of some stuff we have because of NASA []

    Some examples from that page: "Dustbuster, shock-absorbing helmets, home security systems, smoke detectors, flat panel televisions, high-density batteries, trash compactors, food packaging and freeze-dried technology, cool sportswear, sports bras, hair styling appliances, fogless ski goggles, self-adjusting sunglasses, composite golf clubs, hang gliders, art preservation, and quartz crystal timing equipment."

    Where else would we have all this research and development, if not NASA?

    Sure private companies might be big enough, now, to do so... but private companies also change, adjust, and re-organize... and NASA is here as long as we believe in it and support it.

    NASA, and science research in general, on the surface may seem like a money sink with no results; like particle accelerators, but on the other hand we get superconductors, hardened electronics, insulated electronics, etc. A lot of this stuff is really hot, interesting, and a product of the space program!

  • I think that in todays times and in looking back upon ALL the advances in science that our pursuit of space has given us then this budget cut and any others like it are totally irresponsible. Our science program is responsible for some of our greatest breakthroughs in material sciences and others. To see thier budget cut is a very sad day indead and a signal that all sanity has finally left our goverment.
  • A 10% budget cut should not cause the loss of every space science program, period.

    Nearly half of the cuts ($640 million of $1.3+ billion) are in NASA's space sciences programs, which account for only about $2 billion of its $13.6 billion budget before the cuts. With those kinds of cuts, a lot of missions will fall by the wayside, especially those missions still in the early planning stages (which can be cut with a minimum amount of money "wasted".) Anything planned for launch in the next couple of years, including the Mars 2001 missions, should be okay, but beyond that it looks grim.

    Jeff Foust [mailto]

  • ...most of these comments from author and concerned citizen Dr. Jerry Pournelle (along with a number of the contributors to his website) - Nasa's mission in life is to preserve the bureaucracy that is Nasa... this is why the cuts will affect programs and science - NOT JOBS! Nasa is run by the criminals who took two working Saturn boosters and laid them down as lawn ornaments (and destroy'd all the plans to build them - yup - we paid for those.) I cannot claim to know what is best for the space program, but I do not believe that Nasa has any answers, either.

    I say, let'm make cuts, but put bureaucrats out to pasture and save the science.

  • While I hate taxes as much as the next guy, you said yourself that tax money should be used to fund those things which are impossible to obtain otherwise. Space exploration, at this point, falls into that catagory. Even The Great Evil One, Bill Gates, would be bankrupt after a while if he had to fund NASA. The amount of money currently required to explore space is too much for any one person, or even a small group of people, to afford, and any benefits that may be obtained from it are strictly long term. There simply isn't any way for a person to make a profit at this point. THat doesn't mean that it won't be possible in the future, when costs have dropped, and space travel becomes a bit more commonplace. If this ever occurs, then I'm all for the privatization of space research.

    You also cannot ignore the necessity of space research. Where are we going to be in another couple hundred years if we haven't at least begun construction of a lunar colony. While I tend to think claims of population overcrowding are a bit exaggerated, eventually, we are going to run out of room here on Earth. Should we wait until that point to begin government funding of space exploration? I guess that wouldn't be a problem if you don't mind massive world-wide starvation for a couple decades.
  • It is human nature to explore. Our curiousity is, has, and will continue to be, a great boon to our civilization. Ever since Columbus and Polo, exploration has brought change and has opened up new avenues of thought. Imagine if Columbus had never went on his voyage in 1492. The world may still have been thought of as flat. Science would have been stymied by the Church and maybe would not have piqued the interest of Galileo and Newton. America may never have been born. The religiously oppressed in Europe would not have been given a vast New World in which to try out new ideas; in which to create and recreate society based on different modes of thought.

    While we do have many goals to accomplish here on Earth, we have an infinity of things to accomplish in space. Not taking up the challenges of space would be denying our curiosity in favor of settling for our lowly existence on Earth.

    We must learn from the mistakes of our history. We must get behind our space program. Without funding to NASA, space will continue look like a vast, desolate void to us instead of the boundless, beautiful, infinite place that it is.

    While we have defiled our Earth with national boundaries and wars and pollution, space is a pristine, untouched New Frontier; holding promise for a better life just as the New World did for those in 16th and 17th century Europe. Just as America ultimately improved and gave hope to the world, so will space.

    "A life unexplored is a life not worth living." Either we waste away our days here, moping around in our petty library of Earthly scientific knowledge, or we take a chance at unlocking infinite knowledge in space. Right now is the time to make a choice at which route we will take.
  • Plus, when you consider what a joke Carter had made of our military, he really had no choice but to increase its budget during his first term.
  • Yes, but not being taxed as much, a lot of corporations wouldn't feel as pressured to pay you as much. Your take home pay would probably be about the same, unless of course you OWNED the company.
  • I know I got flamed for this idea previously, but, now it's time.
    You and I and all readers of this place are generally geeks. We build things. We research things. We solve problems.
    We are the glue that holds this interconnected world together.
    Hell! We created it!

    It's high time we put our collective foot down. Let's take this thing we built back!
    Let us put aside one day a year that we ALL stay home. And do nothing. at all.
    Jews have that. Muslims have it. Geekhood is as close to a religion that I have. Wanna see the world shake?
    Find a day.
    Pick a day
    That day, all geeks STAY HOME!
    No work.
    No calls.
    No nothing.
    You'll be going to mars with the blessing of the speaker of the house in 6 mos.
    Geeks are assumed to be pussies.
    We are true warriors. We put our immediate needs on hold for the larger cause.
    Geeks rule this planet at this time.
    Assume that mantle responsibly. Assert your authority.
    Whether you like it or not, you're piloting this thing.
    Do it right.

  • The F-18E and the JSF are not designed to be air superiority aircraft. All of these aircraft are designed to meet a specific set of needs, with some overlap, of course. By eliminating the F-22, the roles of the F-18E and JSF would have to be expanded, which means that those projects would be delayed due to redesign and would result in more money being wasted. Our current air superiority fighter, the F-15, was designed in the late 60s early 70s. It's a great aircraft and has gone through severla revisions to upgrade its capabilities, but one can only do so much by upgrading electronics systems and powerplants. The new Russian Mig-29 and Su-27s have more advanced airframes than the F-15 and are being produced for other countries. Given the 'remote-control warfare' shown during the Gulf War and Kosovo, some people have the assumption the US weapons are automatically more advanced than whoever we go up against. That isn't going to be the case if new weapons systems developed and put into service. Would you really want a pilot in a 15-20 year old plane in a dogfight with one in a plane that was designed 5-7 years ago?

