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Glad That’s Over July 18, 2006

Posted by federalist in Economic Policy, Government Spending.
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Now that Discovery is back, let’s keep the space shuttles on the ground.

NASA has budgeted over $32BB to continue flying the space shuttle and International Space Station over the next 5 years. This is done with a vague justification that these operations are necessary stepping stones for human exploration and colonization of space. In an era of a thriving commercial space-launch market, it is hard to argue that there is a compelling public interest in manned space exploration, especially given the cost of energy (which is the greatest marginal cost in getting people and materials into space).

Alternative energy sources and technology are a much more pressing public interest, including our 21st-century moon shot: fusion energy. The U.S. has reluctantly committed just over $1BB to the international ITER project to research fusion energy over the next seven years. If we instead invested NASA’s $32BB manned spaceflight budget in fusion development, we could advance the technology necessary to power both the world and future space exploration with a limitless supply of cheap energy fueled by nothing more than heavy water.

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