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War versus Space Exploration

08/14/2007 1:57 PM

I am a big fan of trickle down technology. All the best gadgets come from asking questions that have never been asked. For this reason I support space exploration. In my opinion, nothing advances the human race like exploration.

Lately I have heard the claim that we are benefiting from war. People are seeing cool new gadgets in the pipeline that are trickling down from the military. And well, it got me to thinkin'.

Look, I like a gas operated semi-auto .308 just as much as the next guy. But on a dollar per dollar basis, don't we get the greater benefit (read: cooler stuff) from NASA?

I don't know. What do you think?

-A-

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#1

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/14/2007 2:25 PM

That's a good question, and I don't have a quantitative response. The military did give us GPS, canned food, antibiotics and other advances in medicine, the Hummer, the Internet, etc. NASA has given us many cool things, too.

There's not much difference between NASA and the military in terms of return on the dollar for research in technology, IMHO. (War, on the other hand - not so much.)

The big payoff from NASA is scientific knowledge of the universe - Hubble is a good example of that.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/14/2007 2:34 PM

I was thinking in terms of NASA dollars vs. DOD dollars. NASA gets what, U$13 billion/year? DOD gets U$400+ billion/year?

I can't even imagine what the world would look like if those numbers were reversed.

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/14/2007 2:41 PM

I can't even imagine what the world would look like if those numbers were reversed.

I would almost certainly have a nicer office.

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/14/2007 3:20 PM

Anyhow you look at it, war/defence can never be more important than NASA. Of course there can be defence/reserch budget with out war so we can get the best of both worlds.

don't even start talking about iraq, because thats a monumental miscalculation and political (which honestly I think we should't discuss here).

Anyway I just love this forum....Just joined today, an d you'll be seeing plenty of me.

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#5

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/14/2007 3:24 PM

Well, lets look at some very recent history to get things in perspective. A few important developments came out of World war 2, lets see - radar, jet propulsion, multistage rocketry, atomic energy, vacuum tube based computers (to name a few). Now if we look closely, most of these led to the space program (and would be impossible without). How many of these would have developed naturally if a war was not on, well a few, but seriously can anyone imagine trying to develop the first nuclear weapon program now days and honestly think they could get away with it (public opinion, media, lawyers, politics, etc).

In the end we as a species really develop best when we are at war. Pretty sad really, but not that surprising. Survival instinct is about the ONLY thing that is capable of getting us to all work together for a common goal (especially if that goal is expensive to fund).

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#6
In reply to #2

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/15/2007 12:03 AM

NASA gets what, U$13 billion/year? DOD gets U$400+ billion/year?

I guess you'd have to consider the percentage that is allocated to research and development. I would think that NASA's budget for R&D (as a percentage of its total budget) is devoted to R&D.

Also, remember that urgency spurs development. In World War II, a lot of things were invented and a lot of inventions were accelerated due to the need to kill or keep from being killed.

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#7

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/15/2007 1:44 AM

Let see the last time I checked out NASA (a while back) It was ran by ex-military brass.

Politicians run the brass and the banks run them.

So if they can make money off of a new tech, in time, they will.

The Saturn systems produced allot of trickle down tech. The last I knew the Space Shuttle still used 3 HP calculators for computers.

So using the SWAG factor for the last 10-15 years I'd have to say military but before that Space exploration.

I would like the trickle down tech to come from space exploration but in my opinion NASA's job is to keep us out of space. We should be established on the Moon.

The Saturn V could put up the ISS in a few launches, it did Space Lab in one.

If politicians continue to ignore engineering specs we will loose more shuttles.

And if Col. Corso wasn't having a good laugh we got more from Roswell than either.

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#8

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/15/2007 2:27 AM

An interesting topic. Buckminster Fuller covered it in his book "Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth". It is an interesting read and presents a unique perspective on the history of war and its effects. Not inconsistent with the late Bill Hicks assertion that "All governments are liars and murderers."

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#9

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/15/2007 3:25 AM

Hi dude, check out this graph, you from the US, do you think you get a good return for your 400 billion?

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/15/2007 4:31 AM

What happens if military spending per country is divided by the number of people per country?

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#11
In reply to #10

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/15/2007 4:57 AM

I'd go further, not the number of people, but the average income.

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#12

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/15/2007 6:04 AM

Our U.S. Comptroller just released a document that compares our Nation to the declining Roman empire. I would suggest the Athens described in Thucydides, Peloponesian Wars. The military-industrial complex, that President Eisenhower identified, is steering our future to their needs. IMHO that's a wrong headed strategy and is a primary cause of America's domestic problems.

And I'm a Republican who voted for Bush.

Bob

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#13
In reply to #12

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/15/2007 6:07 AM

And I'm a Republican who voted for Bush.

98% of the world didn't.

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#14
In reply to #12

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/15/2007 7:14 AM

'And I'm a Republican who voted for Bush.'

I admire your honesty.

