Return to retirement

Congratulations to NASA – the space shuttle is back in one piece. Now it’s time to put those big clunkers in a nice museum and charge foreign tourists money to see them (I think that US taxpayers have already paid their admission fees).

At an average cost of $1.3 billion per launch, and a total cost of $174 billion, the space shuttle program seems like a giant welfare program for the aerospace industry. What exactly are they doing up there? This time, it seems they put the craft into orbit in order to see if they could repair it!? In the past, sometimes we’d hear about the astronauts fixing stuff, like the space telescope, or tinkering with the space station. Mostly it is just about this irrational idea that we have to put humans into space.

As a taxpayer, however, I get much more scientific ROI from unmanned space exploration, where robots are strapped on a rocket and blasted to cool places, like Mars or Jupiter. These missions are low-risk, reasonably priced and seem to yield concrete scientific results. The Mars Pathfinder cost a moderate $150 million and gave us a great view and concrete data from the surface of Mars.

It’s not like I am not fascinated by the idea of space travel. But the space shuttle program is wasting my taxes on a system with some pretty significant flaws. This is one area, where I think that private enterprise makes a lot more sense than government programs. and once they figure out how to get people safely into space and back – sign me up, Scottie!

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