Arnold Kling  

Carnival of Catastrophe

Win APEE's Money... Market Discipline for Banks...

What do you do about an unsustainable path for the government Budget? Hold a Carnival. A blog carnival, that is, or a collection of posts. I submitted one of my classics to the carnival.

One of the more interesting takes, and a contrarian one, is from David D. Kent, who writes,

We could fund another Apollo program--which as I said, includes Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions, for LESS THAN WHAT WE GAVE AIG!!! We gave them $125 billion more last year alone than we gave NASA over 10 years to go to the freakin' MOON! How's that for some perspective?

He wants to a taxpayer-funded expedition to Mars.

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CATEGORIES: Fiscal Policy

COMMENTS (9 to date)
Granite26 writes:

If I've got to pay for other people's irresponsibilities left and right, the least they can do is throw me a bone and do something cool like send people to Mars

Ryan Vann writes:

I'm not sure I follow the suggestion. So, scientists and astronauts are the primary victims of a credit crunch? Realistically, how many jobs would a Nasa expansion create? Furthermore, are those likely to take NASA jobs really that exposed to job loss as a result of a slipping Economy?

If we are going to undertake giant public works programs, why not start with something that actually requires a lot of labor input and would have lasting production multiplier effects? My suggestion would be laying better electric lines, and maybe even some rail (both industrial and light rail). If all else fails, road expansion would be a nice way to reduce traffic, and thus emmissions

What exactly is gained by putting boots on Mars? Seems to me rovers are cheaper and just as effective as humans.

Ryan Vann writes:


They already have rovers on Mars, which can stay there pretty much indefinitely. They can basically do everything an astronaut would be doing, and you don't have the additional cost of life support systems, which jacks the cost up incredibly.

Crawdad writes:

Let's not forget either, realistically, what he's talking about is overlaying this spending on top of all the other spending already going on. Does anybody really expect any of the currently funded programs to be cut to make way for more funding for NASA?

Also, I suspect that the numbers he's suggesting are 1960s' dollars. The costs of a program to Mars would easily surpass those costs if adjusted to today's dollar.

guthrie writes:

David's point was to put perspective on the bailout and seems to be suggesting that more good could have been done with that money by allowing AIG to fail. I agree.

And while I am all in favor of colonies on the Moon and Mars, I disagree that NASA is the right place to invest those funds... NASA ought to concentrate on what they do best: space and atmosphere science and research. They ought to get out of the transportation/life support business entirely.

Ryan, robots do some things well, but can’t to everything. Machines malfunction, bits get misplaced or sent out of order, and for planetary scientists, being ‘sure’, means boots on the ground. Additionally, bases on the Moon and Mars would also create new markets and expand the economy while also creating solutions for various problems here on earth. But, I agree with your premise, that we ought not use (ultimately mismanaged) taxpayer funds to achieve this. Private enterprise will manage such things just fine once there is enough market demand and lowered government involvement.

Ryan Vann writes:


I was under the assumption that a Mars expedition would be strictly an exploratory program; I don't see an attempt to put a base there happening anytime soon. In that regard, there is no comparing several million dollar machines, designed to go check Mars out, to people.

As for the bases, I really don't see how they would result in a net wealth gain for at least a couple hundred years. There is most likely money in space tourism to be had, but as far as production as a result from bases, I doubt it.

Granite26 writes:

I'm operating ENTIRELY based on the rule of cool.

I won't even pretend to argue that my beliefs have any more validity than a 10 year old screaming for ice cream

guthrie writes:


You're right. Reading David's post more carefully, it looks as if he's making a Mars trip analogous to the Apollo landings. I leapt to my area of interest, so I'm sorry about that!

Your skepticism is understandable, and not without warrant. There are tremendous physical and ephemeral barriers to (specifically) lunar production colonies. I would suggest however, given the current rate of technological advance, and given the resources available on the lunar surface (He3, Ti, Al, etc.), and given the economics of flight FROM the Moon (i.e.: it's cheaper to launch satellites from the moon to LEO/GEO than up from Earth), that overcoming these barriers is only a few decades away, rather than centuries. It will be far more difficult (but not impossible) getting the government to relax regulations on spaceflight than it will be to lower the transport cost to space, IMHO.

I won't belabor the point here, however. If this subject is of any interest to you, I recommend checking out the Moon Miner’s Manifesto article series at (these articles were written primarily by Peter Kokh and members of the Lunar Reclamation Society, but their site is temporarily down).

Otherwise, no worries... ignore that and maintain your skepticism. It helps those of us who are more optimistic maintain our rigor! :)

guthrie writes:

Apologies for the double post!

[Fixed--Econlib Ed.]

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