On air: Do you want more space?

This is the No.1 story in the world however you measure it. It’s the most read and watched online, it’s sitting in the lead stories of hundreds of TV and radio stations, and many more newspapers. The Mars Phoenix has landed. That we’re interested in exploration beyond our world is beyond discussion. Whether it’s money well spent is not.

Here are some figures…

Cost of Mars Phoenix that landed on the north pole of Mars on Sunday – 500 million dollars
Money donated for Cyclone Nargis aid at conference in Rangoon on Sunday – 50 million dollars

We have a world food crisis, a global economic slowdown, several pressing natural disasters, established patterns of man-made climate change, billions of people living in poverty, diseases such as Malaria which could be eradicated with investment, millions of people HIV positive with not enough money to pay for anti-retroviral drugs let along a more long-term research into treatment. I could go on. Should we spending billions of dollars on tackling these issues, rather than reaching out into space?

136 Responses to “On air: Do you want more space?”

  1. 1 VictorK
    May 26, 2008 at 14:44

    “Should we [be] spending billions of dollars on tackling these issues, rather than reaching out into space?”

    As with so many international questions, who are ‘we’?

    Should ‘we’ (the US/West) exist solely to bail out the failed states of the world, most of whose people hate us deeply and few of whom have ever shown an iota of gratitude for the aid we have given them? No.

    Things like the Mars mission are crucial to scientific progress, progress that may have all kinds of unanticipated benefits for even the poor (that’s how the search for knowledge often pans out). The poor, the helpless and the imcompetent cannot be allowed to set the agenda, nationally or internationally. Cyclone Nargis is the responsibility of Burma, and if any other states want to get involved then those of south east Asia have more than enough resources to help the Burmese. What has any of it got to do with how the US chooses to spend its money?

    The West has no obligation to combat problems in other people’s countries, especially when some of those problems require more fundamental solutions than having Western taxpayers’ cash thrown at them (e.g. promiscuity promotes AIDS; sexual responsibility is the ultimate prophylactic against it). The West is the powerhouse of progress in the world. It would be irresponsible and, in the long run, hugely counterproductive to abandon things like space exploration out of feelings of sentimental guilt for other people’s problems.

  2. May 26, 2008 at 14:54

    What a coincidence! Charlie Stross (award-winning British SF author) published just today in is blog a post that wonders about what we could have done with the money spent in Irak. Given that only the direct costs of that war are estimated at more than $500 BILLION dollars, I’d say the money spent on advancing science and research are the last place where we should look when considering budget cuts.

  3. 3 Ros Atkins
    May 26, 2008 at 15:02

    The problem with Western powers is not how to get money, but how to spend it. In spending it, alas, they spend their love for humanity on earth. That money could be used to make this earth a better place for humanity.

    Bright Molande

  4. 4 Alex
    May 26, 2008 at 15:04

    The world is run by the rich and for the rich. Spending priorities are skewed. Relatively tiny investments in certain projects could change the world for the better. Mr alex weir. Harare.

  5. May 26, 2008 at 15:07

    Listen to the great author and visionary, Ray Bradbury, about the joy of scientific advancement and spreading “the gift of life” to other planets:


    Remember that 500 million is nothing compared to the nearly 1 TRILLION we’re paying for the Iraq war. Let’s cut war, not science. Because cutting exploration is to limit our imagination — something critical to our growth as the human race.

  6. 6 Bob in Queensland
    May 26, 2008 at 15:08

    I was a child of the space age. When I was 5, I was taken outside to see Sputnik flying overhead. I got up in the middle of the night to watch every Project Mercury and Gemini launch. I was glued to the TV for the moon missions. Yes, I’m a space junky.

    My instinct is that space exploration is the future of mankind just as exploring the earth changed the world as we know it a few hundred years back. Finding the beginning of life on Mars (if we do) may tell us more about our own history than we can begin to guess at present.

    I’d also point out that this sort of “pure science” mission represents the minority of space exploration today. Without spaceflight we wouldn’t have the weather satellites that gave advance warning of Cyclone Nargis (and it’s not the fault of the satellite that the Burmese generals ignored the warnings). Without communications satellites we wouldn’t know that the Generals were ignoring their responsibilities in terms of relief. Indeed, without satellites and the internet, the pressure which forced a certain level of relief on them probably wouldn’t have happened.

    Is space exploration logical? Not always–but neither were voyages by the Vikings, Columbus or Magellen. However, acting on my gut feeling here…I want more space.

  7. 7 steve
    May 26, 2008 at 15:10

    So long as people have extraordinary amounts of children, the world will be overpopulated. We will run out of resources, there will be wars due to limited resources. Would you rather have us kill each other off or get resources from elsewhere or possibly live elsewhere?

  8. May 26, 2008 at 15:28

    I don’t think that the world needs more space.Why should Rich countries invest lots of dollars in such a thing while AIDS,Poverty,Diseases and Disasters are reaaly causing millions of deaths a round the globe.

  9. May 26, 2008 at 15:33

    The world is at the mercy of richer world and the rest will only dance or behalf to their tunes. Why more spaces while very many are dying of hunger diseases. It is just this rich group if the want space because of their destructive activities. I do not think we need more spaces while the deserts and other climatic regions still remained undeveloped.

  10. 10 Mackson
    May 26, 2008 at 15:50


    I dont think space exploration is a good investment becauese as far as I am concerned we will explore the space but we can not find life anywhere ‘LIFE FOR EARTH’.Lets use all this money to invest in Agriculture Evironmental management so that we can make earth a better place for all.

    Mackson Bwaira
    Lilongwe, Malawi.

  11. 11 Rachel in California USA
    May 26, 2008 at 15:52

    I’m no space junkie, but I don’t think cutting off funds for exploration would help our earthly problems.

    Mission to Mars, total: $500 billion.
    Iraq war, to date: USA expenditure, $526 billion.
    Iraq war, damage to people and buildings, roads, factories, farms in Iraq: uncounted.
    Total military spending, USA, including Iraq, nuclear weapons, military bases: nearly $1000 billion every year.
    Funds required to resolve health crisis in Africa: $5 billion.
    US and European expenditure on pet food: $17 billion per year.
    Diet products: $50 billion per year.
    Tobacco products: $200 billion per year.

    Which can the world not afford? Which does the world need?

    The world can easily afford to care for those who suffered from the hurricane in Burma; it’s Burma’s repressive government that won’t let the aid in. More money wouldn’t help.

    There’s enough food for everyone; it’s income inequality, speculation, and the obscene waste of grain ethanol that leave people hungry.

    We have enough–and more than enough–to take care of humanity and the home planet. Let’s stop destroying each other in senseless wars. We don’t need to cut off our exploration of the universe.

  12. May 26, 2008 at 15:55

    Should we spending billions of dollars on tackling these issues, rather than reaching out into space?

    This question assumes that we need to choose between these two alternatives, suggesting that we have a shortage of resources. I.e. it is assumed that we don’t have the means to spend a few billion dollars per year on space exploration and take care of the victims of natural disasters.

    This is not true. We have plenty of resources to do much more for third world countries, to invest much more in space exploration etc. etc.. In fact, you could argue that the problems with the environment, Gobal Warming etc. points to exactly the opposite: We have become very wealthy and we are wasting most of our wealth.

  13. 13 steve
    May 26, 2008 at 15:55

    @ Bazia

    “It is just this rich group if the want space because of their destructive activities. I do not think we need more spaces while the deserts and other climatic regions still remained undeveloped.”

    Why don’t you sell your computer, and donate the proceeds to help the less fortunate? Why not save the money on the internet service provider you have and donate that money as well?

  14. 14 Kan
    May 26, 2008 at 15:57

    I do not doubt the relevance of space explorations to the future of mankind.
    I, however, do not think we would be running out of space on earth anytime soon.
    The illusion of “space running out on earth” is simply caused by urban migration and
    the increase of the number of vehicles on our roads.

  15. 15 Royston Roberts
    May 26, 2008 at 16:00

    bizzar, bizzar, to hear such a story of mars probe landing, i have some questions for NASA and the West, a) what are the significance of this. b) what benefits if any will this be to mankind. and c) how soon will you realise positive returns from spending billions of dollars from such investment. Disappointing to know that over $500b dollars as been spent on iraq alone, more than enough to cure every contagious diseases, provide free primary education for all children, and capable of transforming non-arable lands to fertile productive tools thus eradicating hunger, which will be followed by poverty reduction in many parts of the under priviledged society. it’s a shame to humanity and the international community to give such issue prominence and emminence in the international media and giving less attention to a global issue like the current hype in food price globally .what a shame, i’m not impressed.

  16. 16 Kan
    May 26, 2008 at 16:11

    If similar resources and seriousness were to be applied to the issue of Global Warming, there would be enough space for us all in the future.
    Space exploration is not bad, but then world priorities must be realigned. World food problems, energy crises and warming of earth must be issues we take seriously.

  17. 17 Tino
    May 26, 2008 at 16:27

    “Why should Rich countries invest lots of dollars in such a thing while AIDS,Poverty,Diseases and Disasters are reaaly causing millions of deaths a round the globe.”

