Why the main argument against space exploration is bullshit


You've heard the old refrain: Why should we spend money on a space program when people are starving here on Earth?

Superficially, the argument makes sense. It's easy to imagine taking all that money spent on rockets and astronaut training, buying food and handing it the people around the world who do not have enough to eat.

But once you look at the argument with any kind of depth and rationality, it's one of the dumbest things people constantly repeat.

First of all, and in the larger scheme, space exploration is cheap. NASA's budget for fiscal year 2019 is only $21.5 billion.

That's less than one-tenth what the US spends just on interest on the debt the government owes. We could pay for the space program by borrowing slightly less.

That's less than half what Americans spend on movies each year. We could pay for the space program by watching half the movies.

That's a rounding error compared with the amount Americans pay each year for pharmaceutical drugs ($1.05 trillion last year). We could pay for the space program with some minor tweaks to the pricing of drugs, or the over-prescription of drugs.

In other words, why is it falsely assumed that NASA's budget comes at the expense of food for the poor? There is a thousand ways to pay for NASA's budget just from the ridiculous waste and consumption elsewhere.

Also: Why don't people say we can't afford deficit spending because people are starving, we can't afford movies because people are starving, we can't afford predatory drug prices and over-prescription of drugs because people are starving?

More to the point, however, is that spending on space exploration actually feeds people and saves millions of lives. So called "spinoff technologies" are so valuable and great in number that they have their own Wikipedia page.

In other words, while we're trying to explore space, we have needed to invent medicines and health technologies, artificial limbs, transportation safety systems and literally thousands of other technologies with enormous human benefits.

Yes, of course, we should tackle poverty and hunger. The approach to do that is to get the money through boosting efficiency in government borrowing and spending, to boost the efficiency and impose rules on drug pricing and prescription and -- gasp! -- spend less on passive entertainment.

The other big way to tackle poverty and hunger is to accelerate invention and the development of life-saving technologies. And the best way we've ever found to do that is an aggressive space program.

Let's stop being dumb and stop using dumb arguments. Let's be smart and increase the space exploration budget by at least tenfold. We need robotic exploration, telescopes, moon bases and an ongoing mission to Mars.