Is Space Exploration Worth the Cost? A Freakonomics Quorum

Warning: what follows is a long blog post, perhaps better suited for a newspaper or magazine, and it will at times require your close attention. But I believe it is easily one of the best quorums we’ve ever published here. I’d like to thank all the participants for their thoughtful, well-considered, and fascinating answers, and for taking the time to share their very considerable expertise and experience.

Pretend that instead of being responsible for your household budget, which means paying for rent or a mortgage, transportation, some schooling costs, groceries, healthcare, vacation, etc., you are instead responsible for a considerably larger budget that provides a variety of services for about 300 million people including the maintenance of an army, protecting the borders, etc. In other words, pretend you are responsible for the U.S. Federal budget. And now ask yourself how much of that money you want to spend on manned space travel, and why.

We gathered up a group of space authorities — G. Scott Hubbard, Joan Vernikos, Kathleen M. Connell, Keith Cowing, and David M. Livingston, and John M. Logsdon — and asked them the following:

Is manned space exploration worth the cost? Why or why not?

Their responses are below. As I suggested above, take your time. For the impatient among you, here are a few highlights:

Logsdon on a not-so-obvious incentive for manned space travel: “Space exploration can also serve as a stimulus for children to enter the fields of science and engineering.”

Vernikos on the R.O.I. of space travel: “Economic, scientific and technological returns of space exploration have far exceeded the investment. … Royalties on NASA patents and licenses currently go directly to the U.S. Treasury, not back to NASA.”

Cowing on space expenditures relative to other costs: “Right now, all of America’s human space flight programs cost around $7 billion a year. That’s pennies per person per day. In 2006, according to the USDA, Americans spent more than $154 billion on alcohol. We spend around $10 billion a month in Iraq. And so on.”

I hope you enjoy their answers, and learn from them, as much as I did.

G. Scott Hubbard, professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University and former director of the NASA Ames Research Center:

The debate about the relative merits of exploring space with humans and robots is as old as the space program itself. Werner Von Braun, a moving force behind the Apollo Program that sent humans to the moon and the architect of the mighty Saturn V rocket, believed passionately in the value of human exploration — especially when it meant beating the hated Soviet Empire. James Van Allen, discoverer of the magnetic fields that bear his name, was equally ardent and vocal about the value of robotic exploration.

There are five arguments that are advanced in any discussion about the utility of space exploration and the roles of humans and robots. Those arguments, in roughly ascending order of advocate support, are the following:

1. Space exploration will eventually allow us to establish a human civilization on another world (e.g., Mars) as a hedge against the type of catastrophe that wiped out the dinosaurs.
2. We explore space and create important new technologies to advance our economy. It is true that, for every dollar we spend on the space program, the U.S. economy receives about $8 of economic benefit. Space exploration can also serve as a stimulus for children to enter the fields of science and engineering.
3. Space exploration in an international context offers a peaceful cooperative venue that is a valuable alternative to nation state hostilities. One can look at the International Space Station and marvel that the former Soviet Union and the U.S. are now active partners. International cooperation is also a way to reduce costs.
4. National prestige requires that the U.S. continue to be a leader in space, and that includes human exploration. History tells us that great civilizations dare not abandon exploration.
5. Exploration of space will provide humanity with an answer to the most fundamental questions: Are we alone? Are there other forms of life beside those on Earth?

It is these last two arguments that are the most compelling to me. It is challenging to make the case that humans are necessary to the type of scientific exploration that may bring evidence of life on another world. There are strong arguments on both sides. Personally, I think humans will be better at unstructured environment exploration than any existing robot for a very long time.

There are those who say that exploration with humans is simply too expensive for the return we receive. However, I cannot imagine any U.S. President announcing that we are abandoning space exploration with humans and leaving it to the Chinese, Russians, Indians, Japanese or any other group. I can imagine the U.S. engaging in much more expansive international cooperation.

Humans will be exploring space. The challenge is to be sure that they accomplish meaningful exploration.

Joan Vernikos, a member of the Space Studies Board of the National Academy and former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division:

Why explore? Asked why he kept trying to climb Everest, English mountaineer George Mallory reputedly replied, “Because it was there.” Exploration is intrinsic to our nature. It is the contest between man and nature mixed with the primal desire to conquer. It fuels curiosity, inspiration and creativity. The human spirit seeks to discover the unknown, and in the process explore the physical and psychological potential of human endurance.