    The cost of these planes (whether it's a F-22 or B-2) includes the total cost of research, development, new assembly lines, spare parts, base modifications, support equipment, training, etc. I remember reading in Federal Computer Weekly about 5 years ago about the actual production cost of the B-2. Each plane costs about $250M to produce, which was only about 10% more than the less capable B-1B. The $2B cost is more due to the $20B spent on research and development before any planes were even produced. The same is true for the F-22. The less one produces, the more they cost. It would be as if one contracted Ford or GM to build a totally new car, bought only 100 of them and then complained that they cost $3M each.

  • the guise of the budget surplus was achieved by mis^H^H^Hreappropriating funds that SHOULD have been used to stabilize social security, thus leaving anyone who would be elegible after 2020, out in the cold. I'm not especially FOR or AGAINST social security persay, but I'm steamed that I will continue to pay this tax when it's common knowledge that no one in born after 1970 will be able to collect a reasonable benefit amount.

    Not quite. The budget surplus is the result of prolonged growth in the economy causing income tax revenues to grow faster than Congress could spend the money (amazing when you think about it.) The budget surplus is not a surplus in Social Security receipts. The Social Security surplus is used to fund the national debt. The general fund borrows money from Social Security and pays it back with interest. Were this not the case, the Social Security surplus would sit in a vault somewhere (OK, some bits would sit in a tape somewhere) and decline in value at the rate of inflation. This is why the Republicans' plan to "lock up Social Security" is not just political opportunism but is bad economics.

    Social Security is funded through the separate 15% tax that we all pay on all the money we earn. As another poster said, Social Security is just a Ponzi scheme. Bungalow is right that those of us in the generation that is younger and smaller than the boomers will be stuck with the tab. I would extend his definition to include those born after 1960. We should have no doubt that our parents will use their voting clout to shoulder us with the burden of paying their Social Security. They may stop paying in at 65 or 75 but they certainly won't stop voting. In addition to this burden we will have the additional burden of investing for our own retirement since the larger generation behind us will have the voting clout to eliminate Social Security when it's our turn to collect.

    I think the best solution is to allow individuals to direct their Social Security funds to a set of private investment options. Government bonds could be one choice, essential the current default option. The key here is it is appealing enough to get current boomers to support it, while at the same time segregating each individual's contribution, thus breaking the Ponzi scheme. Of course those currently collecting would be SOL, which is why both the President and Congress are directing 1/3 of the projected surplus to Social Security.

    - With apologies to the boomers and to the readers with non-U.S. address for whom the "we" doesn't apply.

  • They also believe in the privatization of security, ie. no military or police. If you want protection from crime, hire a bodyguard.

    What happens when the criminals can afford to hire more and better equipped bodyguards (by virtue of the profits they make from crime)?
  • I would venture to say that just about every person on planet earth has wondered what it is like on the moon. Similarly the 'is/was there life on mars' question is also publicly interesting. Be it fantasy or not our culture has cultivated the idea of martians over decades and it's an interesting question that people would love to see answered.

    The problem is the average joe isn't interested in pictures from the Hubble, or ion drives, or anything else that does not lead to some form of real accomplishment. So what if an ion drive is more efficient and lasts longer, if it's not landing a man somewhere so we can hear the accounts in the language of a man, who cares? Unmanned missions dont generate heroes. Worse yet, since we've already landed men on the moon how can an average person get excited about something seemingly less bold like a space station.

    I understand the benefits of space exploration, since I've been interested in it since I was old enough to read. But unlike the moon missions, NASA isn't doing anything bold, they're not defeating anyone, No heroes are born from their missions. John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, these men are STILL heroes. Other than the 7 who died in challanger, and Sally Ride, I would imagine even most /.'ers would have a hard time naming just one shuttle astronaut.

  • Civilization has to be built on the backs of the unwilling, if you let the majority have a say they'd merely allow civilization to degenerate into Jerry Springer Deathmatches, pork-rinds, cheese-whiz, cheap beer, lap dances, and selfishness. Forget museums, culture, libraries, and yes knowledge of space that the relevant minority that holds civilization together enjoys. They do not have the resources to support these institutions by themselves, it can only be done through taxing those that do not give a damn about these things.

    Yes. Thank you. Finally, someone with the intestinal fortitude to speak the truth. The fact is, though I happen to agree with the traditional Libertarian viewpoint on a lot of issues, there are some things that only a government can do and that need to be done in order to ensure the long term life and liberty of the Nation and it's people. The exploration and colonization of space is one of them. One need only to look at history, at the Empires built by Spain, Portugal, France and England during the first Age Of Exploration, see the wealth and power they brought back to their respective homelands, to get a glimpse of the benefits that await the first nation with the guts to commit to an all-out long term effort to colonize the moon and Mars. For starters: Solar Power sats to beam inexhaustible energy back to the earth, eliminating the need once and for all for wasteful and dangerous nuclear and coal power plants; mining Luna and later the asteroid belt for their rich mineral resources instead of Terra; moving heavy industry off of earth and into orbit where it won't befoul the atmosphere with it's pollution. And this isn't even mentioning the long term good that will come from moving much of the population off-planet and into L-5's, though at an est. 6 billion people only massive, world-wide birth control in conjunction with the colonization effort can have a prayer of saving us now.

    I am conviced, and have been for some time, that while one day humanity will move out to the stars, it won't be the United States that leads the way. We've pretty much gone down the road to late-stage Roman Empire at this point, though it is by no means too late to change. No, it will likely be China, once they fully industrialize and really get their space program rolling (they've already got most of our technology, after all ;-)), or perhaps a united Europe or even Japan. *Shrug.* Oh, well. We had our chance. The race goes to the swift and steadfast; history always forgets the complacent. _____________________________________

  • by grappler ( 14976 ) on Tuesday July 27, 1999 @10:10AM (#1781871) Homepage
    You have just brought up one of the most dangerous aspects of a true democracy. The majoriy is not always right.

    If something like what you suggested was done, it would look great in theory, but knee-jerk reactions would play a large role in which boxes (if any) were checked.

    Anybody that didn't especially care about space (and there are many) would avoid that box. Like-minded members of congress, seeing this, would draw attention to the disinterest and immediately propose more cuts.

