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You give engineers the hardest problems to solve and you get better engineering.

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NASA guy on TV this morning talking about critics who say that some of their space exploration is costly and unnecessary, so why do it?

Well said!

Not enough people are trying to solve hard problems.

I wish we could convince more people not to spend their brainpower on trying to get more people to click on ads.

I'd kill NASA in a heartbeat if I had the power.

Short answer here.

Long answer:

I know we all have warm and fuzzy feeling toward the space program and I love Tang and velcro as much as anyone. That said, there are kids that needs feeding and educating, and diseases that need curing. In light of that I think it's hard to rationalize spending XXX billions on spaceships that don't solve any immediate problems, especially in a recession with so many people suffering. Sure, the government wastes money on plenty of things but aside from that being an inherently cynical argument, the space program is quite removed from solving any real world problems/improving lives of citizens.

Wanna take 1/10th of the (former) NASA budget and make a big fed-sponsored YCombinator to promote R+D by entrepreneurs in the private sector? I'm all for it. :)

The logic is sound, but there are dozens of things wasting more money in the fed budget than NASA. Do make sure you apply that logic to those first.

I don't think the feds should be paying for it (but I don't think the feds should be paying for anything ;) but there are very large untapped opportunities in space -- helium3 on the moon for instance, and using big dumb rockets (essentially bombs with a hole in them) is way past due for disruption

these guys are heading the way but they haven't discovered how to jumpstart their revenue yet which is holding them back:

another thing I'd like to see blown up is the airline industry -- I think it's going to take much more than a new airline though -- probably a different means of flying

I call bullshit.

The argument against Nasa is usually that it doesn't solve immediate problems. That's incredibly short sighted and naive. It's basically the argument that doing basic research pointless. You know, basic research, like the kind we do in universities or in our 20% free time at Google

Yes, pointless like baby formula.

Do you have a baby? Has it ever been fed formula? 95% of the baby formula uses a nutrient discovered by NASA while researching the nutritional value of an algae.

Need dialysis for your kidney? Process invented by NASA. Pointless of course.

Do you like your UV blocking sunglasses? Thank NASA.

Like camping? Freeze dried food.

Like that ear thermometer better than rectal? Baby asses everywhere thank you nasa. Ok...we probably could live without that one. Maybe pointless.

Need an MRI or a CAT scan? Thank Nasa. The research from their pursuit of digital image processing is used every day to save lives.

The insulation that's probably in your car? Thanks NASA.

Clean water? NASA likes it's water clean.

Cordless power tools?

In 2010 NASA recorded 1400 new inventions.

NASA even publishes a magazine called Spinoff that details how some of these inventions make it into commercial applications. Some 1723 to date.

Satellite TV? How exactly do you think satellite technology got started? Telecommunications without Nasa would be decades back.

There was a time when pouring money into military budgets created massive innovation. Perhaps that's still true to some degree. I haven't done the math on that. But I'd wager that dollar for dollar spent, Nasa has produced more good for mankind than the last 100 years of pointless military intervention.

Oh...and if you still think basic research is naive, please cancel those ridiculous hackathons and hack days that they waste in companies. Cancel the 20% free time at Google, 3M or others than is responsible for things like postits and Lasik surgery. Cancel twitter. That thing still seems pointless to me.

Hell, screw entrepreneurship in general because it's pointless to work and spend money on a VISION that no one else sees as immediately relevant. Instead let's ignore crazy ideas and channel all that money to problems we KNOW we have. Like war.

Estimated cost of US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan: 3.4-4 TRILLION.

Since 2000 the budget of Nasa has peaked at 0.76% of the US Federal Budget. NASA's budget in 2011 is $18.724 billion.

I call bullshit.

Opportunity cost. Are there better things that money could be spent on?

Or, to address your main point specifically, could we spend money directly on basic research rather than spending it on rocket ships and getting some amazing discoveries as exhaust?

No one ever seems to want to discuss the primary issue here: Is it worth it, or is there a better way? Everyone wants to compare it to red herrings: "Well it costs less than..." or "We spend plenty of money on stupid things, why not this too?"

Yes, we need great things like MRI's baby formula and dialysis. How about we actually spend money developing MRI's, baby formula and dialysis instead of rocket ships?

I don't really get the feverish criticism of NASA spending. It is not like that money is physically shipped to the moon and dumped. It is spent here on earth paying people who do various jobs including rock star ones that inspire people to try technical and science education in high school and college.

Even if NASA never did anything except inspire a generation of youngsters to take math and science education seriously it would still be a reasonable investment.

I'm much happier spending $2B per year on NASA for "unnecessary" rockets than spending $10B per year on the NNSA for nuclear missiles, that as their budget never seems to be publicly queried, presumably are deemed "necessary".

Putting a man on the moon convinced Americans that they were the best country in the world. To me the saddest thing about NASA is how far we've let their capabilities slip since then.

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