The federal government seems determined to spend money on scientific research,
and the general public seems to approve of every such project, without regard
to the limitations of government set forth in the Constitution, or the lack
of an end product. This is partly due to apathy and a lack of cognitive
thinking skills on the part of the average taxpayer. Some of the blame
also goes to TV "journalists" who report everything the government does without
ever questioning the wisdom or the cost.
The most famous multi-billion-dollar government research projects include the
Superconducting Super Collider (partially completed, then abandoned, near Waxahachie, Texas),
and the Hubble Space Telescope. If you ask a government official about the
purpose of these (or any of several other) multi-billion dollar projects, the answer
always includes something about trying to "develop a theory about the origin of the
universe". In fact, the whole purpose of the "basic research" in projects of
this kind is to disprove the Bible's story of creation, which is at the very least
a "theory about the origin of the universe", and is widely available
at little or no cost.
Copyright 2016 by Andrew K. Dart, all rights reserved.
Middle class taxpayers are often perturbed when they learn about the various ways
that the government wastes money — especially by funding pointless "pork
barrel" projects. The most wasteful of these are collectively known as "bridges
to nowhere." NASA fits easily into that category.
The 2015 appropriation for NASA is $18,010,200,000. [Source] This of course is
without the Space Shuttle -- as NASA astronauts have to ride Russian rockets to the International Space Station.
It is time for average Americans to begin questioning the assumptions made about extravagant
scientific research done at the taxpayers' expense. This is especially true
of NASA. No one seems to notice that almost everything done by NASA is trivial,
such as the endless series of manned space flights ostensibly conducted to study such things as
the effects of weightlessness on plants and insects. (Who cares what those effects
might be?) The only activity in space that could be authorized by the Constitution
would be projects connected in some way to national defense. But the US military
has its own rockets and apparently has little use for NASA facilities.
NASA is wasteful and inefficient, squandering the public's goodwill
and $13.5 billion annually. While the government has a legitimate defense
role in space, commercial ventures, and most scientific research and exploration,
ideally should be left to the private sector.
space program is funded by tax dollars -- the redistribution of wealth from one person to
another. While space research is perhaps the least offensive recipient of government
funding, the fundamental problem remains: space research has nothing to do with the
legitimate function of government.
Unfortunately the percentage of Americans who are familiar with the Constitution
and its intended purpose seems to be steadily declining, as is the number of
taxpayers who understand the meaning of a billion
spending is a problem larger than NASA.) My concern in
particular is the enormous cost of the International Space Station, "a
financial sinkhole whose only purpose is its own
an endless string of pointless space shuttle flights, and the apparent fact that the only
return on our investment is political payback.
When President Reagan first proposed it, the International Space Station was supposed to cost
$8 billion. Through the years, that number climbed like a rocket, even though the station design
shrank in size and scope. At one point, the General Accounting Office, Congress' investigative arm,
estimated the bill for the orbiting research platform and the shuttle flights to support it was approaching
$100 billion. 
Back in the early 1980s, the NASA administrator's office ignored higher cost estimates and told the White House
that the price tag was $8 billion. [P]residential counselor Edwin Meese approved the
$8 billion price tag, saying, "Let's get our foot in the water so that we have a commitment and then we
can worry about the long-term costs
later."  [See note A below.]
Space Station Alpha began as an instrument of the Cold War when President Reagan announced its inception in
1984. ... NASA dedicated the next eight years to spending an astounding $10 billion dollars repeatedly
producing and then discarding mere blueprints and other paper studies, all without even cutting a single piece
of metal or attaching a single bolt. Once the USSR fell in 1991, though, the Cold War justification for
the program (if not NASA itself) essentially vanished. The defense industry approached a recession, and
potentially unemployed aerospace specialists needed work. Thus, in 1993 former president Bill Clinton
ordered NASA to "streamline" the station and also include Russia (a country where the Gore family had
reportedly had very lucrative financial dealings in the past, thanks to some friends who apparently deserved
some form of reciprocation).