    I know I am tired of helping people who end up hating us anyway. Would love to see majority of international aid – which most countries seem ungrateful for – spent on the Space program. Why should we foot the bill for the whole damn world’s problems?

    In addition, “To research, develop, verify, and transfer advanced aeronautics and space technologies.” This is part of NASA’s mission statement. TRANSFER ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY. They have already transferred countless technologies to the civilian population. Is it inconceivable that some of it would help these problems anyway?

  18. 18 Will Rhodes
    May 26, 2008 at 16:34

    Science is a way forward and utilising a few hundred million on exploration is, in my opinion, worth it.

    Some have already mentioned the vast amount of money that the US alone has ploughed into this war – that same amount could have given every American free health care! What could scientists do with that money in finding new, reusable energy for the future, fertilising the barren areas of this planet so humans could inhabit it and have a better life?

    We have benefited from space exploration before and I am sure we will again.

    It is the wars that need to be stopped and the finances need channelling elsewhere to help humanity rather than kill.

  19. 19 Ahmad Hammad
    May 26, 2008 at 16:48

    @ Victor:

    “Should ‘we’ (the US/West) exist solely to bail out the failed states of the world, most of whose people hate us deeply and few of whom have ever shown an iota of gratitude for the aid we have given them? No.”

    Well dear Victor, that’s true that the countries the US aids, are seldom indebted to the US. Have you ever thought of the core reason?

    Let me tell you the fact.

    In Pakistan, we, the people value your efforts of introducing democracy to many countries; to raise a voice for Suu Kyi (who has become a symbol of Democracy in Myanmar) and for the Lama (who has become the symbol of Gandhian aditation against the alledged atrocities of China).

    The US’ advancements in science and technology ulitimately benefit the humanity in gestalt. Then it’s quite logical to think as to why the PEOPLE hate the US…

    To me, the US always keeps an eye on her interests before doing any act of kindness in form of aid, democracy etc…. The sincerity to benefit the people lacks. Thus, it becomes a trade where the people are seldom benficiaries. Rather, the rulers of the countries where US’ interests lie with are generally benefitted.

    In Pakistan, a few days ago, the embassador of the US was wondering as to why the People hate us in spite of aiding just greatly.

    The humble answer to your astonishment Ms embassador is; you never help the people stand up. Rather, you help the rulers (who become the guardians of your interests on their soils and trynacially rule e.g. Pervez Musharraf, Saddam Hussein, Pinute etc…) stand tall; even at the cost of democracy, human rights and food/oil etc….

    As far as the investments into the SPACE technology are concerned, again, that shouldn’t be at the cost of the poor country’s public. That should be on the oil refineries built on the graveyard of Kirkuk’s inncoents.

    If the US could save ONE life of a poor country, and delays its shuttle for ONE day against it at all, is it a bad business? Is it a trade for loss?

    Exploration of sapce is good. But NOT on the cost of Iraqis, Afghanis and now, Chinese’ good reputation.

    Hats off to the US for the exploration of the Northern pole i.e. the green valley of the Mars.
    It’s always been exciting to know that the human beings will one day be able to reside in the Mars or a planet like that. But when the attention is drawn towards the stats what Ros has mentioned above, one has to be compelled to change one’s mind.

    The Mars is being explored to destine the humanity in future. And in far future there would be other nationals in addition to the Americans who would think to start living in the Mars, if the life is found there at all.

    Why shouldn’t we do something for the people who are dying of famines, diseases, natural disasters and wars on our own planet, the Earth first?

    Before looking at the peaks, we should look at our feet to confirm if we are able to even take first step towards the peak at all???

  20. 20 VictorK
    May 26, 2008 at 17:02

    @Ahmad and others: I think the US and other Western countries need to learn one valuable lesson – mind your own business. Stop interfering in countries like Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Leave it to the people of those countries to decide their own future. Whether that future is democracy or the Taliban, progress or Islamic fundamentalism is not the responsibility of the West and shouldn’t be its concern. Our only interest is to trade with other nations (including – in the absence of mass murder or genocide by the government – selling them arms) and to wish their people well. Ending poverty, establishing democracy, bringing the gift of freedom, improving health care, raising literacy – these are all excellent things, but they are all undertakings that fall to individual governments on behalf of their people.

    I reject the guilt-inducing comparison of one blogger that we in the West spend more on pet food than is allegedly required to solve Africa’s problems. Africa’s problems are not ours. Any Westerner who wants to donate to the many charities that are working to help Africans and others is perfectly free to do so. But nobody is entitled to a single penny of Western funds as a matter of right or to expect any Western government to provide these social goods to the citizens of other states as a matter of obligation. There is no ‘global community’, there is no ‘we’.

    People are right to point out that huge sums of money have been wasted in Iraq. The figure has been calculated by a Nobel Prize winning economist as something in the region of $3 trillion. But that is money that could have been put to better use not for the poor of the world but for the citizens of the USA, including funding a bigger and better space programme. That’s the real trade-off: how should American money be spent to benefit American interests, space exploration vs domestic projects? The false premise underlying many of the criticisms directed at the US is that there is a global ‘we’ and the trade-off to be made is about which global priorities should ‘we’ earmark funds for. Until we have a world government there is absolutely no basis for the view that what goes on the space programme is being denied to the poor of the world. It isn’t because the world’s poor have no standing, no interest and no rights when it comes to how a sovereign state chooses to spend its taxpayers’ money.


  21. 21 Fahim
    May 26, 2008 at 17:02

    Hello,Ros. This is Fahim from Dhaka, Bangladesh. I found the whole thing very funny after getting to know that the cost for the whole ‘Phoneix Progaramme’exceeds the amount of aid given to hurricane Nargis ravvaged Myanmar.
    Although I believe that scince should look for new horizons of discoveries, sometimes we have to compromise our scientific aspirations for the sake of any urgent humanitarian cause. As an eyewitness of how a violent storm can do to a developing country, when hurricane Sidre strock Southwestern Bangladesh, I strongly believe that our world leaders have to be more thoughtful of spending their taxpayers money.
    At first we have to care for this mother-earth without whom we might not have seen daylight!

  22. May 26, 2008 at 17:04

    In a society like mine were people are barely able to grapple with the high cost of rice staple, space exploration is nothing short of a novelty. Crazy!

  23. 23 Luz María Guzmán
    May 26, 2008 at 17:17

    Although I think scientific research -of any kind- is very valuable, I think there are some issues that should be answered first regarding space exploration:

    Taking for granted that there is going to be a practical use of space exploration (discover of resources, energy, etc.) How space exploration and exploitation is going to be regulated?

    If it is a possible “way out” to the problem of global warming and resources shortage, who is going to benefit from these discoveries and uses of space? Who is going to take “ownership” of the space? I suppose that the country or countries that “discover it”, that “conquer it”. I think we should remember that one of the main contributors to climate change and environmental damage in the world is the industrialization of society. The more industrialized countries are the developed countries. So, I think first they have to find more effective measures to reduce pollution and carbon-monoxide emissions.

    In addition, many of the problems that developing countries face today (poverty, hunger, discrimination, diseases, disasters, political unrest, etc.) are partially or wholly caused by actions that involved those who conquer them or made war to them. So I think those countries are in debt with the ones´ suffering today for these consequences.

    And finally, I think that if we, humans, haven’t been unable to find a way to live in harmony within ourselves in the world, I don’t think reaching to other “places” (space) is going to be any different. The only thing that would change is the setting.

  24. May 26, 2008 at 17:17

    If one steps back and asks themself the giant question, “Why are we here and where are we going?” There are two resounding answers that should be driving the evolution of human kind. 1) To achieve complete peace amongst the entire world. This will greatly increase the speed at which we attain the other. 2) To reach beyond our world and find other livable planets. The quest to spread our genes.

    At the very most we have a couple of million years with this one. At the rate we are making it inhabitable for humans we will be lucky to see a couple more centuries. You don’t want to do what they did for the millennium bug. Everybody knew it was a problem. Everybody just thought it would “go away”. Then in 1998 somebody pointed out that it still hadn’t. (it wasn’t as big as the paranoia that spread, but it was a pain in the hind end for system and program designers.)

    So yes, it is our destiny to continue evolution.

  25. 25 Dennis Jr
    May 26, 2008 at 17:23

    No, I personally don’t want to spend money on space travel in general….

    Because of problems in society, ranging from medical high-costs to the high cost
    of food…and anything else not included….

    Madrid, U.S.A.

  26. 26 Tino
    May 26, 2008 at 17:37

    “If the US could save ONE life of a poor country, and delays its shuttle for ONE day against it at all, is it a bad business? Is it a trade for loss?”

    Yes it is. This is because said country NEVER just says thank you! Instead, we always hear: “Why didn’t the US delay by two days to save two lives. IT IS NOT OUR RESPONSIBILITY. What has the rest of the world ever done for us – even, again, as simple as a thank you. We spend billions and are only hated more for ‘interference’ or ‘not doing enough’. It is ridiculous, and the equivalent (and this has happened) of offering money to a homeless man and having him scoff because it ‘isn’t enough’.

