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starship-design: Space Money

Well, since we're talking about NASA's budget, there was a Reuter's
article back in July that really ticked me off.  It was about a poll
that said "most Americans believe there is intelligent life in outer
space, but few think it can be found on other planets in the solar

By "few"  they mean over a third.  Sigh.  Remember, we're not talking
"life" we're talking "intelligent life" and fully a third of the
American populace believes it can be found in the solar system (I assume
we're talking besides Earth, here!)

Anyway, the poll goes on to say that most Americans support space
missions and want more of them, but they also think we're already
spending too much on space and should cut funding.

So I did some research back then on my own into the federal budget:

NASA's budget for FY97 was $13.8 billion.  This is 0.8% of the federal

For comparison with some other agencies:
NASA: 0.8%
Department of Energy: 0.9%
Civil Defense: 2.0%
Veterans Affairs: 2.4%
Office of Personnel Management: 2.7%
Department of Agriculture: 3.4%
Interest on the National Debt: 14.6%
Department of Defense: 15.1%
Social Security: 24.4%

So far the -best- NASA has ever been funded was when it was 4.4% of the
federal budget, in 1966.  Since that time, the worst was when it was
0.7% in 1986.  The projections for the next few years show NASA's budget
going back down to 0.7% again.

Imagine what NASA could do with double its budget (which would still
only be 1.6% of the federal budget)!

The problem is, of course, that most people really have no idea how much
we spend on space.  When someone in the government wants to win points
with the public by cutting the budget, space programs make an easy
target: you just say "we're spending millions on this stuff which has no
direct immediate benefit to you" and you've got it made!  What they
never tell anyone is how many OTHER programs out there are getting even
more money for even less immediate value to the public.  I think if they
quoted percentages rather than actual dollar amounts, the space program
would be seen in a much better light by the public.


David Levine                                david@actionworld.com
Director of Development               http://www.actionworld.com/
ActionWorld, Inc.                                  (212) 387-8200
"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once."