NASA has overspent by some 4.8 billion dollars on the ISS, placing itself on course for a final
construction tab of more than 30 billion as compared to an original forecast of 17.4 billion.
By some unofficial estimates, the total cost of building and operating the ISS over its 10-year lifespan could
be 100 billion dollars.
Originally sold as an $8 billion program, [the Space Station]
will cost more than $94 billion to build, launch and operate,
according to the U.S. General Accounting Office.
The main reason NASA continues to waste billions of taxpayer
dollars every year on the Space Station and other obsolete
programs is because it is afraid. NASA fears taxpayers won't
buy a space program built on real ... space science. Instead,
NASA feeds taxpayers the warmed-over mush that the space
program is the latest foreign policy fad, another government
public works program, or a serious way to cure breast cancer.
Most outrageous of all, NASA has now dusted off its plans to
send humans to Mars -- a truly nutty proposal by George Bush ["41"]
that was estimated to cost $400 billion.
[A] growing number of critics (including the National Research
Council) characterize the [space] station's worth as
scientifically dubious. For instance, many of the medical
studies NASA hopes to conduct have already been performed
aboard Russia's Mir space station.
The International Space Station serves little or no military purpose other than to
pacify the Russian government. It is simply a mechanism to funnel money from the US
into the Russian economy. The Cold War is over! We no longer need to intimidate
the Russians by making pinpoint landings on the Moon, or by performing other feats
of high technology to prove our military superiority.
For the Clinton administration, the space station
program remains a highly visible symbol of cooperation
in the post-Cold War world and a concrete way to funnel
money to Russia as the former communist nation struggles
to convert to a free market economy.
The Clinton administration brought Russia into the space
station program in 1993, even though Russian participation
did not add scientific value to the project. The administration
has not answered congressional concerns that Russia has diverted
some of the more then $600 million in NASA cash it has received
to modernize its strategic nuclear missile fleet. The Strategic
Rocket Forces controls the Russian Space Agency. NASA has not
audited the cash sent to Russia.
The space shuttle is not about scientific research; it is about perpetuating
jobs at NASA by fueling patriotic pride, which helps to prevent people from
asking tough questions about the costs and the benefits. And the scheme
works well, until and unless there is a catastrophic failure. Anyone who
believes that we need to learn more about "the effects of weightlessness on
ants and bees" (the purported mission of the last flight of space shuttle Columbia,
which ended in the deaths of all seven astronauts) probably also believes that
John Glenn rode the space shuttle in 1998 for purely scientific
reasons. In reality, a ride on the space shuttle is the ultimate political
junket. In Senator Glenn's case, it was regarded by some as payback for
stonewalling in the 1997 Thompson hearings. These hearings were
conducted to investigate ties between the Clinton White House and communist Chinese
campaign cash and the illegal use of government resources for political fundraising.
"All of the reasons for this flight spewed out by NASA are
lies. If the scientific data is so important, where is Glenn's
backup?" stated [Space Frontier Foundation President Rick] Tumlinson,
pointing out that every other U.S. Payload Specialist flown on the
Shuttle since 1984 has had a backup, with the exception of similar
junkets for Senator Jake Garn and Congressman Bill Nelson. "NASA was
told to do this by the White House, or volunteered to do it for the
White House. Everything else was made up after the fact."
Sixteen days after the [Thompson] Committee was forced to end its
investigation, on January 16, 1998, NASA "named John Glenn to the
crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery, scheduled to launch in October...."
"Sending Ohio's Sen. John Glenn, who in 1962 became the first American
in orbit, back into space on the shuttle in 1998 was NASA's version of
bread and circuses."
The political corruption of space started with Sen. Jake Garn, who
demanded a shuttle ride in 1985 as part of his "legislative oversight" -- a
silly excuse for a junket. It was the first time an American grabbed a
space seat as a privilege, not as an honor won through merit in open
competition with other brave Americans. The political stench continued
with Rep. Bill Nelson's flight eight months later -- another taxpayer-paid
ticket to an orbital Disneyland for VIPs.