There have always been the few risk-takers who ventured for the rest of us to follow. Because of earlier pioneers, air travel is now commonplace, and space travel for all is just around the corner. Economic and societal benefits are not immediately evident, but they always follow, as does our understanding of human potential to overcome challenges. Fifty years after Sputnik, space remains the next frontier.

Without risking human lives, robotic technology such as unmanned missions, probes, observatories, and landers enables space exploration. It lays the groundwork, and does the scouting. But as I heard former astronaut Thomas Jones often say, “only a human can experience what being in space feels like, and only a human can communicate this to others.” It is humans who repair the Hubble telescope. It is humans who service the International Space Station (ISS). Mercury astronauts were the first to photograph Earth from space with hand-held cameras. Earth scientists in orbit on the ISS may view aspects of global change that only a trained eye can see. In addition, studying astronauts in the microgravity of space has been the only means of understanding how gravity affects human development and health here on Earth. It is highly probable that, in this century, humans will settle on other planets. Our ability to explore and sustain human presence there will not only expand Earth’s access to mineral resources but, should the need arise, provide alternative habitats for humanity’s survival.

At what cost? Is there a price to inspiration and creativity? Economic, scientific and technological returns of space exploration have far exceeded the investment. Globally, 43 countries now have their own observing or communication satellites in Earth orbit. Observing Earth has provided G.P.S., meteorological forecasts, predictions and management of hurricanes and other natural disasters, and global monitoring of the environment, as well as surveillance and intelligence. Satellite communications have changed life and business practices with computer operations, cell phones, global banking, and TV. Studying humans living in the microgravity of space has expanded our understanding of osteoporosis and balance disorders, and has led to new treatments. Wealth-generating medical devices and instrumentation such as digital mammography and outpatient breast biopsy procedures and the application of telemedicine to emergency care are but a few of the social and economic benefits of manned exploration that we take for granted.

Space exploration is not a drain on the economy; it generates infinitely more than wealth than it spends. Royalties on NASA patents and licenses currently go directly to the U.S. Treasury, not back to NASA. I firmly believe that the Life Sciences Research Program would be self-supporting if permitted to receive the return on its investment. NASA has done so much with so little that it has generally been assumed to have had a huge budget. In fact, the 2007 NASA budget of $16.3 billion is a minute fraction of the $13 trillion total G.D.P.

“What’s the hurry?” is a legitimate question. As the late Senator William Proxmire said many years ago, “Mars isn’t going anywhere.” Why should we commit hard-pressed budgets for space exploration when there will always be competing interests? However, as Mercury, Gemini and Apollo did 50 years ago, our future scientific and technological leadership depends on exciting creativity in the younger generations. Nothing does this better than manned space exploration. There is now a national urgency to direct the creative interests of our youth towards careers in science and engineering. We need to keep the flame of manned space exploration alive as China, Russia, India, and other countries forge ahead with substantial investments that challenge U.S. leadership in space.

Kathleen M. Connell, a principal of The Connell Whittaker Group, a founding team member of NASA’s Astrobiology Program, and former policy director of the Aerospace States Association:

The value of public sector human space exploration is generally perceived as worth the cost when exploration outcomes address one or more national imperatives of the era. For example, in the twentieth century, the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik required a bold technological retort by the U.S. Apollo put boots on the moon, winning the first space race. The resulting foreign policy boost and psychic prestige for the U.S. more that justified the cost for the Cold War generation. Unquestionably, manned exploration of that era also created unintended economic consequences and benefits, such as the spinoff of miniaturization that led to computers and cell phones. Apollo also created new NASA centers in the South, acting as an unanticipated economic development anchor for those regions, both then and now.

In the twenty-first century, what would happen if U.S. manned space programs were managed based upon the contemporary demands of the planet and the American taxpayer? NASA could be rewarded to explore, but with terrestrial returns as a priority. Space exploration crews could conduct global warming research on the International Space Station National Laboratory, while other crews from the public or private sector could rapidly assemble solar energy satellites for clean energy provision to Earth. Lunar settlements could be established to develop new energy sources from rare compounds that are in abundance on the moon. Getting to Mars, to develop a terrestrial lifeboat and to better understand the fate of planets, suddenly takes on new meaning and relevance.

I have to come the conclusion, after over 20 years in the space industry, that addressing global challenges with space solutions that benefit humanity and American constituents is the key to justifying the cost of manned space exploration. I believe we are about to find out, all over again, if civil manned space capability and policy can adapt and rise to meet new imperatives.