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#15

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/15/2007 7:48 AM

Carl Sagan gave a try at calculating the return on science investment. He said that it was about 1,000 fold, even after subtracting the money spent on all the dead ends. The problem was that the time line for return on the dollars was very long.

The military is more like industry: They don't do research so much as development. About the Rome comparison? What about the Soviet Union? If the US is spending its money on near zero return weaponry when everybody else is developing their economy, the writing is on the wall.

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#16

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/15/2007 8:43 AM

Uh... You geniuses are missing what is one of the most important facts. NASA itself is a product of war related research. Yes dear hearts, Dear sweet NASA was formed during the heart of the cold war to compete with the Russian space program. It was intended to conduct research to keep us safe from Russian spy satelites like sputnik...

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#17
In reply to #9

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/15/2007 10:37 AM

Of course! Everyone loves us now, right?

I think if you are going to compare, you have to compare returns on R&D spending, not the operating expenses for moronic wars.

Most of the best innovation in this country is still done at the universities, by poorly paid grad students, who go on to found companies that push innovation into the commercial world.

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#18
In reply to #17

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/15/2007 11:00 AM

I have held my political tongue for as long as I could.

There is no such thing as a moronic war. Or a stupid war. People who don't understand the reason for something assume, because of their ignorance, that there is no reason at all.

All war is fought for gain or to prevent loss. Now, either we are fighting to preserve our freedoms, or we are being led to believe we are fighting to preserve our freedoms and someone else is gaining. Whatever your beliefs, you can bet your tail section, SOMEONE has a darned good reason to fight this war.

-A-

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#19
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Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/15/2007 11:08 AM

Stupid people often have "good" reasons for what they do.

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#20
In reply to #7

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/15/2007 12:35 PM

Keep in mind the secret funding and development by the military funneled into space programs, through NASA at times, between the 1950's through the mid 1980's. The military used NASA and still does, just less frequently, to conduct military space research on the side. Someone had to assist them with programs like Star Wars. I think historically you can look back through history and see huge advances backed and driven by warfare. While most people like to believe good things come from peace, advancement doesn't tend to be one of those things. During peace time there is no motivation for most of the population to advance, why change a good thing and make people learn new stuff and possibly work. During war the fear of you and your family being killed motivates the common public to promote funding of technological advances to try and gain an edge. To much of the public the space race was important when they thought the russians might be ahead in developing technology to drop bombs on is from space. Now that we are not trying to get there first and set up a military base if it is possible, there is not much interest.

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#21

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/15/2007 2:02 PM

The idea of weapons of war may be distasteful to some, but military R&D has been responsible for many of the most innovative products we now use. The "cost plus" research contracts allow much riskier and innovative concepts to be developed than research that has to show a return on investment. Once these concepts are shown to be feasible, then they can be exploited for commercial use. One future example may be the power transmission lines that have become such a major issue recently. Power transmission lines use lots of land for their towers, cause farming difficulties and are large and intrusive. The laser weaponry currently being developed may lead to some new ways of transmitting power through the atmosphere. This is clearly a long term project and who will develop it for results far in the futrue if not the military?

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#22
In reply to #20

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/15/2007 3:52 PM

You hit on a sad truth about the behavior of humanity at large. As a race we are to a large extent crisis motivated. No crisis? Don't worry, we'll just fall back on the next major motivator, greed.

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#23
In reply to #21

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/16/2007 7:39 AM

Somebody who got the money for research into power transmission, instead of weaponry?

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#24

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/16/2007 9:45 AM

While some scientific understanding undoubtedly has been borne of military need, I'd argue that in the course of history, most of it has been borne of human inquisitiveness. In the 20th century perhaps things were a little different but I don't think it can be argued that Newton or Faraday or the great mathematicians who laid the whole foundation for modern science were particularly mindful of possible violent uses.

Military requirements have more often driven technology to exploit that which we had previously worked out. Engineering has benefitted.

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#25
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Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/16/2007 1:10 PM

That money seems to go for ethanol, scooping fat out of deep-fat fryers for biodiesel and windmills.

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#26
In reply to #24

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/16/2007 3:17 PM

There was a great program by Dan Rather that compared the construction of a Boeing 747 and a Titan missile it was found that there were equal materials technology and labor in there production .

The Titan missile would sit in a silo and hopefully never be used .It required maintenance and never made a dime.

The 747 went on to provide a service ,jobs and revenues.

This adequately debunks the myth we are discussing ,in my opinion .

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#27
In reply to #26

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/16/2007 4:16 PM

The Titan was built as a nuclear deterrent. It did what it was supposed to do. The 747 had a tremendous amount of spin off technology from military R&D, which wasn't reflected in the cost of the plane.

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#28
In reply to #27

Re: War versus Space Exploration

08/16/2007 5:41 PM

True LG Dave

Today is a different time .

Instead of looking for trouble in the world ,shouldn't the US be looking towards the future

No doubt much technology has been spawned by War as well as Space exploration but for my money ,I would suggest, it may be time to reevaluate and consider there may be a better way to spend the "peace dividend"

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