Manned space flights do almost nothing that cannot be done just as well and far cheaper with
unmanned space vehicles.
[A]nything the military wants to do in space can be done better
by unmanned spy, communications and, potentially, armed satellites. ... Most
space researchers believe that unmanned space vehicles, which can
fly anywhere in the solar system, can accomplish more scientific research
than any number of shuttle flights, or a space station confined to a
low Earth orbit.
[C]ritics argue that... much of the research conducted
in space can be done just as well on Earth, and that the
projects are only on the shuttle or space station for
their promotional value. NASA justifies its expenditures in part
by saying experiments that take advantage of the microgravity of
orbiters might one day lead to scientific breakthroughs such as a
cure for cancer, AIDS or other devastating diseases.
"Anybody who believes that, I have a bridge to sell them," said
Robert L. Park, a University of Maryland professor of physics
who in 1997 testified before Congress about NASA's research on
behalf of the American Physical Society.
"Building a $50 billion station to handle scientific experiments valued in only
hundreds of millions of dollars is like insisting on a chauffeur-driven limousine
to go to the corner store for milk."
The shuttle is far more expensive and less reliable than expendible rockets,
such as the Saturn 1B.
The Saturn 1B cost $3.4 billion to develop and $156 million per
flight to operate. It was able to lift about 40,000 pounds into
orbit. However, rather than continue to use the Saturn 1B, NASA
spent ten times as much money to develop a vehicle that cost twice
as much to perform the same job. The Space Shuttle represents no
great payload improvement over the Saturn 1B. Like the Saturn, the
Shuttle is able to lift 40,000 pounds into orbit. Yet it cost
$34.7 billion to develop and, by NASA's own rather low estimate,
$301 million to operate, per flight.
By another estimate, it costs approximately $340 million to launch a space
The space shuttle was built and maintained to please clashing
constituencies, not to do a clearly defined job for which there
was an economic and technical need. The shuttle was to launch
satellites for the Department of Defense and private contractors -- which
could be done more cheaply by lightweight, disposable rockets. It was
to carry scientific experiments -- which could be done more
efficiently by unmanned vehicles. But one "need" came before
all technical issues: NASA's political need for showy manned vehicles.
The space shuttle is a disaster, having led to the deaths of 14 astronauts. It costs too much to
use it to launch payloads into space, and over its more than 20 year life, it has been proven to be
unreliable. Cheaper, unmanned vehicles are more useful and reliable for putting payloads into
The space program was important to the US during the 1960's, if only to
make it obvious to other countries that the US had enormous rockets which
could accurately deliver a heavy payload (in particular, an atomic bomb) anywhere
in the world. In 1976, US military aircraft were using transistorized electronics
while the Soviets were still using vacuum tubes.
While the space program yielded many successes in years past,
taxpayers are no longer getting their money's worth from a
space program that focuses on repeating the deeds of yesterday. But
NASA's current priorities allow the scientifically and
financially bankrupt $100 billion Space Station to absorb a
larger and larger share of the NASA budget.
Americans must come to the realization that the federal government
does not have infinite amounts of money to spend. In fact it has no money,
other than the money it has taken out of your paycheck and mine! The manned space
program is an indirect way to buy votes, by associating the Space Shuttle with patriotic
pride. NASA's apparent goal is to make space flight look like a worthwhile endeavor,
at least to the masses who don't give it much thought.
But it is not the proper role of government to take money from its citizens (through taxes,
which are paid under the threat of imprisonment) and spend it on the pet projects of the
It is time to pull the plug on NASA and privatize — or just scrap — everything
NASA does. Then, if it is commercially attractive to fly to Mars, some corporation
will undertake the project and reap the rewards. But if such a project is just
a bottomless money pit, capitalism and healthy skepticism will take over, and space
exploration will return to the pages of science fiction.
There is no reason to spend billions of dollars on additional moon missions or on manned
missions to Mars, just for the sake of busy work. NASA has become an untouchable "sacred
cow" that no politician dares to oppose. But in reality, NASA represents pork barrel
politics at its worst.