    In fact, I doubt if any box would get much checking - there are so many cries in this country of "cut the taxes down to nothing! a small government is a good governmnet! no government is even better!" which is truely a shame. This attitude is extremely short sighted and largely knee-jerk, but it is also the way most of america seems to think. Public works such as the space program are great examples of things that are very valuable, though most can't see how it helps them at all.

    There are other government programs that many on slashdot probably don't care much about but have their own support, such as the endowment of the arts, for instance. Remember that many are very valuable and help the economy as well as boost our collective knowledge and boost pride in our country.
  • Maybe NASA should raise it's fees the military pays to get it's echelon satellites lofted into geosynchronous orbit to make up the difference.

    (ignore the sig on this one. I'm too lazy to switch to my "serious" account)

  • hm. if you think there has been no ecological damage from nuclear power technology in America, think again, long and hard.

    Think about the unmitigated disasters the DOE perpetrated in Richland WA and Savannah GA. The hundreds of square miles of land that are going to be uninhabitable for millions of years because of improper disposal and treatment of wastes. Think about the Tritium in the groundwater in Burr Ridge IL where the first nuclear reactor from the University of Chicago was buried.

    In reality, humans don't have a fucking clue what we're doing when it comes to nuclear energy.

  • If you look at the numbers that are online, the tax revenues during the 80s doubled. The problem was that Congressional spending just about tripled. Not all of this was due to military spending, which is a favorite target of the anti-tax cut crowd. According to data from the Concord Coalition (which is for balancing the budget), the increased tax receipts more than offset any increase in military spending. Remember, the Democrats were in control of Congress during this time, so domestic and entitlement spending was not cut, but actually increased. Programs such as REA and the Tennessee Valley Authority accomplished their goals long ago, but they still receive funding. Reagan's appointee to head the REA was in favor of dismantling the agency, but Congress said no. A great deal of the budget deficit in the late 80s and early 90s was due to the Savings and Loan bailout. While the headline grabbing part of this bailout focused on corruption, a lot of this was due to screwed up laws passed by Congress that pushed some S&Ls over the edge.

    Like with individuals, Congress' debt problems have more to do with irresponsible spending that it does with income.

  • -- I remember it; might have been Niven, in a book called N-Space, but I could have been wrong... I like the idea too, but it will probably never happen.
  • I would gladly check the box and donate a couple of extra dollars to the space program if it were an option on my tax form ... especially if it ment that my little girl ( who is crazy about anything having to do with rockets or space ) might someday have a chance to go there.

  • You guys are all gonna realize how insignificant this is when the world ends next year.
  • Of course, the business and corporate interests that pay lots of campaign $$$$ to the congress who made this decision, probably aren't all that interested in the "greenies" obtaining proof that global warming IS real.

  • No, I've read that either this fiscal year or the one beginning in Oct constsis of a real non-Fica surplus. If I can track down where I read it, I will post it.

  • Insane Asylum wrote:

    "The amount of money currently required to explore space is too much for any one person, or even a small group of people, to afford, and any benefits that may be obtained from it are strictly long term"

    Actually, I disagree. I think there could be great incentive to explore space now. There are in fact several private initiatives to do low-orbit transport, private satellite launches, etc. There are plenty of short-term benefits too, with new technology being developed. The point I want to make is that nationalizing space research does for the possible realm of space research what HUD does for afforable housing - segregates, officializes, detracts from.

    Space is expensive, but the potential rewards are huge -- just not guaranteed. I don't want tax money going into it for the same reason I don't want the government to use the Las Vegas Casinos to 'invest' tax money: the wins are great, but the losses are catastropic and the appeal irresistable.

  • The entire NASA budget is a drop in the ocean compared to the entitlement programs and other transfer payments. So you get upset about a tiny sliver of your tax dollar being used for research, development and exploration with an unknown but potentially huge payoff; vs. most of your tax dollar going to undeserving freeloaders so that they can eat, fuck and make more babies to do the same at your expense.


  • "Let people invest their money (rather than take it from them as taxes and 'invest' in wonderful gubmint programs to reach the moon, build pyramids, etc.) and see what transpires from free markets."

    We (the human race) don't have time. When the #### hits the fan, the rich will hunker down in their bunkers and enjoy the extra six months they bought themselves, while the rest of us fry. We too had the opportunity to buy ourselves six extra months, but traded it for 'bread and circuses' instead.

    We're literally in a box of our own making and one of the ways out was in space. The other is distasteful in that it requires being knocked back to the bronze age for a few centuries and the loss of 90% of the people alive today. But, really, it's all O.K. as long as we have Disney and Coca-Cola, we'll get by.

  • while we're at it why not make the whole tax system voluntary and on our tax forms make check-boxes for everything and then we can really find out what's desired and what's not...
  • Actualy this is a good thing.
    NASA is very wasteful in their spending.
    They choose to continu using the SpaceShuttle even though the cost of doing so is constantly rising. Investing the money of one mission into creating a more efficient method would be better, but instead the organization is so bloated that plans take forever to get done. One idea that has alot of potential for launching small vehicles into orbit that NASA refuses to experiment with is the "slingshot" approach. Where you have a very powerfull device that can can launch a moderate sized space craft into orbit with minimum energy and a 100% reuse potential. But instead they rather keep beating the dead horse of the Shuttle.
    Another thing that is completly useless is spending money on manned flights. More data can be gained by using unmanned flights. And actually the missions that retrieve the most scientific data are the ones where no humans are on. The only reason that they continue to have manned missions is so that they can get all the media attention and increased funding.

    So its a organisation that either needs to be seriously put in check. NASA is a joke in the eyes of the scientific community. They should be leading with AI and robotic research that can then be applied into intelligent space vehicles or probes that can accomplish tasks in hostile environments.

    I think we are too obsesed with the "StarTrek and StarWars" idea of space travel, cause that is jsut an unrealistic fantasy right now. Robotic with AI is where space travel is going to be usefull for at least our liftime.

  • And lemme guess... they scrap the shuttle and use expendable launchers until the nebulous day in the future that there's a replacement?

    The Shuttle is a 1970s piece of work. It absolutely needs to be replaced. But it can't be replaced immediately. I don't think cutting the funding for it will help much at all.

    A very antagonistic approach to effect change.


  • Lets not forget one small benefit that came directly from NASA and the space program: the integrated circuit. Because of this, the machine/toy/PC/workstation you are using now exists. Without it, the PC would not exist, along with the internet, WWW, and many other neat things. They created the IC, by the way, because discrete component circuits were too heavy and bulky to be lifted into space.

