Katie Couric is a bonehead

By Phil Plait | October 18, 2006 9:36 pm

Sigh. Another clueless talking head opens her mouth and jabbers on a topic about which she has no idea.

Katie Couric opines on NASA. After a basically fluffy intro (where she says we’ve orbited the Earth "dozens of times"– um, Katie, that takes about two days worth of orbiting, and we’ve had people in orbit for years), she wonders if the NASA budget is money well spent.

No argument there, as I’ve said the same thing, though our details may differ. What kills me is this line:

It’s been wondrous, but has it really been worth it? NASA’s requested budget for 2007 is nearly 17 billion dollars. There are some who argue that money would be better spent on solid ground for medical research, social programs, and in finding solutions to poverty, hunger, and homelessnees… I can’t help but wonder what all the money could do for people right here on planet Earth.

I wonder: does she think we ship payload-bays full of twenty dollar bills on the Shuttle and release them into space? That might be an apt metaphor for the Shuttle, but the money is in fact spent right here on Earth. It goes to factories, manufacturers, engineers, and all the support lines to keep NASA running.

Also, I have heard the this argument that NASA money should be diverted to social programs a million times, and it’s wrong every time. First, 17 billion bucks sounds like a lot, but on the scale of the US government it really isn’t. NASA is the smallest of the government agencies, and the budget is not very big compared to others. Did you know we are spending 11 million dollars per hour on Iraq? That’s nearly 2 billion dollars every week! Now does NASA’s budget sound so big?

The money spent on space has direct results here on Earth as well. The irony is that the ability of Katie to appear to millions of people (well, fewer every day according to her ratings — oh, snap!) is due to the space program. Or does the term "satellite TV" mean something I’m missing? Maybe she could ask whoever the weatherman is on her show if (s)he thinks the space program is a waste of money. Does she think about all the instruments and the designs of the planes she flies on which owe their existence to the first "A" in NASA’s name?

Look, I know a lot of people don’t know this stuff. I know, too, that NASA could do a better job of talking about this kind of stuff. I also know Ms. Couric is not a journalist, but c’mon, she plays one on TV. It’s simplicity itself to actually, y’know, do some research.

I had little respect for her before, but even that modicum has quickly evaporated.

For more, check out the comments posted on the CBS site about her views. They’re priceless. Too bad they shut down commenting after 72 hours.

Hey! Don’t forget to order your nekkid skeptic calendars!

Comments (86)

  1. Gasp! Katie Couric, a bonehead? No *hit, Sherlock.

  2. CR

    Those comments about Ms. Couric’s report were fantastic. I especially liked the ones about how her salary could be better spent educating people.

  3. antaresrichard

    I grew up one of those in “poverty” all during the space program, and while I cannot speak for others, I for one never took umbrage at NASA’s funding nor wanted it diverted to my concerns. The opportunity to enrich our collective knowledge, our understanding and imagination was I felt, and still is, every bit as worthwhile and rewarding.

  4. PK

    In the grand scheme of things, the exploration of the Universe (in its broadest sense) is the only worthwile endeavour humanity can undertake.

  5. IMHO, your government should be spending 11 million dollars per hour on NASA and have a war budget of about 23 cents. Important ways to alleviate poverty include creating jobs, and not blowing up people’s homes along with all their worldly possessions.

  6. wqe

    shes a *itch. ‘nough said.

  7. Lunatik

    I like the pic BA, but should have been Jupiter in background instead…she’s way biggger airhead then Saturn.

    The network talking heads are lowest common denon. for public. How else to sway the masses.

    They did a movie about this years ago..Clueless.

  8. Laguna2

    Let me get that strait…
    CBS pays 12 MILLION Dollars per year to a person so she reads the evening news?
    To a person that is not even aware of the presence of its brain, not speaking of using it? WOW! WOW, WOW, WOW!

    WISE costs 300 Million Dollars for equipment, launch and salaries for the people behind it, spend ofer a time of about 10 years? So it costs about 30 Million Dollars per year. Get that woman out of her chair, alongside with the other guy and you are only 6 million $ short for another mission. I guess no one would miss them.

  9. Laguna2

    Oh, I was so wrong with that. Its 60 Million $ short.