Keith Cowing, founder and editor of and former NASA space biologist.

Right now, all of America’s human space flight programs cost around $7 billion a year. That’s pennies per person per day. In 2006, according to the USDA, Americans spent more than $154 billion on alcohol. We spend around $10 billion a month in Iraq. And so on. Are these things more important than human spaceflight because we spend more money on them? Is space exploration less important?

Money alone is not a way to gauge the worthiness of the cost of exploring space.

NASA is fond of promoting all of the spinoffs that are generated from its exploits, such as microelectronics. But are we exploring space to explore space, or are we doing all of this to make better consumer electronics? I once heard the late Carl Sagan respond to this question by saying, “you don’t need to go to Mars to cure cancer.” If you learn how to do that as a side benefit, well, that’s great, but there are probably more cost effective ways to get all of these spinoffs without leaving Earth.

To be certain, tax dollars spent on space projects result in jobs — a large proportion of which are high paying, high tech positions. But many other government programs do that as well — some more efficiently.

Still, for those who would moan that this money could be “better spent back on Earth,” I would simply say that all of this money is spent on Earth — it creates jobs and provides business to companies, just as any other government program does. You have to spend all of NASA’s money “on Earth.” There is no way to spend it in space — at least, not yet.

Where am I going with this? Asking if space exploration — with humans or robots or both — is worth the effort is like questioning the value of Columbus’s voyages to the New World in the late 1490s. The promise at the time was obvious to some, but not to others. Is manned space exploration worth the cost? If we Americans do not think so, then why is it that nations such as China and India — nations with far greater social welfare issues to address with their limited budgets — are speeding up their space exploration programs? What is it about human space exploration that they see? Could it be what we once saw, and have now forgotten?

As such, my response is another question: for the U.S. in the twenty-first century, is not sending humans into space worth the cost?

David M. Livingston, host of The Space Show, a talk radio show focusing on increasing space commerce and developing space tourism:

I hear this question a lot. So a few years ago, I decided to see what really happened to a public dollar spent on a good space program, compared to spending it on an entitlement program or a revenue generating infrastructure program. I used the school breakfast program for the test entitlement program. I chose Hoover Dam for the revenue generating infrastructure program. The space program I chose was the manned program to the moon consisting of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. Let me briefly summarize what I discovered.

All programs, if properly managed, can produce benefits in excess to the original invested dollar. There is no guarantee that a program will be properly managed, and this includes a space program. “Properly managed” implies many things, but I don’t think space is any more or less likely to be well managed than anything else the government does. A mismanaged space program wastes money, talent, and time, just like any other faulty program.

As for what happened to the dollar invested in the respective programs, the school breakfast program was successful, in that it increased the number of kids who received breakfast. However, when funding for this program or this type of program stops, as soon as the last of the funds goes through the pipeline, the program is over. It has no life past government funding. I was unable to find an inspirational or motivational quality for the program leading to downstream business, economic, or science advancements. One could make the case that kids who benefited from the program went on through school to accomplish great things, and I don’t doubt that — I simply could not document it in my research.

The Hoover Dam was very interesting. This project paid off its bond cost early, was a major contributor to the U.S. victory in World War II, and has been a huge economic factor for development in the Western part of the country. However, the Hoover Dam requires overhead and maintenance investment on a continual basis. It needs repairs, updates, modernization, and security, and it employs a labor force. Were we to stop investing in the Hoover Dam, over time it would lose its effectiveness and cease to be the value to our nation that it is now. Its value to us depends on our willingness to maintain, protect, and update it as necessary. The Hoover Dam and Lake Mead have given birth to thousands of private businesses, economic growth for the region, and much more. However, as with the entitlement program above, I could not find an inspirational or motivational aspect to the Hoover Dam.

What I discovered about our manned lunar program was different. When I did this study, it was 34 years after the last dime had been spent on Apollo, the last of the manned moon programs. Thirty-four years later, when I asked guests on The Space Show, students, and people in space-related fields what inspired or motivated them to start a space business or pursue their science education, over 80 percent said they were inspired and motivated because of our having gone to the moon. Businesses were started and are now meeting payrolls, paying taxes, and sustaining economic growth because the founder was inspired by the early days of the manned space program, often decades after the program ended! This type of inspiration and motivation seems unique to the manned space program and, of late, to some of our robotic space missions. I found the same to be true when I asked the same question to Space Show guests from outside the U.S.