  27. 27 Andrew
    May 26, 2008 at 17:44

    Of course space exploration is a good investment. For the small outlay by a few nations across the globe lthe returns in terms of science, understanding and sheer wonder that these missions provide to a world that is all too infatuated with meaningless celebrity and other trivia in incredible. Consider the combined spending by virtually every single nation on weapons and standing armies and the figure given over to space exploration is minimal.

    To compare the cost of the latest Mars probe to cyclone aid is not a fair one as the reputation of the Burmese junta has ensured that donor nations are extremely reluctant to give lest their money be redirected by the regime and as such the amount given so far has been less than would normally be donated. The amount of money given after the Boxing Day tsunami and other recent natural disasters shows that aid following disaster is considerable.



  28. 28 Ellyn in Cleveland
    May 26, 2008 at 17:50

    You can’t get around it, space (and technology as a broader subject) is the future. Many of the keys to solving the mentioned crises are held in the technology of tomorrow. We, especially in the US, have enough money to finance all manner of projects, but it’s bureaucracy, greed, and corporate interest that keeps people starving, NOT the Mars rovers or anything else space-related.

    Without the billions spent in space so far, we wouldn’t have the satellite technology that revolutionized the communications and defense industries, nor would we even be able to track the current climate changes to know they exist. The more we know about our universe and solar system, the more we can create and apply new ideas to help make life on Earth better. It’s that simple.

  29. 29 Dennis Jr
    May 26, 2008 at 17:54

    I did the math on the cost of the Space adventrues and the Recent cyclone in Burma:

    500 millions dollars for the space trip
    50 million dollars for the cyclone

    equals to 10 times…..

    Something is VERY WRONG with this picture, i am painting…..Could anyone else answer this question.

    Madrid, U.S.A.

  30. 30 Mark Evans
    May 26, 2008 at 17:57

    If you sat at home alone you would go mad or at the very least become a bore. You have to go out, communicate, explore and live life, otherwise what’s the point? The same goes for venturing in to space, if we don’t look, we won’t find.

  31. 31 viola anderson
    May 26, 2008 at 18:02

    I don’t understand how anybody could choose to not support space exploration.

    I think when the first ancient creature crawled out of the water onto dry land, his fellows were laughing scornfully at him for his dangerous adventurous spirit. He never looked back.

  32. 32 Kel via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:08

    Space travel is a vain pursuit of wealthy countries that worship science as a religion.

    Like the Tower of babel-they think that firing rockets into space will lead to salvation–meanwhile they pollute the world and ignore problems here.

    via kalw in BC Canada

  33. 33 Tommy C.
    May 26, 2008 at 18:09

    There is nothing wrong with Space exloration. If we are concerned with the price spent, then why are we not looking at the military. There is your money pit.

  34. 34 Joan via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:09

    Hi Ros,
    My first reaction was that we shouldn’t be spending so much on the space program when there are so many issues in our world of utmost importance that aren’t being addressed. Upon sharing today’s query with my son, he immediately took me to a website that has made me question my immediate, gut response. I hadn’t even imagined the possibilities of alternative use of knowledge gained through the exploration of space programs. Here is the website. Might be interesting to explore further.



  35. 35 James in Uganda
    May 26, 2008 at 18:10

    I love the way it was put in the email. It would be nice to eradicate malaria, fight poverty. But there is no choice. The choices are in the hands of those who control money. Some of us just watch.

  36. 36 Derek via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:12

    It’s probably not a fair comparison to pit space exploration against hunger and disease, as if both were in competition for the same same R&D money or other resources. They’re not. One might as well ask whether we can afford to support the arts (or the multi-billion dollar entertainment industries) until there is full employment and every single person has a full belly — because, of course, this will never happen.

    Meanwhile, it might be more productive to target obscene accumulations of private wealth, and then ask whether we, as a society, can any longer allow that. Peter Singer has famously argued that there is little moral difference between not aiding people that one could help, if one wanted to, and actually causing their suffering or deaths. This is implied in your critique of space exploration as being tantamount to squandering resources, but the case of vast, private wealth seems a better (and fatter) target.

    — Derek

  37. 37 Derek via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:12

    Hi WHYS!

    I hope you all are fine.

    Should we spending billions of dollars on tackling these issues, rather than reaching out into space? Or will space help us solve our problems on earth?

    No! As these problems are never going to end. Research and innovation is the solution to many problems and i do hope that space can help us solving many problems on earth.

    The fact is that if we shift our concentration and resources from so-called war on terrorism to the problems mentioned in your email, we will be in a better position to handle them.

    Space exploration may open path for businesses to boom up economy; May help in fighting global warming; May help to predict natural disasters. Uncertainty keeps possibilities too.

    Best Regards,

    Gujranwala, Pakistan.

  38. 38 Dorothy via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:13

    I do not believe that space exploration is a good investment.
    I have read of some technological discoveries being made thanks to the space age explorers, but surely all these millions if not billions could be better spent on sorting out our own little world – for example the sick and starving, the overly aggressive and treacherous, the terrorists.
    I think one should tidy up one’s own home before going out gallivanting.
    Fraserburgh, Scotland

  39. 39 Vijay
    May 26, 2008 at 18:13

    Yes I want more Space exploration,utilisation and by more countries.China,India,Brazil , ESA(European Space Agency)and the Russians are really only in the satellite building and launching business, none compare to NASA.Unfortunately the USA is not very inclusive.
    NASA had a requirement for all employees to be US citizens and the sub- contractors could only employ US citizens.
    Also some US universities forbid or restrict foreign students from studying astronautical and aeronautical engineering.(U.Illinois,UCBerkely)

  40. 40 Jaye via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:14

    The poor you will always have.

    Should the amount of money spent on football be used
    instead to feed the hungry?

  41. 41 Darien via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:16

    There are plenty of other expenditures in the world that might be better directed at solving pressing world problems. Why not have a discussion about the money wasted on advertising, mindless television, or war? This argument only seems to apply when we are talking about space exploration. Personally, I would be happy to support spending for things like medical research, technological advancement AND space exploration.

    Wilsonville Oregon

  42. May 26, 2008 at 18:19

    The condition implied, that we should not explore space until poverty and hunger have been eradicated is preposterous.

    This mentality is responsible for the state of space exploration today. Since the apollo missions, we should have long had moon bases, asteroid mining, manned mars, venus and io mission by now, among other things.

    Our space shuttle project is the prime example, the orbiters were originally to be only a small component of a larger system of expansion into space, but due to the ‘progressive’ idea that we must use the funding to support a massive segment of our population who have made awful life choices, and keep them dependant on government support (obviously for politicial power, a vile form of oppression and borders on slavery) we’ve sacrificed the advancement of humanity for the purpose of perpetuating our de-evolution.

    Had the great explorers of history not been permitted to discover new worlds before all poverty and hunger was eliminated, life today would be in a very sorry state. Exploration, discovery and exploitation of natural resources is equatable and parallel to the advancement of the human race, like it or not.

  43. 43 Patrick via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:20

    Pulitzer Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has estimated the true cost of our illegal invasions and occupations of Iraq & Afghanistan at 3 Trillion dollars. There should be plenty of money available to advance the human race as a whole through scientific inquiry into the nature of our universe. There always seems to be plenty of money to pursue degrading, unethical policies that harm people but there is always controversy about spending money to help people or to further our understanding about our place in the universe.

  44. 44 Tom via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:21

    Yes, space exploration is a good investment, but you really should be comparing space science investment, aid, and such to the three trillion dollars that Bush has spent on his ongoing butchery of Iraqs people. Three trillion dollars is six thousand times the money spent on Mars! Three trillion dollars worth of lost opportunities, a cost that could have made the world better!

    $3,000,000,000,000 divided by $500,000,000 equals 6,000 times as much!

    Three trillion dollars is sixty thousand times Cyclone Nargis aid! We could have helped out on sixty thousand disasters!

    Oh, the horror!

    Bend, OR

  45. 45 Jack via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:22

    this whole argument is a false choice which I have heard for 30 years. And the false choice between manned vs. unmanned misses the point completely. How much do we waste daily on the war in Iraq ? How much do we spend on so-called ‘foreign aid’ to countries like Israel and Columbia for weapons ? How much on our so-called war on drugs ? I’m willing to bet the United Statures spends more annually on marijuana eradication than it does on space exploration. Any kind of science is infinitely better than these choices.

    San Francisco CA

  46. 46 Mohammed Ali
    May 26, 2008 at 18:23

    What are we doing with another space when the one we have is not properly taken care of. There are millions hungry without food and safe drinking water, millions are sick without any form fo medical facility, millions are illiterate without money to be educated and the list goes on. The west is spending billions of dollars on space program that almost of no use to billions of people on earth. The money being spend on space program should be redirected to improving the live of the suffering masses.

  47. 47 roozbeh
    May 26, 2008 at 18:27

    It’s a normal human tendency to know what is going on in the neighbor’s house and not bothering about their own house problems. So no need even discussing this subject as it’s all going to be useless, just like the money spent on this mission

  48. 48 portlandmike
    May 26, 2008 at 18:27

    I’m exhausted with the public discussions about how governments OUGHT to spend their taxes. It comes to naught!