    Research never looks good when you look at the bottom line. But almost all major breakthroughs come from research into something else. Look up "serendipity" in the dictionary.

  • Explain to me again how they're going to develop a replacement for the shuttle without funding.


  • what was i thinking, you're right. Environmental programs don't help society. Ditch 'em. Let's spend the money shooting some old geezer ex-astronaut into space. That helps society as a whole, even though said society doesn't live in space. We live on earth, but a clean environment is not sexy and high tech. Let's cut off veterans' programs. Old war vets don't help society. Let's shoot up some telecom satellites because more live coverage of the next celebrity death is the only thing worth funding. Let's whack funding for community development. That sure doesn't advance society. Communities are a thing of the past, what with space aged communications and all. I say, do away with mental health programs. Helping mentally ill people can't benefit society as a whole. Maybe we can shoot them and the elderly who rely on Medicare to Mars because spending money on them surely can't benefit society as a whole. Maybe we can do what the National Institutes of Health does, and use federal tax receipts to invent new life-saving procedures and techniques and then give them to the private sector to subsidize their R&D and maximize their profits on the federal dime. That way, we can socialize the risk and privatize the profits. Oh wait, NASA already does that.
  • We are in debt. We pay huge amounts of interest on that debt. Why the hell arn't our congress critters looking at paying off our debt rather than lowering taxes? If we pay off the debt we'll have a lot more money for other things AND be able to lower taxes.

    It's like someone who is finally able to start keeping up with the interest payments on their credit cards saying that they'll only pay the minimum balance and hence remain in debt for the rest of their lives.

    I think our congress critters flunked high school economics.

    Yeah, taxes may be high, but the economy is strong. Let's face it, the tax cuts help the rich much more than the poor since the poor don't pay taxes.
  • I know that NASA has been using Linux a lot, but couldn't they save a good bit of this cut by more completely booting out M$, NT and closed-source Unices? Software costs have got to be a huge part of their budget....

    #include "disclaim.h"
    "All the best people in life seem to like LINUX." - Steve Wozniak
  • As I pointed out in an earlier post, the NASA budget is a drop in the ocean compared to entitlement and other transfer payments. So sure, NASA (or it's function) should be privatized (and the regulatory burdens that help prevent investment removed), but do it after the economy has been freed from the crushing burden of the transfer payments. First things first.
  • Actually the pluto mission is unmanned. It is more commonly known as Pluto Kuiper Express. If you go to for an idea of some of the projects that may be cut.

    There are some really unique problems with going to Pluto. In a nutshell: Keeping the elctronics
    warm enough to remain operational. Because the satellite is far from the sun it receives very little EM energy. How do you power your electronics? There has been a lot of research into this in area. Of particular interest is the Radioisotop AMTEC which was planed for PKE, Europa
    and the Solar Probe mission. Once you get to Pluto, how do you get all of the data back to Earth? Sure, the Deep Space Network is available, but who wants to wait seemingly forever to get the data back? Because there is a limited time fram to get to Pluto due to its orbit, how can you speed up the spacecraft? Chemical rockets are heavy and bulky compared to electric propulsion, but how are you going to power the EP?

    Having taken a senior level course in Spacecraft Systems Design at the U of Michigan, it is amazing how much new technology can be aplied to problems solved long ago. There is always research going on to make something lighter/smaller/more power efficient/more capable. In the end it all results in a spacecraft that weighs less (and hence costs less to launch), can perform more research, and in the end benefits all of society.

    Some interesting links: - general space exloration beyond
    the moon - electric propulsion research at the U of Michigan - AMTEC power systems ml
    The Winter 97 UMAero spacecraft design course atempt at Pluto Kuiper Express

    Russ Moerland
  • Yes, we should ceise all government programs entirely and spend all the money we have on social security, nevermind that the money for *that* program isn't even supposed to come out of our general taxes *at all*.

    I happen to think that it *would* be a better use of or tax dolars to exsplore space, instaid of throwing money at a horibly broken system
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • I don't remember who, where or when, but I liked it very much. It started with the very same checkbox idea.

    A home computer system would allow/force everyone to vote on how they wanted to allocate their taxes. There was even a write in option. I won't spoil the ending. It was very clever.

    Anyone else remember it?
  • You know, I hate to say it, but aside from moral impact, putting a man on the moon didn't _do_ anything for us. We just all felt good that there was a man on the moon for a few minutes. And it cost one hell of a lot of money to get him there. I think if NASA got a budget cut, they might start to think about what projects were useful, which ones weren't and how to do things in a cost-effective fashion. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with the space program, but I do have a problem with the space program wasting taxpayer's dollars that could show a lot more results if put into, say, education.
  • So does Bleu Cheese, and it wouldn't BE Bleu cheese without the fungus. . .

    Your point ???

  • And these are the ones that should be cancelled. The Space Shuttle function should be left to private industry (plain old rockets do a perfectly good job of deploying satellites without having to take riders along) and the International Space Station is pure pork and politics, with no discernible science mission.
  • You wouldn't like it. It's got fungus ;)
  • Well, my local respresentitve (Jim Walsh) just happens to be the chairman of the VA-HUD subcommittee and senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, which encompases the NASA budget as well as 20-30 other programs and agencies (Veterans Medicare and pensions and Housing and Urban Development the biggies, obviously).

    I've recieved some word back from his legislative aide and have got some names of who we should write to to get maximum effect:

    1) Speaker Dennis Hastert of the 14th district in IL.
    2) Majority Leader Dick Armey of the 26th district in TX.
    3) Appropriation Majority Whip Tom Delay of the 22nd district in TX.

    These people are the ones who have control of when the appropriations bill goes to the floor, as well as what cuts make it to the bill.

    Jim Wlash (25th district of New York, central new york area) would be good ( And of course you're local representative.

  • Oh, FWIW, it's arguable that el Presidante is no great friend of the war on drugs; witness the repeat certification of the thoroughly corrupt government of our immediate Southern neighbor, for instance.

    Yeah. Those lousy Rhode Islanders!

  • I suspect you haven't read certain works by H.P. Lovecraft....
  • In the above comments, I have seen several people come out in support of the rather large NASA budget cuts, claiming that space exploration would do better in the hands of a privately-held corporation anyway.