John M. Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute and acting director of the Center for International Science and Technology Policy at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs:

The high costs of sending humans into orbit and beyond are measured in dollars, rubles, or yuan. The benefits of human spaceflight are not so easily calculated, since they include both tangible and intangible payoffs. So answering the question, “Do the benefits outweigh the costs?” is not straightforward.

If the payoffs are limited to scientific discovery, the position taken by many critics of human spaceflight is “no.” With both current and, especially, future robotic capabilities, the added value of human presence to missions aimed primarily at new understanding of the moon, Mars, near-Earth asteroids, and other celestial destinations most likely does not justify the added costs and risks involved. However, Steve Squyres, the principal investigator for the Mars Exploration Rovers, has frequently said that he wished that spirit and opportunity were working in partnership with humans on the surface of Mars; that combination, he argues, would greatly increase the scientific payoffs of the mission.

To me, the primary justifications for sending people into space require that they travel beyond low Earth orbit. For the next few decades, the major payoffs from humans traveling to the moon and Mars are intangible, and linked to both national pride and national power. Space exploration remains an effort that can be led by only a few countries, and I believe that it should be part of what the United States does in its desire to be seen by both its citizens and the global public as a leader, one to be admired for its continued willingness to invest in pushing the frontiers of human activity.

In the longer run, I believe that human exploration is needed to answer two questions. One is: “Are there activities in other places in the solar system of such economic value that they justify high costs in performing them?” The other is: “Can humans living away from Earth obtain at least a major portion of what they need to survive from local resources?” If the answer to both questions is “yes,” then I believe that eventually some number of people in the future will establish permanent settlements away from Earth, in the extreme case to ensure that the human species will survive a planetary catastrophe, but also because people migrate for both economic opportunities and new experiences. That is a big jump from today’s argument regarding the costs and benefits of human spaceflight, but I believe such a long range perspective is the best way to justify a new start in human space exploration.

One square foot

I think space exploration is necessary. In every age and every time of the earth, there will be a disparity between the wealthy and the not so wealthy. Hopefully if it is a good society, the disparity will exist not because of heredity or brutal dictatorship, but because the wealthier contributed more to society and the services they brought were ones people felt were valuable.

While we certainly have many problems in society, none is larger than the survival of the species. That is why climate change is such a big threat, and this is also why space exploration (and nuclear arms proliferation) is so important.

We are currently vulnerable to the extinction of the species because we have one place to live, and if it gets messed up it is over. We should take care of this place as best we can, but establish other livable habitats as soon as possible to maximize the likelihood our society survives.

I am sorry to see that some people on this thread are viewing this from a fairly narrow view (space is useless and expensive, lets deal w/ domestic issues). As people point out, it is a fraction of our budget. Other items like our massive defense budget should be tackled and whittled down first.

Its like when people say "I don't have time".

What they really mean is "Its not a priority".

We need to examine our priorities and see if our inefficient healthcare system and our paralyzing defense budget is really worth it. What can we do there to cut down and streamline this process?



Let's quote Carl Sagan:

"Spaceflight or Extinction."

Beat that argument.

Leszek Pawlowicz

Gosh, everyone agrees! Glad we straightened this issue out.

Seriously, you couldn't find even one person to offer serious arguments against expanding manned space exploration?! Here's three for starters:

1. NASA is strip-mining the funding for unmanned space probes, astronomy, and earth observation to cover the costs of getting ready to send men back to the Moon, and later to Mars. Is that a rational allocation of resources?

2. After over 200 billion dollars in spending on the manned space station,about 5 times higher than the original budget, at a point where it's finally about ready to perform its function as a orbiting laboratory, NASA is pulling funding and support for it in favor of trips to the Moon and Mars. Does that make sense?

3. Apropos the above, over the past 25+ years NASA has had a horrible record on managing programs, particularly with regards to cost. What reason do we have to believe they'll do a better job on these programs than they have in the past?


John Gringham

Sorry just a quick question before the comments list balloons. What exactly is meant by quorum here?

Mike Mogie

Everyone seems to be in agreement! I would think so being that 4 of the 5 panel memebers are current or former NASA employees! Perhaps more care should have been taken in ensuring the diversity of the panel. There must be some arguments to the contrary out there and I'd be curious to see those debated as well.

Will McBurnett

This whole discussion borders on the ridiculous, because it is focused too much on the government.

Let the private sector make or break money on manned space flight.

Let the government, if it wants, pour money into pure research, with the same expectations it has with other research projects - some will more, most won't.