  49. 49 archibald in oregon
    May 26, 2008 at 18:32

    When 95% of our oceans remain unexplored, space exploration seems outrageous. We all live here on planet earth, not just in isolated biospheres, the global crisis’ will eventually be everyones problem. So why not address it head on with all resources brought to bear on the issues at hand? Many still believe that by hoarding our moneys and resource we can save ourselves…….not for much longer. Denial and heavy rationalization seem to be the only skills we are developing to cope with current issues. Lets go off into space for a bit and when we get back things will be better because of all we have learned about another planet and it will only cost 500 million dollars, what a deal!…….right up until your bowl is empty and there is nothing to drink that won’t make you sick, now that a deal….

  50. 50 bjay
    May 26, 2008 at 18:33

    Do you want more space?

    YE !

    Fruit for thoughts.

    Where would you rather live?

    Above the ‘HORIZEN’ or UNDERNEATH it?

    bjay connotation with accent

  51. 51 Hal
    May 26, 2008 at 18:33

    If we took the cost of the worlds space programs and tried to use it for anything else, there is no gaurentee that it will be spent correctly. Also, manned space programs cost a lot more expecially when compared to robotic payloads. This is becuase to keep a human alive in space and on the surface of another planet (food, water, shielding, transportation) will take most of the space that scientific equipment that could be used to gather scientific info that may provide useful in our understanding. The Phoenix lander is another step, with most landers failing to reach their destination on Mars, we need to keep sending unmanned systems to the planets before we take a chance on sending manned systems. How would it look if the first manned trip to Mars ended in all dying? I for one will still volunteer for the flight.

  52. 52 Neil via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:33


    The very reason we are able to listen to this radio show is due to investment in space exploration. We take for granted all the things we use on earth, that were initially created for space explortation.

    Portland, OR

  53. 53 Gordon via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:34


    To all the short sighted people who think that this planet is our “invulnerable” home, guess what ? It isn’t !!!! We MUST look to space as it’s the only long term hope for the future of mankind….

    Best regards,

  54. 54 Roozbeh via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:34

    hey ros

    It’s a normal human tendency to know what is going on in the neighbor’s house and not bothering about their own house problems. So no need even discussing this subject as it’s all going to be useless, just like the money spent on this mission.



  55. 55 Michael Kemper
    May 26, 2008 at 18:35

    If we keep messing up the earth we durned well better spend money on exploring for a clean place to live.

  56. 56 Lee via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:35

    Two points

    To answer Melanie in India worrying about poverty and hunger – if a nation like hers that has over a billion people considered population control then there would not be such a problem with hunger and poverty and many other problems there.

    Also without the space technology used imagine how many lives have been saved through impending cyclones and the like. Before these were available many people died needlessly. You wouldn’t be having such a complex conversation without it.



  57. 57 Kiran via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:38

    I think that the debate regarding space exploration is somewhat controlled or constrained by money. This may be one of the most important issues facing humanity which could produce a need to disband our social and economic structure from capitalism into something much more just for all people. We need to move away from a system which constrains basic need for people on this planet and the limits of modern day space exploration. It is not a fair debate to always look as money as a constraint to human evolution… which includes space exploration.

    Toronto, Ontario

  58. 58 Jason via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:38

    The annual cost of the US Space Program is roughly 16 billion dollars, which is the cost of one Ford Class Aircraft Carrier. Which is likely to make the greatest contribution to world peace?

    Jason in Portland

  59. 59 Kalypso via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:38

    let’s address these first!!
    kalypso – Vienna, Austria

  60. 60 Len via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:40

    I completely agree with Dr Weinberg’s distinction between manned and unmanned missions. Some more comments:
    – The robotic explorations represent to me some of the most inspiring accomplishments of human civilization.
    The cost seems large, but in fact is completely affordable, and is a wonderful investment with rich tangible and spiritual rewards.

    On the other hand:
    – Human missions may sound efficient, but are in fact completeley impractical. The cost of taking care of human beings raises the cost by several orders of magnitude.
    – The sheer length of time it would take to traval to Mars puts human travel there squarely in the realm of science fiction.

    It should not be even considered for at least another 100 years.
    – The pinnacle of folly is the notion that we need to develop human space travel so the human species can colonize another world.
    If this leads us to not taking care of our planet because we can try again somehere else, this notion becomes obscene.
    In summary, robotic exploration is a very good investment, but human missions are indeed a waste of the world’s resources.

    Palo Alto, CA, USA

  61. 61 L. Walker
    May 26, 2008 at 18:42

    “Should we [be] spending billions of dollars on tackling these issues, rather than reaching out into space?”

    As with so many international questions, who are ‘we’?

    Should ‘we’ (the US/West) exist solely to bail out the failed states of the world, most of whose people hate us deeply and few of whom have ever shown an iota of gratitude for the aid we have given them? No.

    Thank you!
    do i want more space?
    yes yes yes!

    regardless of the amount of money that the west spends on humanitarian causes people will always hate and kill each other. don’t stunt science because people are animals and can’t and never will get along.

  62. 62 Krishjanis via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:42

    i think that the idea of finding habitable planets is reason enough for spending money on space exploration. our knowledge of Universe and ourselves is also very important!

    sincerely, krishjanis

  63. 63 Vijay
    May 26, 2008 at 18:42

    We can not wait for the whole world to be equal before starting space exploration.Remedial action concerning a range of issues is needed in both developed and developing countries but not at the expense of the future.
    It is human nature to look over the horizon,we are curious creatures.

  64. 64 jp via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:42

    It would seam to me, silly, that we have spent that much money to take a chance on finding a trace of water on Mars. At the same time we are knowingly polluting our oceans here on earth and our fishing industry struggles to take the last tuna out of the seas…. Stupid Stupid stupid, no other word for it….. jp

  65. 65 Donald
    May 26, 2008 at 18:43

    You know, I think your so called experts have missed some important points about the Mars mission. Its scientific experiment include attempts to detect life – and the technology being developed to do that has tremendous potential uses on earth. The other real return is that understanding the climate on Mars will help us understand the climate changes here on earth. Note the climate on Mars has actually been warming too, something often missed in the current stampede to blame mankind for warming here on earth. The reason why we in modern western countries enjoy all our material comforts is largely because of technologies developed by the military – flight, medicine, mathematics, semiconductors, modern communication, even chemistry which let us develop fertilizers, all can be traced to military research. Arguably, with the end of the cold war, military research should be less important, but the space program offers an alternative focal point for “blue-sky” research that was once the domain of military research.

  66. 66 Earl via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:43

    The amount of money that world Military’s spend in a single year combined, is more than the international community for space exploration. If wed spent less time spending money to kill each other and more time on humanitarian relief, the issue of Space exploration and the benefits of technology from the development of our collective space programs would not
    be a major issue. In short the cost’s spent on Space do benifit the
    world, and should continue, more so now than ever in the past.

    Earl, Portland Oregon USA

  67. 67 Bob via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:44

    Hello from California,

    The expense, a minuscule percentage of overall expenditures, is worth it if for no other reason than because it instills a sense of wonder and possibilities. People are devoting their lives to doing the impossible–and making it work.

    More cynically, the world could spend zero on space exploration and that money–which does create tangible benefits–would have a less than trivial effect on people who live under corrupt, evil rulers.

    Bob in San Jose (who attended the WHYS show in San Francisco, hopes R.A. made it to Amoeba Music)

  68. 68 Michael from Lakeland, Florida
    May 26, 2008 at 18:45

    I fully support space exploration, and would be thrilled to permanently move out into the sea of stars. I do think that much of the money invested in space exploration is invested poorly (such as the International Space Station, the technology of which was outdated in the early 90s), however, to cut funding from the space race and put it towards other crisis here on earth would be a mere drop of water in an ocean of problems. What we should be concentrating on is using money more wisely in all of our endeavors; be they space exploration, fuel supply, food production, or war.

    Were it up to me, Mars would already be undergoing processes to be terraformed or at least bases built capable of maintaining a human presence on the planet permanently, and I would gladly be one of the first to land and start the process.

  69. 69 Serina via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:45

    To all the nay sayers who give the impression that NO money is spent on AIDS research or poverty… well a heck of a lot of money IS spent on these issues. And has been for many many years.

    Stopping spending on space exploration will not have prevented what Robert Mugabe is doing in Zimbabwe nor will it prevent African truck drivers from sleeping with prostitutes and returning home to infect multiple partners, etc etc etc.


  70. 70 Mike via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:46

    You are ignoring the issue of military spending, which is over 1 trillion dollars a year. Space exploration has brought multiple technologies to bear on society. We do have a need to address problems on earth, but the fundamental truth is that all the global problems are due to too many people, and especially people in westernized nations like me, who use far more than their fair share of resources.
    Mike, Urbana, IL USA

  71. 71 Ramsey
    May 26, 2008 at 18:47

    As a human race we have proved over time that we are not willing to give up our luxuries, waste and peccadilloes for the greater common good. Such obvious examples as yachts, Ferraris, and solid gold cellphones are accompanied by much more banal examples as driving a needlessly large car, watering a lawn and 60″ televisions. Governments promote and prepare for war and waste money on pork barrel, corruption and useless research. Sadly, this will never change.

