Sophont
Saturday, March 13, 2004
 
Ben Bova
Naples Daily News: "A couple of readers have asked me to justify my claim in an earlier column that the money we taxpayers have spent on NASA has come back into the nation's economy tenfold, in the form of new technology.

They estimate that since its birth in 1958 NASA's budgets have totaled some $200 billion. Ten times that amount equals $2 trillion. Where's the $2 trillion payoff? Well, let's see. There's computers. The space program was a powerful stimulus to develop small, fast, rugged computers that went with our astronauts to the Moon and now run spacecraft such as the Spirit rover on the surface of Mars.

There's cordless power tools, needed originally by NASA because running extension cords from Cape Canaveral to the Sea of Tranquility was impractical.

There are the sensors and communications systems in hospital intensive care units, developed from life support systems for astronauts.

There are flameproof, lightweight materials that are used today by firefighters, wind surfers, skiers, etc. New metal alloys. Fuel cells that are beginning to augment gasoline engines in automobiles.

Less noticed is the management system that NASA developed to run the mammoth Apollo program. Such management techniques are an integral part of business enterprises around the world, large and small.

Does that add up to $2 trillion? Yes, with plenty to spare. Not to mention the knew knowledge that we've gained. That is priceless.

Incidentally, that $200 billion we've invested in NASA since 1958 is less than one year's budget for the Defense Department or the Department of Health and Human Services. We're getting a bargain!"

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