Right now we are living in the worst situation - everyone is expecting the government to do this work, people are expecting the government to do a great job being profitable, and nothing gets done. Any profit from a government program is a fluke - these programs are not structured nor have the culture to do the things to be profitable.

Let space flight be private. Let the creative destruction of the market find ways to make it work. Let the government fund pure research based on the desires of the people, as filtered through congress. Don't expect profit from them. Why is space so special that it can't be allowed to act like everything else?




Shocking that a panel of space enthusiasts would agree that spending money on it is good! Unfortunately, none of them provide a sound argument as to why our government should be using tax money to fund it.

Space exploration should be left to the private sector. It would be done more efficiently there. Only goals with sufficient demand would be pursued. The reason that the government is the only one doing the research into these things is that the cost/benefit ratio is not good enough for businesses to invest in it. Only the government can waste so much money because it can't go out of business.

Look at how cheaply and quickly the contestants in the X-prize were able to do something NASA hadn't been able to on a much larger budget. This is what competition does.

Some of their points are laughable.
-They claim that the 16 billion is a small amount, but that doesn't mean it should be spent foolishly.
-They claim that it will encourage kids to study math and science, but so will the high paying jobs that would be created in the private sector.
-They say it gives us a chance to cooperate with other nations peacefully. We already should be trading with them. There is no need in invent projects for us to play together like children.
-"I firmly believe that the Life Sciences Research Program would be self-supporting if permitted to receive the return on its investment." If this were true then we should allow it to be run as a private company without being subsidized by the government.
-The argument that it creates jobs is silly as well. Why not start a federal agency to dig holes and fill them again?



Shouldn't the question be should the U.S. federal government be sponsoring NASA, as opposed to the value of space exploration? Whether it is or isn't valuable doesn't matter and will ultimately be decided by market forces. The gov't can certainly contract out defense work to private (non-bureaucratic) entities to keep those matters strong. Where in the constitution is the federal government given the authority to take tax spender income on space exploration? Why are these questions not asked (or ever answered)?


If you were at all interested in presenting an opposing view, i would recommend Dr Bob Park, He has been a consistent advocate of unmanned space travel. All the above arguments either offer fairy-tale justifications or avoid the issue when comparing the value of manned space travel vs robotic exploration. If we spent the same money on robotic exploration as we do on manned, we could generate far more scientific information, which would help us resolve questions such as global warming with significantly better accuracy. As Bob Park has frequently observed, the Bush administration has invested in pie-in-the-sky manned space missions while *simultaneously* disinvesting in scientific measurements from space. It makes you wonder if they are afraid of what they will find if we had accurate measurements of global warming.
It's interesting to me that conservatives tend to favor Big goverment spending on space (at least neo-cons). Big government is big government, but manned space flight has the appeal of the fairy-tale (We don't need to take care of this planet because we can always get another one), and the appeal of the military-industrial complex (the blatant appeal to patriotism that comprises many of the above arguments) What you don't see is an appeal to the scientific value of space exploration because that can be done just as well with robots, and even worse would have to be shared with the rest of humanity.


Glenn Dale

If I may suggest, why don't you ask Gregg Easterbrook, a fantastic writer with a unique capacity (for a non-professional economist) to think and write in economic terms and a noted critic of the space program in general and the shuttle program in particular to address this question.

He is almost done writing about the NFL and might have a little extra time to participat in this discussion.


Priorities and balance are always best. NASA budget is nearly in balance with the federal total, just slightly low in my opinion (currently $16B, or 0.6% of total federal spending). I like 1% (of budget which is $2.7T, not of GDP which is $13T), so my recommendation is $27 billion for NASA, and lets give 1/4 to human exploration, 1/4 to robotic, 1/4 to aerospace, 1/4 to earth science.

'One Percent for Space'


"The counter to the calls for private entities exploring space is that it's prohibitively expensive to do so, and the kind of capital required isn't available to fledgling entreprenaughts (to coin a phrase). There are already several companies planning to offer space tourism, but moon landings and deep space exploration is still far too expensive and can only feasibly be tackled by the govt."

I agree entry costs are high, but I disagree that they will remain prohibitively so for much longer. Google is sponsoring a Lunar landing prize, Robert Bigelow is building space station modules for launch on spaceX or Atlas rockets, and Virgin Galactic is getting ready for (relatively) high volume suborbital spaceflights. These are all early signs of a C change in human spaceflight from goverment to private.