  72. 72 Ellyn
    May 26, 2008 at 18:47

    Space medicine, contrary to your guest Stephen’s assertion, is important to understanding to the aging process, bone degeneration, muscle atrophy, and immune system dysfunction. These are MAJOR healthcare research areas and deserve the insight microgravity research can provide.

  73. 73 Balazs via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:47

    Space research brought us teflon for example. AIDS global warning etc is not a problem of money. It’s a problem of companies living of of them.
    Balazs in Budapest

  74. 74 Kevin via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:50

    i dont mind,allot of space tech we now use in our daily lives.i just hate when burma cant use some of these tech to help them too.
    kevin in trinidad

  75. 75 Julie P
    May 26, 2008 at 18:53

    Congratulation to NASA on their fine work. Job well done.

  76. 76 Chris via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:55

    If missions to Mars were not done, the saved money wouldn’t be spent on more humane projects. When ever did an ex-smoker use the money he saves on anything useful? It just gets frittered away.
    Chris in Namibia

  77. 77 Michael via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:55

    Where does it say that rich countries have to support the poor countries at the cost of science?
    Michael in Holland

  78. 78 Ed via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:56

    The money spent onthe mars exploration is a pittance compared to what has been wasted on iraq.
    ed in namibia.

  79. 79 trowa
    May 26, 2008 at 18:56

    If space exploration is for the sake of mankind, then we should consider mankind as one. having a space race shouldn’t be considered as an action that says mankind is
    one. space exploration should be a collaborative effort of every country. Having said that, countries that can afford should do space exploration and share the results, and countries that can’t shouldn’t be restricted to access the information. we don’t need to keep sending rockets to space.

    space exploration for the sake of moving away from earth sounds far fetch also, as we are all earthlings. we have better alternatives like space stations that can be expanded to house populations of people.

  80. 80 Christophe via email
    May 26, 2008 at 18:56

    If one group of people, a nation, decides to bundle forces to explore space, what right does any other group of people have to deny that. To each his own wishes and aspirations.
    Christophe, Belgium

  81. 81 Jesse @ Salem, Oregon
    May 26, 2008 at 18:57

    I don’t think that space exploration should be stopped, but I don’t like the idea of
    looking at space as our only option for continued existence. Instead of looking for a
    planet to evacuate to, why can’t we use those efforts to learn how to live in harmony with our own planet?

  82. 82 Devon Taig
    May 26, 2008 at 18:59

    We live in a closed economic system. So when we spend a billion dollars or a trillion dollars on space exploration, it isn’t as if that money is gone for eternity. Money that is “spent” simply means that the money has been redistributed. Ultimately, it is people who recieve this money, and is people that will funnel this money back into the economy. Money that is “spent” on space exploration (or anythng for that matter) simply gets recyled. Economics is not like a piece of pie that once eaten can never be enjoyed again.

    I can imagine the same discussion in Europe prior to the discovery of thew New World. What could possibly be more important than exploring the universe?

  83. 83 Andrew via email
    May 26, 2008 at 19:00

    The future of mankind depends on space exploration and the spin off technology from the missions. We MUST do it at any cost!
    From Andrew, UK

  84. 84 Pangolin
    May 26, 2008 at 19:00

    Of course space exploration is a worthy pursuit. Without it we would never have been able to engage in this global conversation by computer. It also lets us see the planet for what it is, a global whole rather than countries, states, counties, cities and blocks that should squabble over resources.

    As to the reason for the squabbling, overpopulation and resource waste, we had better learn that humans don’t get to breed like rabbits anywhere in the world. The people of Burma oversubscribed their resource base by extending themselves into lands that flood during cyclones just as we did in Louisiana.

    Just south of me in a suburb of Sacramento, California there is an area called Natomas where thousands of houses where built on a floodplain formerly used for rice growing. It is without doubt that this area will flood unless major levee repairs are made but they built the houses before repairing the levees. Stupidity is universal.

    The human race will have to learn that they will have to live on THIS planet with the resources that are available without destroying the natural environment. That is going to mean paying attention to what Malthus was saying and taking proper precautions. The proper precautions start with checking human population growth and resource conservation.

    Taking control of resources from the wealthy only to feed families with five to seven children each will be a very short-lived solution. Eventually nature will have her say and she tends to play rather rough.

  85. 85 Abdi via email
    May 26, 2008 at 19:02

    i’m abdi i got questions. why the westerns always go and look for new invention while u cannot find answers for the problems we have in here earth? i mean comon u westerns gotta see the big picture

  86. 86 Steve via email
    May 26, 2008 at 19:02

    The US, the world’s largest investor in space exploration, spends .000097 % of its GDP on space—-let’s keep our small expenditure in perspective.

  87. 87 Nathan Williams
    May 26, 2008 at 19:04

    The costs of space exploration are astronomical yet compared to other expenditures space exploration costs are minimal.

    I’ll use figures from NASA and the US as I know them best;
    NASA spent under 20 billion dollars a year for the last decade let us be generous and say it’s a round 20B$
    The US GDP for the year ending 2007 was an estimated 13.84 trillion dollars

    That’s 0.001445…% of the total US GDP spent on space exploration, the spending choices of a country as determined by the governmental process is something we all have to work with. Imagine the help the developing world would receive if the world cut space exploration costs by 50%. Now imagine how much help the developing world could receive if all military spending in the world was cut but an anemic 5%.

    This is an issue of perspective people should not attack scientific exploration and development without first acknowledging the costs of other government expenditures. There is a terrible amount of suffering around the world and attacking space exploration will not help in the alleviation of anguish in the developing world if you want to make the world a better place don’t attack science instead seek to eliminate corruption, crime and senseless military conflicts.

    Let us attack injustice not science.

  88. 88 Joshua(Ghana)
    May 26, 2008 at 19:05

    There is a proverb in one Ghanaian language that says “food is eaten by the owner and not the one who is hungry” so the western world have the money to explore on this space buisiness and we cannot say much about it.But the fact is that we do what is important before we do what is necessary. Lets take care of the land before the space

  89. 89 Lamii
    May 26, 2008 at 19:13

    Hi Ros,

    Although the money that the Americans and other space exploration nations are spending does not belong to us in the developing and underdeveloped worlds, my thinking is that it could be money well spent on the much heralded poverty alleviation programs that western nations claim that they are helping poorer countries with. This is especially so when considered in light of the current global economic down turn with food and energy price hikes that poor people are finding extremely difficult to cope with.

    I agree with some of your panelists when they say that space exploration has done a lot in making life better on earth, but the search for life on other planets when we have not even mastered how to take care of earth is simply ludicrous.

    Lamii Kpargoi

  90. 90 Andy via email
    May 26, 2008 at 19:14

    You have a guest on who uses the phrase “everyone agrees…”

    Who is everyone?

    Not I!

    So far I agree that your scientific guests have been backed into a corner. They would do well to leave their labs and go out and help someone by feeding the hungry.

  91. 91 Idriss via email
    May 26, 2008 at 19:14

    I do believe, that space explorations has been giving more attentions than d chronic deseases hunger nd illitracy. Which has been d major crisis in d developing coumtries like Africa n Asia, d earlier d better.
    Idriss, in Ghana

  92. 92 Kan
    May 26, 2008 at 19:15

    Unmanned space exploration has been a lot more useful in understanding our universe more.
    Such research has put issues like global warming into perspective through our insight of the earth’s atmosphere and its relation to the sun.

  93. 93 Michelle
    May 26, 2008 at 19:17

    Hi Ross,

    I believe space exploration is great; its good to see what is going on up there! I however believe we should abandon the idea of populating space. There should be no human exploration to mars. I believe if we are running out of space, it would be easier and more cost effective to build housing in Antartica or at the bottom of the ocean, than in space.

    So countries that can aford to, can continue sending probes and robots so we can see what is out there.


  94. 94 Peter :)
    May 26, 2008 at 19:18

    Rich kids have expensive toys. Poor kids play with simple things. Playing help kids to learn. Simple toys can explore new frontiers too. Rocket science or a micro scope depends on how rich you are. Make sure u get your priority straight.

  95. 95 Elsa via email
    May 26, 2008 at 19:18

    Hallo this Elsa in Uganda. I think there is a reason why man lives on earth and not in space or the moon. exploration is the root cause of many evils on earth like colonialism and slave trade. We must put a stop to this madness.

  96. 96 Carmel
    May 26, 2008 at 19:18


    Who is really paying for space exploration? Is is tax dollars from governments or independant research from companies like Lockheed Martin? Aren’t governments relying heavily on companies like Halibutron and AT&T for their ability to build machines to go to space?

    Cleveland, Ohio

  97. 97 A Jeske
    May 26, 2008 at 19:19

    NASA’s budgetary priorities seem to have shifted more to achieving a manned Mars mission, at the expense of programs needed now to monitor global warming and refine climate projections. Apparently, the DSCOVR climate satellite, which Americans paid over 100 million dollars for before it was packed away in a box, is an example. I have nothing against exploration, but let’s try stabilizing the situation at home before spending billions for a stroll on Mars.

