Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Shuttle Program

Pioneer 11 approaches Saturn

The Clarion Content has not believed in the value of the manned space program since the Cold War ended. We support space exploration and experimentation. Un(hu)manned exploration is much, much, less expensive. There is still widespread world hunger, millions lack a daily source of clean water, not mention housing and disease, or America's desperate need for infrastructure investment. The Clarion Content cannot support the expenditure of the human crewed space program.

The final launch of the Shuttle program is upon us and with it some reflection on the massive waste. 133 Space Shuttle launches, which USA Today reports, NASA originally estimated $10.4 million per launch, ended up costing a hearty $1.5 billion per launch.

Want more? Those 133 shuttle missions conducted 2,300 experiments at a cost of $192 billion for the program. The cost per experiment? $83 million, 478 thousand and 260 dollars per experiment over the history of the shuttle program...

The most widely cited of those experiments according to Thomson Reuters' science information service, is a 1996 study of "anti-shock" shorts used to measure astronaut fitness. The circularity is self-evident. Human space missions yield little to nothing over uncrewed space missions other than the effects of space on humans.

USA Today quotes economist Henry Hertzfeld of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, "Economically, you can't make an argument for it."

What a tragic waste. Hopefully, this is the end of an era for such foolishness.

By contrast, the robotic space probes Pioneer 10 and 11 launched in 1972-73 yielded so much data that it has still hardly been tapped and continues to produce valuable experimental knowledge for a combined cost of $100 million!

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