    Okay. Let's think about this. Put aside for a moment the fact that no business in their right profit-seeking mind would spend the kind of money on basic research that NASA does, because most of NASA's payoffs are long-term or non-monetary. Forget for now that many of NASA's programs, such as the educational and highly-beneficial Quest project [] would have no place in a profit-oriented enterprise. Ignore the fact that no business would be able to raise enough money for certain exploration missions even if they wanted to...

    Even then, what possible use does it serve to cripple NASA's space programs? The money saved by the budget cuts doesn't go to private space exploration! There is no logical reason to gut NASA in the name of building a Hilton on the moon. Even if some company wants to launch an orbital golf course, complete with casino and luxury hotel, there is nothing about NASA's existence or funding that prevents that! Think, people!

    And another thing. Some posters above have complained that the linked articles merely whine about all the space exploration programs that will be killed off. They say that most of NASA's plans should still be feasible with only a 10% budget cut, and that NASA is simply trying to exaggerate the situation to stir up public sympathy.

    To that, all I've got to say is: work on your reading comprehension. The article specifically mentions that the budget cuts are targetted at specific programs. The shuttle missions shouldn't be effected much, but the Mars exploration program is essentially dead.

    And as far as I'm concerned, that's unquestionably obscene, for all the reasons others have already mentioned in greater detail: Just plain exploring our universe and learning, for all your idealists. Technological spinoffs that directly benefit our quality of life, for all you pragmatists. Who in their right mind would want to cut the funding for an organization that contributes directly to both of these goals?

    These opinions are my own.


  • A very good friend of mine works for a NASA subcontractor. You remember stories from the military of $30 bolts, etc? Well, the same holds true for NASA. Space exploration, per se, isn't a bad idea, but the agency just spends TOO MUCH MOENY and gets TOO FEW RESULTS. See how cost effective our shuttle program is? It's not at all!
    It was supposed to allow dozens of flights per year at a reasonable cost per each. Now, it's ony a few/year at a cost that could probably build a single launch vehicle each time.
    Maybe it's time to kill NASA and either create a new agency or fund developments in the private sector for government use.

    --Andrew Grossman
  • Do these guys know the meaning of diplomacy?

    "We must acknowledge once and for all that the purpose of diplomacy is to prolong a crisis." (Spock - A taste of Armageddon)
  • by dattaway ( 3088 ) on Tuesday July 27, 1999 @03:35AM (#1781927) Homepage Journal
    I remember the space program as inspirational and brough at many times brought this nation together and helped us appreciate the pretty skies at night in a special way. Now it may be other countries that will take the lead. The countries that fund this research will motivate their people in ways nothing else can. Its all about reaching for the heavens and advancing the sciences. Its to go where no man and woman has gone before.
  • The netherlands, norway. I hear in those contrys you can just walk around naked and stuff.
    there are a lot of contrys that are a lot "freer" and much more contrys where the government is a lot better........
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • by foxtrot ( 14140 ) on Tuesday July 27, 1999 @03:37AM (#1781929)
    Two weeks ago: "Hey, we've got a budget surplus! What will we spend it on?"

    Last week: "Thirty years ago, in his greatest moment, man set foot on the moon"

    This week: "Hey, let's take some money away from the guys who put a man on the moon."


  • Why the comparison with environmental issues ("trashing the biosphere")? Hasn't NASA done more for earth research than nearly any other organization? We wouldn't know nearly as much about the earth's environment if not for earth observation satellites (rainforest depletion for example)? Not to mention the remote observation stations on earth that use commsats to transmit their data.

    You propose waiting until we have a perfect condition here on earth before doing any space research or exploration. That isn't going to happen. We need to develop new technologies to sustain our over-populated world. Otherwise, it will be too late to do the research later.

    Spending money to bring agrarian societies "up to our level" of conspicuous consumption only accelerates the problem, and is somewhat egotistical to boot.

    The money we spend on NASA is fair for return, and has been cut plenty (in adjusted dollars) over the years from its heyday. I don't think our current economic situation justifies a severe cutback this year.

    At least if it's going to be done (a bad idea), give NASA a lump sum, and let them spend it as they wish. Don't let the government tell them what programs they must keep and what they must cut.
  • Its truely disturbing, the the country the rest of the world relies on, and watches/learns from, is cutting back on it's space budget. As the only country in the world to have a space program worth it's salt (with rockets that don't explode on liftoff, generally speaking), the international community should start looking at possibly funding NASA, or starting up their own space agency. The world relies on NASA (and the US) to be their 'space embassaders' (god, I wish I could spell), but they are cutting their budget during a critical time in the Mars project.

    I think it is incredably short sighted of the US Congresspeople (or however your system works) to cut funding to what could be considered one of mankinds greatest projects.

    Todd - The pissed off Canadian.

  • mr marbles, in response to my suggestion that the space program resembled fascism, said:

    "sure we can then divert all this tax money to beefing up the military (during peace times) and spend some more on weapon reasearch. im quite sure these activities would be much more valuable to the tax payers and give them their "benefit of reward". if anything the science and space programs don't get enough funding. "

    Most millitary spending is wasteful and harmful. Having a standing army at all is something that I accept, but reluctantly.

    But I wouldn't suggest scraping money from the space program frying pan into the military fire, no sirree. This country's military is too ripe for exploitation already (note use of military forces as domestic police forces already ... not good.)

    But when it comes to the space program, what would be "enough funding"? If I supported the space program as an essentially perfect investment -- that is, I always got greater benefit from money put into it than I could in any other way -- I can't think of a truly adequate funding level, because until I start cutting into my freezer full of turkeys, it's all going to come back threefold, right? In a world of infinite money and time, it wouldn't matter -- just do / fund everything you want, whenever you want. In a world of tradeoffs and limited resources (the real world), the surest way to negate individual freedom is to subordinate it to the will of an organized elite for the attainment of artificial, arbitrary 'goals,' 'guidelines' or 'milestones' which represent avarice rather than worth.

    Again, I think space / Space is neat ... I think it's great that people walked on the moon. The question now is, What For? To justify more moonwalks?

    Let people invest their money (rather than take it from them as taxes and 'invest' in wonderful gubmint programs to reach the moon, build pyramids, etc.) and see what transpires from free markets.

  • Considering all of the advances made in engineering and science due to the work done at NASA one would think that Congress would view the money as an investment. Instead Congress has decided to take the short term view once again, this is espeacially troubling considering the budget surplus.