  98. 98 Julie via email
    May 26, 2008 at 19:19

    Man should never stop spending on research on Mars &the galaxy 4 the sake of world problems. If the research’s accounted for, go ahead! Problems like wars & poverty are a never ending story. Julie from Uganda

  99. 99 Alec, KALW, San Francisco
    May 26, 2008 at 19:19

    To say that space exploration must wait until terrestrial needs and problems have passed is to say that it must wait forever. We must proceed at a sensible pace in the present or never gain the knowledge and technology that will come from effective exploration.

    We can best address the tremendous expenses by ensuring that our money is spent cost-effectively. We can prefer useful tools like the Hubble telescope to the drama of manned missions, and we can invest in potentially vital surveillance of Near-Earth Objects for self-protection (which will be good value at any cost).

  100. 100 Eric via email
    May 26, 2008 at 19:19

    There is a need to find out what kind of universe we live in but there is also a need to feed its people. There should be a limit to spending on extraterrestrials.
    Eric. Accra. Ghana

  101. 101 Denise, KALW, San Francisco
    May 26, 2008 at 19:20

    A lot of the problems of we find on earth can be traced to technology advances. Take the car for example, millions die yearly in car accidents, global warming is traced to car pollution, millions of finite resources are used just to make cars and then the cars are discarded. Are we better off because of technology?

    Denise D’Anne San Francisco

  102. 102 Jesse in Oregon
    May 26, 2008 at 19:20

    I don’t think that space exploration should be stopped, but I don’t like the idea of looking at space as our only option for continued existence. Instead of looking for a planet to evacuate to, why can’t we use those efforts to learn how to live in harmony in our own planet?

  103. 103 Thomas Manke
    May 26, 2008 at 19:21

    There is definitely a need for it:
    to better understand our own (in)significance, limitations and volunerabilities in an infinite universe.

    And space money is certainly well spent to highlight the need for peace and unity on this tiny boat called: Earth.

    Thomas Manke

  104. 104 Bernadette via email
    May 26, 2008 at 19:24

    Yes space exploration should go on whether they are expensive or not. Discoveries, inventions and researches hav contributed to tha betterment of man. Furthermore i am alwayz eager to know wats beyond tha universe. From: Bernadette, Nakuru, Kenya

  105. 105 Mustapha via email
    May 26, 2008 at 19:25

    Why such huge amount of money is spent on space while hunger starvation and poverty is the order of the day in Africa, from Mustapha in the Gambia

  106. May 26, 2008 at 19:26

    To Ahmad and VictorK,

    This conversation since has it roots in “then what should we spend our money on?” could easily progress into other off topic issues. I agree with Ahmad completely. The happily blind ignorant people of the US do not know what our government and industry is doing that reflects badly on our culture in many remote places of the world. However, Unless we are prepared to stop importing and live off only the food we grow, the livestock we raise, and the TV’s we produce and eventually dump from products right here in the states we will never be able to “mind our own business”.

    The point of relevance is that the rest of the world does have a stake in what we do with our money and resources. However, space exploration is a genetic thing. In the spirit of Darwinism, only the most successful of our species should press on to represent us. Those that can not stop having babies even though they can’t afford to feed themselves and those that can’t stop having unprotected sex even though they know it will kill them will not be part of the next advancement. No amount of money can help that. So let us use the spoils of our success as we see fit.

  107. 107 Kevin
    May 26, 2008 at 19:30

    Space Exploration is important because it serves as motivation for aspiring scientists. Without Space Exploration, the scientific community and it’s future would dwindle away into a bleak future. As long as there is a drive for space exploration, there is hope for the future. We have the technology to create inhabitable planets and if there were enough people on this Earth who would willingly support their Space Programs then maybe we could overcome the adversities that have been holding us back for such a long time.

    Kevin, Cleveland, Ohio USA

  108. 108 Kan
    May 26, 2008 at 19:32

    Its all about priorities, and like any dynamic economic envorinment, it has to change with time.With current world events like natural disasters, food and fuel prices, global warming, refugees and hunger , and the list go on. We must distribute funds appropriately.


  109. May 26, 2008 at 19:37

    @ manned vs. unmanned.

    As a system designer I can tell you this. You can develop a robot to look for signs of water or carbon in the 2’X2′ area that you have programmed him in. If there is the slightest particle of these elements in that are, the robot will find them. What he will not find is the bird flying over it even if it lands on it. The robot is only designed to find what it is programmed to find.

  110. 110 Alex J
    May 26, 2008 at 19:57

    The point is, some questions are more pressing than others, even if they may not immediately seem so. If NASA is skimping on vital Earth study programs in order to achieve a Mars landing, they have their priorities wrong. They could at least divert some funds for 5 years and update the research satellites. Otherwise, future generations may be less inclined to spend on manned missions as they’re busy trying to keep pace with accelerating ecological degradation and it’s sociological and political consequence.

  111. 111 John Smith - Jamaica
    May 26, 2008 at 20:40

    The problem with this world is that it is one big failed world.

    Let’s highlight the issues raised
    1. Low aid relief
    2. Little funding for research into diseases of the developing world
    3. Little attention paid to the destitute who are starving
    4. Excesses spent on wars, space exploration and research into the link between chewing gum and headaches.

    There will always be the haves and the have nots. Whilst there is a moral and ethical justification for the haves to help the have nots, is it right that someone who works so hard to achieve what he/she has earned should then be told how to spend it (after all the government tries to reallocate wealth through taxes.) Is it conceivable to dictate to a country how best to spend it’s resources? If the world was to stop because of all the turmoil and chaos around us, then there would be no advances in human living…as a matter of fact, none of the technology we have would have been possible had it not been for these so called excesses and wastes.

    When I entered the teaching profession, I decided that all my students would understand my subject area and all would be brilliant….how young, noble, naive, and stupid I was. I quickly learnt that you won’t ever be able to reach all persons and some will fall by the wayside. Was it wrong then for me to help others who seemed capable, even if they were not my personal students…no it wasn’t. AS far as I was concerned, I was reallocating my resources (my knowledge) to those who were able to use it and advance. As for those by the wayside, I couldn’t help them and I wasn’t going to have sleepless nights over it. This is the approach the world must take in order to survive…unfortunately some will have to suffer.

  112. May 26, 2008 at 20:55

    Hi WHYSers!

    A most interesting disucssion if ever there was one. Of course, I am appalled by VictorK’s original response to the post. The West as a cultural and poltiical institution has had so much to do with the under-development in various parts of the world that it is beyond doubt that there is urgent moral need for them, as the largest, most ‘progressive’ set of countries the world over to help others with significantly less resources. These range from the Burmese affair, AIDS and other research, etc.

    Of course, I think of the Columbian expenditions of the fifteenth century and resulting effects of the Amerindian Holocaust which has severely impacted the development of places the Caribbean, for instance, even within the modern age. The institution of the African Slave Trade as a corollary to the Mercantilist and, later, Capitalist expansions of Europe, at the time, is another such example.

    The question of the hatred of the West as a result, as VictorK, argues is problematic, in part because I believe the hatred of the West would, by definition, imply that the actual people are hated whereas I see it more in the vein of the values. These, largely, emanate from a political culture and foreign policy which constructs non-Westerners as a homogeneous block all with the same need – to undermine the gains of the West.

    While, this distinction may only be cosmetic its implications are that, the political and economic fortunes of the other parts of the world are tied to the goals of the West, whether for better or worst. How we treat with that is another matter by itself. Still, are the essential power imbalances forcibly established, in some instances, between the West and the (so-called) “Global South” and other places to be resolved through an exploration of the cosmos? If so, bring it on!

    I am sure that the idea that there is need for research is not so alien. In fact, knowledge at any level is to be embraced. However, what is the goal of this knowledge? Is it to help us live better here on earth, or is it to afford the means by which to abandon those who are unable to keep pace with the exigencies of a world context in which space exploration, at five hundred million dollars a pop, is the new black?

    We, obviously, have not mastered the business of living amongst and with each other here on planet Earth. It now seems we are shifting the territory to play these power games amongst the stars. Research and knowledge are good things, undoubtedly, but where does one draw the line? Is there even a need for a line, especially when so much else seems to be at stake?

  113. 113 VictorK
    May 26, 2008 at 23:22

    @Agostinho: sorry to hear that you were appalled by what I had to say.

    What evidence is there for Western underdevelopment of other parts of the world? Africa has been going backwards ever since Western powers left. Every prediction that Ian Smith made about black majorityrule in Zimbabwe has come to pass, with a vengeance. A country like Nigeria is a failed state despite oil revenues over 30 years of more than $300 billion, more than enough to launch a competent developing country into first world status and prosperity. Africa should by rights be the richest continent on the planet, and it would be if its resources were in the hands of 500 million Western Europeans, or 500 million Indians, or 500 million Chinese. But it has 500 million Africans. Many European countries have been subjected to colonial domination much longer than any African or Asian state but are still in much better condition than most countries from those parts of the world (Poland Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, all the states of the old Soviet bloc). Greece and Serbia were each subject to a foreign imperial yoke for more than 400 years. No African country was a colony for more than 70-80 years. The tragedies in Congoand Somalia are entirely the fault of Africans. So why should colonialism count for so much in Africa and be the universal excuse for failure?

    No, I think the hatred of the West has little justification and is largely derived from racist envy and resentment.