I decided I wanted to study engineering in sixth grade after reading Michael Collin's autobiography... and I might want to eventually be an astronaut! I agree with what everybody here is saying though- you should show the other side of the argument.


I just can't shake the feeling that $7 billion spent on feeding people who are starving to death and/or suffering from treatable disease, could provide more future scientists than making already college-bound white kids in the US say "cool!" while watching a shuttle take off on TV.

I like the self-funding argument (that the money coming in from NASA patents exceeds the amount spent)... but again - could that money be spent elsewhere and get greater returns? (either greater financial returns, or greater social returns like "reducing human suffering")


Dr. Livingston:
"One could make the case that kids who benefited from the program went on through school to accomplish great things, and I don't doubt that - I simply could not document it in my research."
Could not document it or didn't even bother to try?
From the FIRST result presented by google for the search "school breakfast study":

"The objective of our first school breakfast study, which has just been accepted for publication, was to determine whether a relationship existed between increased participation in the school breakfast program and improvements in standardized measures of academic and psychosocial success in school-age children," said Dr. J. Michael Murphy, also of Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Medical School. "Four months after the schools started a free breakfast program in one Philadelphia and two Baltimore public schools, the number of students eating breakfast had nearly doubled and reports on the students indicated they were significantly more attentive in the classroom, earned higher grades in math, and had significantly fewer behavioral and emotional problems."

Perhaps succeeding in math and gaining other skills necessary to even contemplate the possibility of getting a job in the space industry don't count as "great things"? Would Dr. Livingston care to guess whether more kids would go on to do great things if we spent an additional 400 billion dollars improving education rather than spending it on manned space exploration?

Overall: why doesn't it make more sense to firsty concentrate on developing the technology to send large payloads into orbit cheaply, then concentrate on getting large payloads to other planets (and back again) reliably before committing dollars and lives to manned space exploration? Going from the last 20 years of Mars missions, I don't think a 50% fatality rate would prove to be very inspirational.

Perhaps the panel could also address the sensibility of installing a missile defense system before getting the components to work.



Hibob at 6:15 pm has the only point worth reading about. Space elevators really would work to move large payloads out of the gravitational well of earth. Stanford, Harvard, Cal Tech physicists all agree: making a light cable strong enough is the only large technological hurdle. Lets actually educate our children so that they see these types of challenges as the truly rewarding pursuits, rather than just getting to be on the cover of people magazine (as a successful space explorer rather than a celebrity).


It would be great if postings on both sides of the question included some credentials if they intend to make technical based assessments. The quorom members gave their credential, so should we all.

I too have been 15 years designing space missions - human and robotic. I have help devised aircraft to fly over other worlds, machines to move cargo over the surface of the moon and mars, and probes to visit unique obejcts in the solar system. There are often many engineering solutions to a problem. Some will cost more than others, while some will be more or less capable or risky, or take longer than others. The value will be in the getting there as much as the being there.

As my handle suggests, space can and should be used to benefit earth and that's how I approach my work.

-- My opinion, which is strictly my own.


"But the kids love it!"

That is the most compelling reason to send humans into space? I suppose it makes a good welfare program, too, subsidizing all those high tech jobs.

You've got to be kidding.


No flying cars, but there are plenty of flying pigs just from reading some comments. Billions are spent at the whims of a few, yet we have a museum for creationism, we have starvation, wars around the world and 20 million homeless on the streets. We want to escape the fate of the dinosaurs, what if it was a gamma ray burst ? We want to explore space yet we don't know what is in our backyard or at the bottom of the seas ? We are facing global warming yet we think the solution is in outer space ?? The real problem is between our ears and the solution is there too!

Marshall Eubanks

If you want some anti-manned space flight opinions, you should have included Bob Park of the U Maryland - or you could just search his newsletter at In my opinion, the Moon / Mars initiative will not survive the W administration, no matter who is the next President, so those are basically moot now.

Space travel is hard, and as long as it costs a good fraction of a Million Dollars to lift a pound into orbit it will be hard to justify sending people into orbit, much less beyond. If we want to become a true spacefaring civilization, we need to substantially lower the cost to get into space and the cost of producing energy once we are there. (Energy is what it takes to get to interesting places in a timely fashion, once you are in orbit.)

So, in my humble opinion what NASA should be doing for manned spaceflight is to put serious money into space elevators, as that is the only way I can see to get into orbit for a reasonable cost. (Some money for Helium 3 fusion wouldn't hurt either.)