    While I personelly am a big supporter of NASA, I just hope that Congress will use the money for something more lasting than a breif tax cut.
  • I keep hearing this from my gun toting, pick-up truck driving, tax cuts for the rich while we shut down basic government services like primary education (you don't want a school voucher so you can send your kid to a nice, righteous, religious school where they don't teach that unGodly "evolution?" NO! I want a properly funded public school system!) basic health care for our citizens, and low cost housing for the disabled and elderly. Just what the hell am I paying taxes for anyway?

    Oh yeah, to pay interest on a debt built up by Republicans during the eighties while they "cut" taxes for the rich so that wealth may "trickle down" to us street rabble; all in the name of creating a "fair" tax system. Right.

    So now they're about to eviscerate yet another government agency ("Since when has the government ever done anything right?" Oh yeah? When was the last time you saw a private corporation dig a Panama Canal, design and build a Nuclear bomb, or put a man on the moon? What a bunch of neo-corporate elitist CRAP! ) which has on the whole generated more economic benefit for private corporations across the US than any other government agency (publicly funded University research not withstanding); fruits grown from basic research no private corporation could possibly afford given their per-quarter bottom line, short term or bust, thinking (restrictiveness).

    So, the point of all this? My right wing tax cutting, pick-up truck with a rack of shotguns and a 30 ought six in the back, dodging bullets and taxes in one stroke, friends -- they often offer as a response to my distaste for how government has been bought off by private corporate interests, thus forcing middle of the road political norms over to what would have been called "right wing extremism" when I was a child -- they say "You don't like America, GO SOMEWHERE ELSE! MOVE!"

    Now I think they're right. As citizens we don't stand a chance compared to GE, AT&T, IT&T, Microsoft, or any other huge conglomerates worth more than most third world countries combined. We've lost our country -- it's time to move on. If enough skilled and technically savvy workers just up and emigrated our of the US to other spots, where rent is cheap, taxes at least go somewhere useful (instead of paying interest on the debt and the military budget), and used the net to our advantage -- working anywhere we damn well pleased, the United States might see a noticeable drop in their tax base. And when the congressmen and senators ask, "where did that money go to?" we can answer: "elsewhere"

    I'm pretty fed up with my government at this point... I don't think my views will ever be represented in the Legislative or Executive branches, and the Judicial branch is a complete joke given how badly stacked it was in the eighties by Reagan/Bush. If we keep cutting education such that kids can't even learn basic reading and arithmetic skills, while at the same time cutting basic research needed for long term growth, this country's will go down the tubes. If you can't stop it, think ahead and FLEE!
  • for 25 years the internet was "useless." it was only the domain of academics and researchers providing little of any value.

    now i can research multiple sclerosis in minutes if i learn a friend has just been diagnosed with it. or keep in contact with friends from when i was 6. or parents can watch their kids at daycare, and extended families can see pictures of the newest members of their family. people can telecommute reducing traffic congestion and pollution. we can search for aliens and crack keys. we can collaborate and creat art, literature and operating systems.

    all that from a 25 year program that for most of it's history has been a useless gov't funded program useful to only researchers and academics.

    as we bask in an internet boosted economy, i wonder just what it would be like if we seriously invest in space exploration for the next 25 years. if instead of constantly checking the bottom line we just tried to explore, learn, research and build.
  • The US government just doesnt get it: what's going to keep this world intact and free of another major war (i.e. world war III) is not arming all of the countries, but rather more science, more knowledge, and more information. The Internet is just starting to get information to everyone, and then this happens. How long is it going to take the US government to completely cut the budget of NASA?

    Rajiv Varma
  • It appears as if the article from SpaceViews was a little slanted . Of course NASA is going to wine if their budget gets cut, I'd wine if mine got cut. In reality do you really think all the programs will be cut that they say will be cut? Origianally anyone flipps and says, "We lost 10% of our budget and now we can't do 90% of what we were going to do". When in reality they actually will probably do some of their own budgeting and end up doing 90% of the projects they claim will be absolutely cut.

    The next point is, do we really need all this stuff. Yeah, it's really cool and all... To boldly go to pluto, where no man has gone before. Ok, that's great, but if I (as a US taxpayer) am paying for it, I want to know why. It's a great achievement, but what's it for. I think we need to at least consider the validity of some of these projects before we get all flustered that they're getting cut... and maybe they do have some grand purpose, in which case they're worth supporting to some point. What that point is? ...

    Ok, last point. This one really kinda made me chuckle. The article from SpaceViews claims that we got so much surplus that we don't even know what to do with it! hello!? Can anyone say Multi-Trillion dollar debt? Could some one do a bar chart between "dozens of billions of dollars" and our multi-trillion dollar debt? I can at least assure you it would be a very un-interesting chart. I think it's great that the government is finally being respoinsible and starting to resolve this huge debt. Now the question...

    What is NASA doing that is beneficial and why is it work 13.? billion instead of 12.? billion. I'm interested on views and info on what NASA is doing and potential benefits. I realize there have been many in the past, but what are the current benefits?

  • ..a budget surplus? what happened to it?

    the guise of the budget surplus was achieved by mis^H^H^Hreappropriating funds that SHOULD have been used to stabilize social security, thus leaving anyone who would be elegible after 2020, out in the cold. I'm not especially FOR or AGAINST social security persay, but I'm steamed that I will continue to pay this tax when it's common knowledge that no one in born after 1970 will be able to collect a reasonable benefit amount.

    Same old BS. Congress lies to us. Surprise!

  • Do you remember the 'strike' against Kosovo?
    That costed a lot of money for the US (and other countries), but no one protested. And at the end of the war, the military asked for more money, and I think that they'll get it...

    What about NASA? Is the solution crashing an asteroid somewhere in USA? Or waiting for one, to crash...

    Short-sightedness sucks ;((
    (And we didn't even speak of the rainforests.)

    I don't even dare pose the question that says: Where would be we if all military funding was redirected to science research....
    Oh I know... Then probably we wouldn't have an A-bomb, and our power plants would operate by using nuclear fission.
  • In case anyone is interested in why there are so many knee-jerk reactionists around and why they are able to influence others to come around to their thinking, it's easy... ignorance.