  10. squawky

    Actually, I’m not surprised about her comments — I did a quick “poll” in a summer class I taught a few years ago, and found that most of the students thought that NASA got a lot more of the federal budget than the 1% it actually does. 17 billion sounds like a lot of money until you realize than only a penny out of every tax doillar (theoretically) goes to NASA.

    (And it’s even scarier when you realize that only a fraction of that 17 bill goes to research programs, especially if your job depends on those grants. Yikes!)

    Of course, that does not make Katie Couric any less of an idiot — it’s not hard to fact check this stuff…..last I heard, NASA does have a website. As does the federal government.

  11. Actually, this is a perfect opening to ask if you heard Wanda Sykes recently (half-joking) about the space program. “Did you know there was once water on Mars?” “And…? There was once vodka in this glass.” She made a lot of hay asking what the space program is good for other than keeping the ultra-smart “busy”.

    This post is a good start towards answering her question, but if you could, how about something definitive about the benefits of the space program? I’m not close to the subject matter, but I recall something about discoveries through NASA that did indeed benefit us terrestrials. Or was that through war?

  12. ericnh

    As an employee at a local CBS affiliate I am continually embarassed by this woman and the people who are allowed to give their own commentaries on her newscast (like the Colombine father who blamed evolution for school violence). Glad to see the viewers get it, as the ratings are really tanking.

  13. Please correct me if I am wrong as I suspect I was in a come since the 70′s. I thought we destroyed the latter part of the Apollo program and stopped putting men in space for a long time so we could use NASA’a money to cure world hunger, poverty, and buy mansions for the homeless. We were going to make this world the utopia we were told it would be if we just stopped putting dollars into orbit. I guess I assumed that these problems were solved by now, and life had become perfect. Perhaps Katie can let us know this time how long we will have to wait so we can explore the universe after we solve all those problems with NASA’a budget. Maybe we can use her salary to buy everyone in Africa a BMW after we take care of those other things.

    CBS News – Crash & burn with Katie Couric (We need another Cronkite badly)

  14. oops – that should read “coma”

  15. “I wonder: does she think we ship payload-bays full of twenty dollar bills on the Shuttle and release them into space?”

    Reminds me of this Onion story: http://www.theonion.com/content/node/47977

  16. I apologize for this comment in advance.

    If you were going to stick her head on a planet, shouldn’t it have been Uranus? Or, more ideally, Heranus? (Now we can work in a tasteless colonoscopy joke here.)

    Maybe someone at Goddard can send Katie a VNR or EPK on all of the technological benefits that have come as side effects of NASA programs.

  17. Kaptain K

    $12 million/year?? Yikes!!! And I thoght Andy Rooney was over paid @ $3 million!

  18. CR

    Saturn has the lightest density of our 8 or 9 planets, so the “airhead” metaphor springs to mind.
    On the other hand, perhaps the planet with the highest density would have been appropriate, since she’s pretty dense about the topic.

    BTW, I liked Wayne Reed’s post about the solving of world hunger, etc. I’ve said similar things to people in the past, but not so succinctly.

  19. I hope you weren’t shocked when you heard Katie Couric’s comments. After all, she got her job because she’s got good hair and can read the teleprompter without stammering. She doesn’t really have to know anything. Hell, the clowns in the print media can’t even transcribe press releases correctly. When I was working on-orbit ops and we had an Air Force science satellite launch, by the time I looked in the paper, they had magically become NASA satellites. After seeing that the media can’t even copy correctly, I learned to take anything in print or on screen with a grain of salt.

  20. C MAN

    OWNED!!! I’ve never actually had a reason for not liking her but now I do.
    Thank you.

  21. Lunatik said:
    “I like the pic BA, but should have been Jupiter in background instead…she’s way biggger airhead then Saturn.”

    While I can’t argue with the logic, I also can’t help but go for the low hanging fruit and assert BA should have but her face on Uranus.