    You mentioned North America, and the Indians and the slave trade in particular. Most people who criticise the West bring those subjects to the fore. But this underscores my point about criticism of the West being largely umerited and motivated by something other than genuine grievance. Slavery was a universal institution. Some Europeans were slavers (and it was only a minority of European countries who were ever engaged in slave trading) but so were virtually ALL African polities and ALL Arab peoples. African and Arab slavery is never ever mentioned for some reason, even though the institution as practiced in those parts of the world was of longer-standing and much worse than anything in the Americas. The only people in the history of the world to have abolished slavery are Europeans. Slavery in Africa and the Arab lands was forcibly abolished by European colonial powers (aberrations like the Belgian Congo aside). But as usual there is not a word of thanks or gratitude for this, just the usual hatred. Large scale plantation slavery was first practised in Iraq; the first ever black slave revolt was also in Iraq, the Zanj Rebellion (it involved tens of thousands of slaves). But not only is the Zanj Rebellion not memorialised by blacks today, it is barely known. Why is that?

    Several of the Indian nations of the Americas practiced slavery, were war-mongers and threw in mass human sacrifice and cannibalism too for good measure. The European civilisation that displaced them was infinitely better and not something that anybody needs to apologise for. Several North American Indian tribes owned black slaves and worked as slave-hunters for whites. Yet I’ve seen several black commentators shedding tears over the fate of these same Indians and reviling whites for mistreating them: why, if not because of a hostility to whites that is so deep that it is prepared to ignore any injustice perpetrated against blacks so long as the perpetrator isn’t white.

    People are free to hate the West f they want to; but they shouldn’t be surprised if Westerners take it into their heads to wash their hands of them.

  114. May 27, 2008 at 00:48

    Oh Ros, you are once again asking me to probe the infinite and profound vs. the infinitessimal and profane. But look. Let me first issue this disclaimer. I am no hard-core economic guru like Alan Greenspan. But neither am I (yet) fully convinced that everything is Maya/illusion/consciousness along the lines of the new-agers like E. Tolle.

    The debate on the relative merits of dialectical materialism vs. neo-Buddhist/ghost in the machine/trans-existentialist cosmology will continue to rage on. The question more people seem stuck on is Money. What is it? Where does it come from? How should we spend it? Why don’t I have more of it? (and if I did, what would I do with it?)

    I purposely have avoided reading any other comments in this post. Usually I like to see which way the wind is blowing before I raise my sails. But this time I don’t want my thoughts diluted by other opinions.

    First of all money basically isn’t real. It’s an abstract concept that takes concrete form. In this electronic age I often explain to my friends and the occasional total stranger that money is just electrons moving from my account to yours and back again.

    It isn’t money that made this amazing techno-feat of landing on Mars possible. It’s BRAIN POWER. It isn’t money or the absence of it that is preventing the distribution of aid to the victims of natural disasters. I’s the stubbornness, stupidity, and self-interestedness of military and corporate leaders who run most governments these days, (whether we want to acknowledge this truth or not), that is responsible.

    Remember the character, Wimpy, from the Popeye cartoons? “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today”. The borrow and spend economy many of us practice was inculcated into the minds of children who grew up watching these cartoons. It is desire, intention, and manifestation that produce results, not money. The rest as some great mind once said, “is details”.

    But before the economists and thin-skinned capitalists come with the straight-jacket and duct-tape to shut me up, I would suggest that you ask yourself this question. If you could hop into a time-machine and found yourself as an advisor to the Spanish court somewhere around the late fifteenth century, would you advocate spending your coveted ducats on adding another wing to the Queen’s castle in Segovia, or might you support the novel ideas of a young Genoan who was seeking your sponsorship and a few ships to sail out past the horizon and into the unknown?

    Does that answer your question?

    “Have Guitar/Will Travel”

  115. May 27, 2008 at 02:39

    @ VictorK,

    Notwithstanding the expansive range of examples used in your comments above, I would nonetheless like to emphasise the fact of the untold damage caused by slavery in the Americas, specifically, and its links to European economic/ colonial expansion cannot be casually brushed aside on the premise that there were similar types of abuses committed elsewhere, albeit by Africans and Arabs. There is no ignoring or convenient explanation of these realities as simple aberrations, epecially for those who have inherited the institutionalised imbalances of our current context.

    Indeed, one form of slavery is no more acceptable than another. Still, it merits being said that to the extent that there is that implicit position which you have taken also suggests that people of African descent, specifically those in the Americas, should be excited and happy about the phenomenally difficult racial heritage bequeathed them, as a result of this barbaric and savage institution. Unlike Africans in Africa, we in the ‘New World’ were denied any real opportunity to make similar mistakes on our own terms, if, indeed, this was our destiny.

    Your arguments claim that the oppression of blacks in the Americas, to say nothing of the native Indian population, is somehow cancelled out by the practise of similar types of slavery elsewhere. That Native American Indians practised the enslavement of Africans warrants greater attention than the long term economic and human rights abuses of Africans by Europeans for nearly three centuries. (Some would even argue that it continues int the present). This is complete nonsense and I am sure you know this.

    It is a most unjust and unacceptable kind of logic to suggest that one is to be thankful for inheriting a system which, without considering individual merits, talents and or abilities, places you at the base of the social and political structure of a civilisation long before you got there. The West, in this instance, Western Europe has had a very significant role to play in the wholesale extermination of entire generations of Africans and Amerindians, who were all denied any real opportunity to prove the worth of their convictions, cultural or otherwise. That such opportunities must now only be the subject of academic enquiry and ‘guestimates’, necessarilly, suggest the gravity of the loss, which cannot be rationalised under the rubric that this was the reality of the time and that others were doing it as well.

    There is no denying the fact that there are glaring instances of a certain kind of selective reporting of history, as happens in most instances where there are serious emotional hurts occassioned by the past. However, there is also no denying the significance of the truth of claims like those I made earlier. The emotional volume and intensity of your response suggest to me that there are, indeed, valid bases for the arugments concerning the links to Europe and the underdevelopment in certain parts of the world. That ultimately does not mean that there will be any real effort to acknowledge the moral significance of this fact of history, as the West is still very much free to do as it well pleases, especially in the Space Race.

    My point, nonetheless, remains there is no denying the deep inter-connectedness of the many problems which which currently beset us in the modern world. A Race to Space that blithely overlooks that would be but another of the ways in which the keen sense of responsibility which has, in part, been created and institutionalised by the past and negative actions of members of this same group has been historically disavowed. What’s so new about that?

    Yours is but part of a standard type of response which, ultimately, does not engender any meaningful feelings, or serious support for and regard towards the West in some parts of the world, whether as a cultural and political institution. That does not change the need to alter the paradigms used to mediate this conversation. However, it clearly points to the many gaps that continue to exist and maintained in this entrenched and hierarchic relationship of privilege based on race and cultural and political power.

  116. 116 Will Rhodes
    May 27, 2008 at 02:58

    @ Victor & Agostinho

    While I like the way you post and I do read what you post would it be possible to make the posts a little shorter so others will have more of a chance to read them rather than skirting over them?

    If you want to break them up into smaller segments that’s fine, too.



  117. May 27, 2008 at 03:40

    Will do, Will.

    I must, however, confess that it is hard to separate my thoughts mid-way through them. But I will try as per my next post. In fact, I did promise Ros that I would do exactly as you have asked, a few weeks back.

  118. 118 Will Rhodes
    May 27, 2008 at 03:50

    Thank you. 🙂

  119. May 27, 2008 at 04:20

    But, let me ask you though Will what are your thoughts on the Space Race? I ask not so much in the context of the funding and the other glaring problems which seem to beset us here on planet Earth. More, in the vein of what do you think we may learn about ourselves through a study of the cosmos at this time, in the way that fifty million dollars will be able to based on the above?

    If I could, I have always had a love for Star Trek, SG One and the like. Now, I am beginning to wonder if there is any possibility to some of what we see reflected in some of these series? After all, scientist just witnessed a supernova in some far off galaxy which apparently happened sixteen years ago but is only now just showing up in our night sky – the only one seen on this side of the universe since the seventeenth century.

    Plus, there were two recent discovery of planets with water. Now the Mars Mission. Is it likely that we were brought here by shipwrecked Ancients on their way to another galaxy to jumpstart other deposits of humans somewhere else in the cosmos? Is there really some major government cover-up which is fuelling this desire to learn more about Space? Sounds very sci-fi-like, no? What think you?

  120. May 27, 2008 at 04:25

    And what of these Ancients? What might they have been like? The type to have created Star Gates and the great civilisations of Egypt and even the Mayan pyramids? According to Sci-Fi there is “evidence” that similar structures were also on Mars many moons ago. However, like the all good fairytale (lol!), the planet was pummelled by mind boggling asteroids and solar flares which ended up killing any life on the Red Planet.

  121. 121 VictorK
    May 27, 2008 at 07:31

    @Will: you’re right – I’ve fallen back into bad habits.

    @Agostinho: the universality of slavery means that it can’t be accepted as the reason for hatred of the West, especially since Westerners are the ones who abolished it. The Arab and African slave trades were both older and worst than the European trade; neither is ever criticised. The criticism of the European trade (in which Africans were equal partners) is therefore motivated by something other than a principled objection to slavery.

