Last week, several Congressmen from the House of Representatives introduced a bill (PDF) that, if passed into law, would restructure NASA's leadership. The new law would take away most of the President's control of the space agency and give it to a to a Board of Directors, and would also institute a 10-year term for NASA Administrators, just like they have in the FBI.
At the press conference, the Congressmen introducing the bill said they thought it would serve to straighten out NASA's long-term goals, and cited the $20 billion the agency has spent on projects that were ultimately canceled:
Click here to see a detailed version of this infographic.
Twenty billion is nothing to sneeze at, though it's worth noting that the Department of Defense has spent over $46 billion in canceled weapons programs over the last decade alone. That's over twice what NASA wasted, in half the time. Or, to put it another way, the DoD has lost over four times as much money to canceled projects as NASA.
Whether or not the new bill would help NASA get its own priorities straight (and keep them there), we may never find out: According to SpaceNews.com, a website run by the company Imaginova, policy experts in Washington say that the legislation is likely dead on arrival.
Let’s at least hope, that what was learned in R&D help recoup some of this loss.
Obviously U.S.A. cares more about killing humans than exploring the universe.
"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours"
- Stephen Roberts
Let us remember that NASA didn't just piss this money away. They spent it trying to unlock the secrets of the universe. Like what Robot eluded to, the lessons they learned through this money may or may not have been worth the $20B, but it certainly wasn't completely wasted.
Worth a watch:
This graphic is misleading and I do believe it's on purpose. Take the X-37, this chart claims it failed, but isn't it still up right now? How many of these were not FAILURES but were abandoned or adapted into something else. Very misleading information intended to garner the change of command/mission for NASA. Once NASA goes the way of the FBI and CIA, you can bet that black ops funds will get sunk into even more "failed" projects.
There is no such thing as Failure, if one has learned from the experience.
Playing Devil's Advocate since 1978
"The only constant in the universe is change"
-Heraclitus of Ephesus 535 BC - 475 BC
This is why Nasa got a big freaking Axe. Wasted money. I would be happy if these programs led somewhere, or produced viable research. But they were all cancelled because they just ultimately were unusable.
20 billion could have put a mining operation on the moon, or started viable warp drive research 15 years ago. They had a great vision of the future, but no common sense to get there viably.
Ironically, many if not most of these cancellations were a direct result of congress either cutting funding for NASA overall - thus forcing cancellations - or, were directly canceled either by Congress or the President. There is a very simple fix for this. We should fund NASA the way Europe funds the ESA. All funding for an ESA project, start to finish, is established at the START of the project. NASA, in contrast, has X many projects going, and each year, has to find money for them out of a budget that is often diminished by acts of Congress either via outright budget cuts, or by failing to fund for inflation.
Shikata ga nai
I would be more than happy if NASA were eliminated entirely. Not defense though! NASA should explore the deep ocean and quit spending money trying to go where no man should be going.
I'm sure there are lessons learned from all that money spent. And it is still a drop in the bucket compared to what the known budget is for DoD. Any money spent on space is well spent. I just wish we could pay our best and brightest minds to come to NASA or a public/private partnership. I actually like taking away the vision of space from the President as each President has different ideas. I was really disappointed in President Obama for eliminating the Constellation program. One can only hope that SpaceX and the other companies working to get us off this rock will continue their efforts and find success.
Prefunding does have several advantages:
(1) It stops funding cuts from cancelling programs already in progress.
(2) It creates incentive to cut flawed pragrams early, while there are still funds present to direct towards other endevours.
(3) It stops the rampant budget overruns of programs that exist on a "spend it this year or lose it" mentality.
Thus, the petty politics are removed, inefficiencies are not funded, and progress can be made.
I don't think it was a total waste. Some of these programs probably went black. One that we actually know for a fact that did, is the X-37. It was transferred over to DARPA control on 9/13/2004. The Bantam engine will be used by Boeing's CST100 crew capsule. So things do get used, we the general public may just not know about it.
The comments from boka, seatellite, and gizmowiz just gave me cancer.
Too bad they don't count all the searches for ET as failures....that would be a needed wake up call. Get them back on track for actually doing something worthwhile in space.
You're right, because we totally belong in the crushing depths of the ocean! There is room for both.
Why don't people understand R&D costs money? You can't design something like a spacecraft for free and have it work right from the drawing board. This graphic is meant to upset people who have no insight into design expenses and the ability of Congress to pile on the pork.
I feel like this is some Congressman demanding this money be given to his DoD supplier in his state instead of wasted on this silly NASA business. I guess taking from the public school system has dried up.
They need to pass this because presidency's have side tracked the space program. They always push the next project back or put the next budget on the next president. Politics are hesitant to get into NASA since most voters (not the most intelligent) don't fully believe we should be in space and the president doesn't want to say hes spending the tax dollars on looking at the heavens. And NASA is not the Marines.
