Thursday, 22 March 2012

Save NASA's robots

I gather from the Beeb that 'swingeing cuts' have been proposed to NASA's robotic exploration budget. It seems that there is going to be a change in priorities away from unmanned explorers as 'The FY2013 budget proposal shifts funds to human spaceflight and space technology...' This is madness.

If you think of what NASA has achieved over the years, we get far more value from its satellites and robotic missions than from human spaceflight. Manned exploration is primarily a political showcase. Of course there are always things a human being can do better - but when you weigh up the risk in human lives and the vastly increased cost to support human beings against all the benefits that we've had from satellites and probes it's a no-brainer.

If they really want to seriously trim NASA's budget - and science needs to accept that it can't be exempt, even though I would argue that R and D, science and creativity are things you really don't cut in a recession if you want to get out of it - then they should discard all spending on human spaceflight and focus on the stuff that really delivers. It's time space science stopped being a way of showing off who as the biggest willie and started being a truly scientific venture that has a proper grasp of costs and benefits.

Image from Wikipedia

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