  22. Zach

    We had a VERY similar editorial in our college newspaper recently. The online comments were basically the same, but with more references to Iraq and more name calling.

    http://www.lsureveille.com/home/index.cfm?event=displayArticleComments&ustory_id=39f17207-7018-4824-bd08-fa371396d567#91a8b1a7-acee-4aff-ad2d-dd502d387e95

  23. oldamatuerastronomer

    Sometime ago back in the ’70s (If I remember right) there a book published called the ‘The Peter Principle’. It had to do with a person being promoted beyond their level on competence(SP?). I think we can see this in the instance of Ms. Couric!

    She was OK on ‘The Today Show’ the few times I saw her, but even though I have seen very little of her on either CBS’s nightly news or ’60 Minutes’. I believe she has reached her level of incompetence. For her to even approach such a comment about NASA and make the off-handed remark that ‘we’ve orbited the planet dozens of time’ shows that either she or her staff did little research about the organization. It really begs the question on what other subject does she not do the research.

    I’m afraid the current crop of talking heads on any of the major network news show are not more than mere readers of the news, and any opinions they might profess are handed to them by their bosses

  24. I can’t say it shocks me to hear her comments. She didn’t say anything I haven’t heard frequently from other uneducated people. After all, if she can get someone to pay her $12 million to spout ignorant opinions, she is a friggin’ genius.

  25. Gary Ansorge

    Wayne Read:

    NAw, she just gives good mouth. By which I mean, of course, she talks pretty. I really like watching her mouth move,,,

    (ok, I have to admit I’ve never actually seen/heard her speak. I try to avoid the incompetant whenever possible, for fear their insipidity will rub off,,,,Yuck, cooties!!!

    GAry 7

  26. Quiet_Desperation

    Don’t worry, Phil. Couric’s ratings are approaching the numbers where string theory comes into play.

  27. Joshua

    “I also know Ms. Couric is not a journalist, but c’mon, she plays one on TV.”

    BRILLIANT!

  28. Edward

    Can I have her job? I can read a teleprompter without stammering and I actually understand all of “that science stuff.” I’ll also do it for a whole lot less money…say, maybe, only $1 million a year. We can put the rest of the money back into NASA’s basic research fund.

    I like Wayne Reed’s earlier comments. Living in Boulder I also constanty hear the neo-Socialists opine how much money is “wasted” on the military and NASA, when they have no idea where it really goes…salaries and manufacturing. Yes, even the war effort. The only money black holes around are at Wall Street…and even that I’m not so sure about.

  29. Xander

    As if the ID war on science isn’t bad enough we’ve got an aging talking head spouting this garbage? Couric is obviously a bonehead unfortunately there are people who will listen to her and her opinion because she’s been put accross as a “reliable” news source.

    *sigh*

    BTW using Saturn is perfect for the picture because I’m pretty sure her head could be used in an emergency as a flotation device.

  30. Mike

    oldamatuerastronomer said “It really begs the question on what other subject does she not do the research.”

    Which is exactly why I stopped watching TV news years ago. After you catch them in a couple of lies and/or fabrications it pretty much disqualifies them as a useful source of information.

  31. Phil, I think everyone agrees that KC is bad for NASA, bad for the country, and bad for CBS ratings. Why do people like her get millions while scientists struggle for funidng? How much science could we do with KC’s salary? Now there’s a waste of money.

  32. Confuddled

    I would rather have that billions of bucks handed over to NASA.

    You respected that lady before, and one opinion of hers completly destroys it? That’s a very very odd social behaivor. o_O

  33. I just liked how the advertisement before the video was an ad for erectile dysfunction :) Apropos, as they say in Greece. Or Rome… a long time ago… when they still spoke Latin…?

  34. Troy

    Katie Couric suffers from innumeracy, in case you haven’t heard of the John Paulos book by the same name it is the analogy of illiteracy, just with numbers (in particular big and small numbers that don’t relate to everyday experience)

    Most people don’t understand the context of NASA in the national debt, and I’ve never heard of any good analogies so here’s one I came up with.