“When Ignorance lurks, so too do the frontiers of discovery and imagination”
― Neil deGrasse Tyson
True some of these costly programs did use the developing technologies look at Boeings X37 now currently in use by the air force. The X33 was the biggest waste of time, it lost ten years of time developing an alternate replacement for the Space Shuttle which left us now depending on the Russians with US getting into and out of space...
This is a great proposal.
This isn't waste towards R&D, this is waste because after the efforts made in R&D, the project is moth-balled.
Though to be fair, a lot of these "failed" programs have been re-purposed.
And congrats to Popsci staff. This is the third time in 24 hours I get to call them Political hacks.
"Yeah, but the DoD wastes money at 4x the rate!".
How much does the DoD spend? Is its budget 4x NASA's? 8x? 20x? Spitting out a useless comparison with no context is pointless, misleading, and dishonest. It was obvious they spent no more than 30seconds writing the snippet. Was it too much to ask for 3minutes of work, to back up some pithy jab at the DoD?
And as for people complaining that we spend more on killing people than going into space:
1) I would LOVE if we spent more on space
2) The DoD has inefficiency in it; all government programs do, though it is MORE EFFICIENT than NASA based on 20bil vs 46 bil
3) Spending money on DoD SAVES LIVES. Forgetting about the millions saved from knock-off tech, having a strong, superior, and ever-growingly strong and superior military prevents wars, it prevents aggression, and it allows us to stop aggressors. The idea of a deterrent is the bigger it is, the less you have to use it. Come back to me when you can give me a time in history where a weaker military lead to greater stability for a nation.
Projects are typically under-funded from conception, with the incumbant govenment often making bold statements of intent, but rarely following it up with any secured funding. This leaves it to the schizophrenic temperament of congress to rip apart any long-term research like a pack of hungry wolves.
NASA has a history of running over-budget on projects, bourne out of a tendancy to under-value the cost of individual projects to better their chances of getting funding.
I think a board of directors who are given a guaranteed (say) 10 year budget - to whom NASA has to apply for funds on a project by project basis would make more sense.
NASA could then plan in the long term which projects to prioritise and be more realistic about the cost.
They would have to sell their ideas to the BoD which should hopefully weed out the chaff.
If you then make the following decadal funding dependant on results - NASA would then have to be more realistic about what research they carry out.
All science has dead-ends. That's not a bad thing - dead-ends teach their own lessons, but any form of science that needs to plan projects over the long timelines that NASA works on, need to be able to make those plans without having to stave off the wolves at the same time!
its not as bad as the money wasted on GM
To put this in prospective a manufacturing company in the US has 100 billion dollars revenue. NASA is small fry in comparison to the comical sector. NASA's primary roll should not be to take america to space in Apollo style glory. It's primary focus should be to foster industry to make space easy and cheap to access.
MINE THE MOON, MINE THE MOON, MINE THE MOON
Interesting that they want to take away the President's control. The congress has not been shy about mucking around in NASA --things like 'cost cutting' or 'saving jobs'.
Would be nice if somebody figured out a good solution. It crosses all groups. Somebody ( maybe PopSci) just ran a piece about the congress requiring the army to spend money to upgrade Abrams tanks -- the Army doesn't want to do this. They think that the money should go elsewhere. Not surprisingly, this plan was generated by those with defense work in their home states.
20 Billion over 20 years is nothing...The military spends 50 million every HOUR. So after roughly one MONTH they have spent 40 billion dollars.
"Cars!? We don't need no dang cars! Horses is fine! Nothing wrong with traveling by horse!" - Gizmowiz
The approved defense budget for 2012 alone is over a Trillion dollars. I hope they are not wasting a single dollar on failed military projects. NASA is an invaluable asset to our Country's advancement, and we are shutting it down for spending 1 billion a year.
Lets hope the private sector, and other countries will develop the tools we need for the future.
Jon F. Kennedy would be proud.
The approved defense budget for Fy (fiscal year 2012) is 912.6 billion dollar FY 13 is 864 billion. And yes money will be spent on projects that fail for many reason usually becuase their money gets cut unexpectedly. There are many developments and tech developments that come out of this risky research as well. Agreed NASA is very important, but don't blame the DOD budget, health care and pensions alone are over 2 trillion dollars. For FY 13....i think i found your waste.
I approached NASA numerous times, soliciting my proposal for an interstellar propulsion technology. But they turned me down each time saying we only deal with US-based firms. I even offered my technology to them for FREE for development, they still were not interested. If only, and only, I could get a tiny fraction of those billions of TAX money which is being spent on "research", I could do a better job at it than the entire NASA's+ Lockheed Martin's+ ATK's+ P&W's.... engineers and scientists combined. Seriously, people only need to think outside the box and beyond. That's all it took me, well for 4 years.
Check out my invention to see it for yourself:
-Hossein Nabipour, inventor of the first practical interstellar propulsion engine
$20 billion.... we could already be on Mars right now, I think it's time for new management.