    I don't mean that they are uneducated necessarily. What I mean is that nobody understands what our government does anymore. Nobody gets the whole story, not even Congress or the President. Between closed-door sessions, backroom deals, and secret projects and agencies, we don't have any idea where all the money goes. Where does one go to get a complete and throrough breakdown of what money went where and for what purpose? Something like this:


    $50,000,000................Secret Agency A...........Head-mounted lasers for sharks

    $100,000,000..............White House.................Cat Food

    $500............................Dept. Of Trans..............Pot Hole Repair

    You get the picture. I wouldn't trust congress to balance my checkbook (I'd prolly end up with a debt nearly that of the National one), let alone the national budget. Until we have a very large measure of disclosure (and a way to verify the information), we won't be able to understand where our money goes or why.

    I may be off-base about this, but it's the way I see it. I haven't ever seen any kind of real breakdown of where our taxes go. Only those that are done in the broadest terms. If anyone can point me to something more helpful, I'd be both amazed and grateful.

  • by Bucko ( 15043 ) on Tuesday July 27, 1999 @03:54AM (#1781971)
    I'm a former NASAite, so I've sort of seen it from the inside. My take is that NASA isn't necessarily the best vehicle for Space Exploration anymore, and perhaps, never was.

    Don't get me wrong. What NASA did in the 60s with Mercury, Gemini and Apollo was magnificant. And the shuttle ain't a bad feat either, considering the effects of politics on the whole thing.

    But that's the whole problem. NASA has always been a political creature, and did it's cold-war job of brute-forcing our way to the Moon very well. It's the wrong organization for today, I think.

    I suspect that the very presence of NASA hampered other groups from trying alternatives to get into space reliably and cheaply. At least, that seems to be happening now. The need to get to space exists (more than ever!) and the means exists. The systems, organizations and "institutional knowledge" does not, because NASA has pretty much kept it locked up.

    The g'ment did a great job bootstrapping space exploration. It's time for private enterprise to carry this burden farther, and although NASA may have some appropriate role in advancing to our goals, our tax money may be better spent elsewhere.

  • To boldly go to pluto, where no man has gone before. Ok, that's great, but if I (as a US taxpayer) am paying for it, I want to know why.

    The whole point of NASA is that we don't know whats out there. Maybe going to Pluto is a waste of time. The point is, we won't know until we actually go. For God's sake, man, people believed the moon was made of CHEESE until we actually went. We can't just sit back on Earth and hope to learn much about the universe.
  • Hey, I live in DC so I can't write a Congressperson, even though I'm only 4 blocks from the capitol. I gots yer taxation w/o representation right here, but seriously . . .

    I think they should cut NASA's budget. The appropriations bill in which it's funded is facing a huge cut in its allocation this year from fy 1999 funding levels, down 12.9 percent in the House 302(b) allocation. That bill also funds labor, Veterans, housing and community development programs as well as the EPA and other independent agencies. These programs shouldn't carry the load of the cuts so NASA can keep showboating. I mean, NASA has it down with gimmicky space shots (first female commander, big deal, first teacher in space, oops, that one didn't work) timed to launch during the appropriations process. And wasteful space shots as well; we don't need to send a manned mission to launch a satellite. That's a waste of resources. Plus, like any good defense contractor, they've spread their facilities and suppliers across the country so darn near every congresstool can vote for saving jobs in her/his community.

    One of the reasons we have a budget surplus is discretionary spending was placed under spending limits in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, and those caps get tight this year. In a show of political impotence last year, Congress crumbled under the weight of having to enforce the caps and lost in a last minute spending frenzy label "emergency spending." It will happen again this year and the needed rethinking of NASA's mission will be postponed yet another year. Face it, when it comes down to big roads, shinny guns and tanks, and super dooper spaceships, we have essentially 535 little boys on Capitol Hill who will bend over backwards to buy the latest prettiest toy while needed programs in other parts of the federal government go wanting, but don't get me started on that . . . . .
  • What we -need- is not some silly new taxing scheme.
    We need some way to defend this kind of interests (OUR interests) in the senate/congress/wherever.
    We need to be able to stand up for this kind of things.

    The problem is that minority viewpoints are not being heard in a major way. Why? Because the voting system doesn't allow it. What does a political party want? Well, for the majority to vote on them. How does it achieve that? Trying to satisfy everyone at once _AND NOT OFFENDING THE MAJORITY IN ANY WAY_.

    That is clearly wrong. It should be possible for a political party to represent a minority that disagrees with the majority, and still thrive.

    This is not impossible. But it does require a major overhaul of the voting system. It can be done.
  • by AlexZander ( 33064 ) on Tuesday July 27, 1999 @04:01AM (#1781988)
    I find it terribly curious that NASA needs that top 10% of its budget to do anything remotely productive with itself.. I mean, what is NASA going to do if it doesn't fly major interplanetary missions? Sit there and develop new rockets that it doesn't have the money to launch?

    I've noticed some comments that the government is using the money against the national debt.. let me tell you, that kind of money is going to make no difference in the huge almost bottomless well that is our national debt. Of course, the world owes US so much money that nobody really cares either way..

    And of course, what good is a debt-free nation going to do on a burned out used up asteroid that will be Earth if we don't do something about it, or get the hell off it.

    I am thoroughly impressed by the government's shortsightedness.. but I suppose I should expect it. Not only was it idiocy to even PROPOSE such a budget cut, it's stark, raving mad to actually approve it.

    I hope that this issue creates enough turmoil in the techie pool (because you know that we care and it's hard to say outside of us who doesn't) to get this budget cut reversed. Hell.. I'll pay MORE taxes to get to another planet in my lifetime..

  • Of course, that's not exactly the right way to look at it. The CEO of the United Way got a multi-million dollar salary a while ago (maybe still does). That seems absurd, right? Millions of dollars to the CEO of a charity? Well, he was good and could have been making lots more than that somewhere else. Sure, they could have gotten someone who would work for $30,000 a year, but they wouldn't have been a very good CEO.

    Now, I doubt anyone thinks our Representatives and Senators are particularly good at what they do; it really does take a certain sleaze to go into the business. But think of what they would all be earning if they weren't in Congress. True, many of them are independently wealthy but the point of the salaries is that if some brilliant person (with just enough sleaze!) crawls his way out of the gutter and starts looking for a job, he'll consider being a Congressperson. The salary is much lower than what he might be earning otherwise (thus the perks or love of country has something to do with the motivation), but it is enough to be somewhat enticing. It may not be right, but that is a somewhat valid justification. $130k is nowhere near what most of these people would be earning if they weren't in Congress.

    I'm still not sure myself if I'd rather have a moron with his heart in the right place or a genius in it for the money running my country. Who's going to hurt you more?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Firstly, it is time for the government to quit with its virtual monopoly of the space industry.