    Slavery in itself doesn’t enrich a country, though slavery may be profitable/viable in a country which already organises its social and economic life competently. Otherwise Africa and the Arab world would for centuries have been the richest places in the world. Insofar as slavery was profitable it was because of European skill in its management. But most economists are agreed on two points: slaver labour is less efficient than free labour; and slavery did not make a decisive contribution to the development of the Western slaving nations (Spain? Portugal? Latin America?). I don’t think you cited any (reputable) economists who argue that slavery was a significant drag on Africa or benefit to Europe.

    Indian slavery doesn’t cancel North American white slavery: it points to the hypocrisy of those black critics who use the Indians to attack whites even though the Indians were just as guilty of perpetrating abuses against people of African descent. I cited this – and the silence on the historic Zanj Rebellion – to underline what the real motivation for criticism of the West, in this instance, really is.

    An African-American, Keith Richburg, has indeed written about his gratitude that slavery meant that he ended up in America and wasn’t condemned to a life of horror, oppression, poverty, ethnic racism, tribal slaughter, disease, etc in Africa (“Not Out Of Africa”). African and Caribbean blacks all today enjoy higher living standards and better living conditions than Africans: ‘gratitude’ is understandably difficult given what led to a better life for the present generation of Americo-Caribbane blacks, but it is still the case that they are better off than if they’d been born Africans..

    Africans were equal partners in the trans-Atlantic slave trade: any underdevelopment of the continent was therefore equally their responsibility (I contest that underdevelopment occurred, and many African groups propsered on the trade). Colonialism was too brief to have underdeveloped Africa, especially since others have suffered worst from colonial domination and are nowhere as underdeveloped as African countries because of it. Besides, colonialism is not in itself an exploitative and evil thing (I don’t support it even when it isn’t), though it can be. British (and French) colonialism was, on the whole, good for the colonised. The people who had a grievance were those who were colonised by white third world countries like Portugal (a much bigger slaver than Britain, and yet desperately poor and backward at the end of it).

    “Yours is but part of a standard type of response…” – you can’t be serious. Most Westerners, whenever slavery is mentioned – a subject on which they are not very well informed – are guilt-stricken, grovel, apologise and are shamefaced. My response is non-standard because I don’t see that the facts justify such a response.

  122. 122 S.Rassi
    May 27, 2008 at 12:55

    If we’re looking for projects to cut in favor of helping the poor, I can think of many that are more trivial than the Phoenix mission.

  123. 123 Jennifer from Albany, New York
    May 27, 2008 at 14:51

    It is our Basic Human nature to explore. It is also our basic human responsibility to care for those that can not care for themselves. There is no reason we can not feed the planet, and explore space, the Super Powers chose politics, greed, and selfishness over what is the right thing to do, as any politician would. It should not be a choice. We should explore all the far reaches of the galaxy, we should also feed every single person on this planet. There should be no reason we need to chose.

  124. 124 steve
    May 27, 2008 at 15:21

    I’m still curious, why are people who are so poor they cannot feed themselves, having 10 kids, when they cannot feed even themselves? Is the purpose of richer country to enable the poor decisions of poorer people? If I were poor, i wouldn’t have kids if I couldn’t feed them. As long as we keep on enabling this behavior, people will get poorer and poorer and the world will become more overcrowded, and there will be massive wars as the result.

  125. 125 zainab
    May 27, 2008 at 15:26

    Well, I believe that “Space” and any scientific issues are worthy. Because they are in one way or another, useful.
    And of course all what Ros said about the crisis of the world, are serious and more important than space exploration, because these issues are related to human beings’ life that is the most important thing.
    BUT I’m completely sure that if these sums of money don’t spend on space exploration, they will not spend to feed the hungry people either. BUT these sums of money will spend on increasing their numbers.

  126. 126 Nick in USA
    May 27, 2008 at 21:50

    Darn, I can’t believe I missed this one. I agree 100% with Steve and VictorK. Space exploration is the future of mankind. We are using up our natural resources and overpopulating the planet. The only option is to expand to new planets. By promoting space exploration we are not condemning those in need of help, we are actually trying to find a real answer, which will keep their future generations alive.

  127. 127 Jens
    May 27, 2008 at 22:06

    Should we spending billions of dollars on tackling these issues, rather than reaching out into space?

    that is all chop-change compared to the cost of the iraq war. by the end of the war it will have cost us 3 trillion dollars. boy for that money i could single handly end world starvation, invent renewable energy, prevent and cure cancer, as well as all infectiouse diseases, save social security and pensions, as well as universal health care AND still shoot silly little rocket ships to mars and beyond……..

    in case you want me to cure prevent support anything else just add to the list

  128. 128 Thomas Murray
    May 27, 2008 at 22:14

    Space might not be the most practical investment. But it always yields something pure and good, stimulating the imagination as well as the technology market, and seldom, if ever, turns its guns on us.

    And, it has to be remembered, that it was NASA that helped jump-start the computer revolution — as they were the ones who attached TV monitors to computers and teletype consoles.

  129. 129 Jens
    May 27, 2008 at 22:26

    NASA that helped jump-start the computer revolution

    i am still amazed that A) the entire program was run on the computing power of an average TI-calculator and B) that people entrusted their livesto so little technology.

    the tour of cape canaveral is amazing. the dingy TV screens, the flick-dials for clocks etc etc. however i am glad to see that the late sixties fashin is making a comback. thin ties, white shirts etc….

  130. May 27, 2008 at 23:18

    @ VictorK,

    Thanks for your insights, however, I will end my contributions on this insofar as the statements made earlier. We may choose to disagree on this matter. That is perfectly okay, from where I am sitting.

    Unlike, you I do not share as favourable a view of African slavery, nor for that matter the Amerindian Holocaust conducted under white colonialists as it appears you do, based on your analysis. I must part company with your position, notwithstanding what you claim is the absence of economic sources from my response above.

  131. 131 Dennis Cote
    May 28, 2008 at 11:10

    The least that can be done, whilst traversing Mars is to drill for oil.
    Make the trip worth the while.
    However getting the oil back to Earth could be costly as well.
    I’m sure if President Bush got wind of oil on Mars, he’d be buying it up for himself.
    The whole trip is a huge waste of money.
    President Bush still insists the US is not in a recession, because it’s our tax dollars are buying everything he needs/wants.
    People around the globe are going without necessities. and he wants to study if there’s life on Mars?
    If there was life on Mars, they did something wrong, it’s a ghost planet.
    We need to concentrate on what’s going on in our own atmosphere.

  132. 132 steve
    May 28, 2008 at 12:28

    @ Dennis

    “People around the globe are going without necessities. and he wants to study if there’s life on Mars?
    If there was life on Mars, they did something wrong, it’s a ghost planet.
    We need to concentrate on what’s going on in our own atmosphere.”

    So you should stop all your discretionary spending and donate it to the less fortunate. IF you want a university education, stop, and give that money to poor people. If there was life on Mars, and they did something wrong, then perhaps we could learn what they did wrong, so we don’t repeat their mistake? In actuality, Mars likely died from a massive meteor, it’s electromagnetic field is gone, which seems to be a necessity for life. Mars also doesn’t appear to have plate tectonics,, and the forces underground for that are also responsible for having a magnetic field.

    I know you want to blame Bush, but this mission was a backup for a 1999 (Clinton was president) that failed, and now they are trying again.

  133. 133 Nick in USA
    May 28, 2008 at 14:03

    Dennis said:

    “The least that can be done, whilst traversing Mars is to drill for oil.
    Make the trip worth the while.”


    I think it’s time for a science lesson Dennis. There will be no oil on mars. To quote Wiki:

    “Oil is formed from the preserved remains of prehistoric zooplankton and algae which have been settled to the sea (or lake) bottom in large quantities under anoxic conditions.”

    You see, the fact that we even have oil is a 1 in a billion chance. Unless Mars had prehistoric zooplankton and algae, then they won’t have any oil. So use your oil wisely folks, once it is gone, you’ll never see it again.

  134. 134 Dennis Cote
    May 29, 2008 at 06:02

    My article was written in jest.
    I feel, tho, at a time when fuel prices are at record highs, we could be putting the money toward more useful things.
    Renewable fuel, etc.

    “So you should stop all your discretionary spending and donate it to the less fortunate. IF you want a university education, stop, and give that money to poor people.”

    I said nothing about closing down Universities, my point once again, record high priced fuel, is not being used for something that is going to be able to help us (if at all) for many years, while Oil companies post their record high profits, and consumers are headed in the opposite direction.

  135. 135 Shirley
    May 30, 2008 at 16:31

    I am surprised that with all of the talk about the military, especially military spending, no-one has yet mentioned the militarisation of space. There is a commercial by one of our military branches that has been running on TV invoking our fear that a terrorist might shoot a rocket out to one of our satellites and (horror of horrors) knock out our TV watching capabilities and other technological entertainments. The fact is, though, that the US has military equipment in space that could already take out anyone anywhere. I do not know everything that Star Wars entails, but I do know that because of that programme, the US has military equipment in a place that should be an international zone and not someone’s military playground.

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