    There are a number of private companies who are capable of handling the deployment of satellites.

    There are a number of private companies who are capable of developing reusable launch vehicles.

    I'm frankly quite excited about the new emphasis on private investment in space, as oppsed to government investment. Outside of Hubble and John Glenn, NASA has done little to forward the exploration of space in the last ten years anyway.

    Its time for change.
  • by RenQuanta ( 3274 ) on Tuesday July 27, 1999 @04:12AM (#1782008) Homepage
    I think it's about time that our boys and girls in the House [], and the Senate [], felt the full brunt of being Slashdotted. Follow those links to immediately find your local Representative and Senators' home page (don't forget each state has two senators, write them both). Email addys shouldn't be but three clicks away.

    I'm not talking about flames, mind you. But let's show them how digital democracy can work. If everyone reading my comment were to email their congressman, maybe even send some snailmail (that may actually recieve more attention) perhaps they'd get the message. I suppose non-US citizens could email too, the more the merrier. (My only concern is that such folk aren't their constituents, ie, hold no power over them, but it never hurts to try)

    I pay pretty close attention to politics, and not to try and start party wars with other /.ers, but I expect this is a Republican thing here. Since part of their party platform is tax cuts, they have to pay for it somehow. The surplus is needed for Social Security & maybe Medicare, but if the Repubs want to have a hope at passing the size cut they just did ($700 billion, which Clinton has declared he will veto) the Appropriations committee is likely looking for any way it possibly can to scrape together more funds. The fact that Republicans have never liked any public works doesn't help. Remember when they wanted to slash funding for PBS? They think the private sector (one of their main voting bases) can do everything. I don't agree, which may explain why I'm a card carrying Democrat. If any Democrats on the committee were involved, though, I'm just as disgusted at them.

    Just as a closing point, to me this underlies the very reason why nerds need to stop living in such an insular world, ignoring things that aren't directly very techie. This comes as no surprise to me, but perhaps does to others. I wonder how many Slashdotters knew the reasons before I put forth my explination, or how many others have realistic explinations of their own. Perhaps if we all got more involved in politics, then such incidents would occur less often. At the very least, we wouldn't be be bowled over by them.

  • As for one of the small ways in which basic research at NASA has impacted your life, see the June 1999 issue of Dr. Dobb's Journal. One of the recipients of the "Excellence in Programming" awards is Don Becker, who works with CESDIS at the Goddard Space Flight Center. The whole article can be found at htm , but here is just a snippet:

    "To implement such a system, however, Becker, who is a staff scientist with the Center of Excellence in Space Data and Information Sciences (or CESDIS, part of the University Space Research Association, a nonprofit consortium of universities that sponsors space-related research), had to come to grips with Linux's unstable networking capabilities, and the lack of Linux support for off-the-shelf network cards. Consequently, Becker ended up writing enhancements to the kernel network subsystem to support faster I/O on high-speed networks, device drivers for countless Ethernet cards(see ml), and a distributed shared memory package."

    In short, basic research rarely seems like a good investment in the face of countless current, legitimate priorities because it's payoffs aren't immediate or predictible. However, if we stop doing things just to test our own limits, then we are freezing our current state of advancement as a species and saying that we don't need to progress any further. Where would we be today if we made these decissions 50 years ago, or 100, etc.. ?
  • It =HAD= advanced flight research programs. It =HAD= research into hypersonic flight. It =HAD= considerable research into Earth's environment.

    Some of these programs have been scrapped entirely, others will probably be abandoned in this round of cuts.

    You want to know what NASA could have done that would have been useful? Look at the advanced passanger aircraft they were developing, with a blended wing body. No private company is going to foot the bill for resaearch of that kind. It's cheaper to build things that crash than research new designs that might not.

    You want to know why it'd be useful to go to Mars, or Pluto? Because new conditions require new technologies. Your non-stick frying pans, velcro fasteners, and pens that work upside-down weren't made for the fun of it. Those were necessary technologies for space.

    New things are invented out of necessesity. ALWAYS. That's why wars tend to spur so many inventions. I'd rather see the world encourage more peaceful incentives. If that means sending men to the furthest reaches of the solar system, so be it!

    Then, there are the finite resources of Planet Earth. I don't like seeing entire mountains vanish off the map, forever, because construction workers want a gazillion tonnes of cement to build stuff that's going to get demolished ten years down the road. It would be environmentally, geographically and archaeologically better to mine asteroids than consume the planet we're standing on. But nobody is going to start doing that, if organisations such as NASA don't produce the technology needed to do so. Private companies aren't going to be willing to invest in research like that.

    Is it short-sighted to whittle away NASA? YES! Yes, NASA is top-heavy with beaurocracy, which it needs to do something about, urgently, but without NASA and other space agencies leading the way, nobody is going to follow into space. We only have telecom satellites because the Russian space agency and NASA showed that it was possible. Arthur C. Clarke's famous letter was important, but on it's own, would have just been ignored as idle fantasy.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    You've all taken time to read/post here, so why not write to your senators and congressmen?
    Go to [] and []. Both make it exceptionally easy to write the people representing people. All you need to know is your state and zip code!

    For the first time in my life, I've written to Congress. (It took less than five minutes.) I think you all should too, whether you support or hate the proposed cuts. If you choose to write, please be civil (i.e. avoid swears and direct insults.)
  • by Eccles ( 932 ) on Tuesday July 27, 1999 @08:36AM (#1782094) Journal

    At least for the U.S. debt, I believe the vast majority is T-bills, Treasury Bonds, and U.S. Savings Bonds. Individuals finance the debt because they make a decent, stable return on their capital, which is represented in the Federal budget as the interest payment on the national debt.
  • You can also look at the Navy as an example too. The power plants in any nuclear ship are standardized for each class of ship. The biggest thing in the US is getting by all the legal and enviromental impact challenges. This would be a lot less if the power plants were more standard. Training would have to be standardized, so I would expect that it would be easier to see if the people running the plants were qualified and operating it safely.

    I can't stand how scientificly ignorant this country is becoming. Proven technology/methods are automatically rejected as 'bad' just because they have nuclear or radiation associated with them. Food irradiation is an example of this. Even though this technique would cut food borne bacteria down, the NIMBYs oppose it because they think the resulting food would be radioactive and they would get cancer. I guess you better not tell them about the radiation produced by their microwaves or eat any food in Europe.

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