    Let’s create a proportional amount of Uncle Sam’s expendatures to the budget of the median household for 2005 it is: Uncle Sam: $2,154 billion : John Q. Public $46,326. So when Uncle Sam spends about $50 million it is like you or I spending a buck! So Nasa’s entire budget if it was you or I spending would be something like $340. (I hope I didn’t lose you!) That’s the price of a decent digital camera or maybe a stereo system. Not trivial but certainly affordable. Another way of looking at it for those who think that diverting NASA bucks to social programs would eliminate poverty and we’d all be joined in a big circle singing “I’d like to teach the world to sing.” 17 billion divided by the 300 million americans is only about $2.50 each. If it was that cheap to fix everything we’d have done it already!
    I’m not a fan of the shuttle program and yes the NASA money should be spent wisely but you look at some of the probes that have pretty much written modern astronomy textbooks. I recall one of the Cassini scientists as describing the craft as a “national treasure”, the images from Uranus and Neptune have been described as priceless, and of course Hubble is considered a national treasure as well. Frankly for the price of a digital camera it is very much worth it.

  35. david

    In the comments part on the cbs page like the one were listed that came from the space program I think they are missing a few.

  36. david

    sorry should of read
    in the comments part on the cbs page I like were they listed everyhting that came from the space program, I think they missed a few.

  37. Grand Lunar

    I wonder if she read any of the entries you have in your book Phil, she might have been educated as to the value of the space program.

    Indeed, I’d rather billions be spent on NASA than Iraq.

    BTW, can anyone tranlate A Ler’s post? I have no idea if that post is even positive or negative.

  38. Mark Martin

    According to Google Translator, A Ler’s post, in Portuguese, comes out in English as

    …“Katie Couric is bonehead “, in the Bad Astronomy. The perpetual question of the utility of the budget of 17 biliões of dollar of NASA, and the perpetual answers, with head trunk and members, of Phill Plaitt…

  39. Andrew

    I wonder where we’d all be if the spanish had decided to use their money to invest in the poor instead of sending some jerk named chris halfway around the world. Space exploration is just the modern form of exploration, and exploration has always brought benefits to those who invested in it.

  40. P. Edward Murray

    Ummm, I wonder what “Uncle” Walter Cronkite thinks of this?
    Sheesh, and you wonder about how folks can be so stupid.

    I’m telling you, the crazies are running the world…..

    From George Bush to now crazy Katie…

    What’s next?

    Hororscopes on the evening news?

    Pluto conjucting whatever planet spells trouble?

  41. Troy: excellent analogy.

    Several people here have compared the NASA budget to the military budget. Most of the pentagon’s money, outside of infrastructure maintaining everything, goes into research and development. A lot of the cutting edge research comes from military applications. Clementine was a DoD project using a military sensor suite.

    Still, the DoD budget is only about 1/3 of the national budget (the war is being funded mostly by special appropriations). The one that always torques me off when people say we have to “spend the money to fix our problems” is that the HHS budget (Health and Human Services, the new euphemistic name for the Welfare Department) is more than half of the federal budget all by itself! It spends the equivalent of NASA’s budget in less than a day (it used to be 17 hours, but that number has probably gotten smaller as NASA’s budget shrinks and HHS’s grows). It could suck up the entire NASA appropriation and loose it in bureaucratic inefficiency

  42. I agree with “P. Edward Murray Says:
    October 19th, 2006 at 6:12 pm

    Ummm, I wonder what “Uncle” Walter Cronkite thinks of this?”

    I still remember how emotional Walter Cronkite was when Neil Armstrong took his first step on the lunar surface.

    Armed Forces from the United States of America were dying in War way back in 1969(as men and woman are dying right now). Morale can be lifted by spending money on space exploration while Planet Earth has not found a lasting peace.

    WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND is priceless….

  43. Supernova

    Troy, excellent analogy with the median household income. I’ll remember that one next time I’m trying to justify my existence to someone who has no idea what they’re talking about. :)

  44. People have no idea of the number of items we have in each of our homes that is technology which has derived from that of space exploration.

    Yes, NASA is a government entity which costs way too much operate. Government is the key word, there. Private enterprise should be allowed to explore space, IMO.

    But, has the money been worth spending? Every. Single. Penny.

  45. Mark Martin

    There’s also the analogy given by Bill Anders in a TV interview shortly after Apollo 8, in which he portrayed the Nation as a family. The Family needs to spend its income wisely. One of its strategic expenses is life insurance, to buffer against disaster & hardship. The Space Program, he proposed, is technological life insurance for the Nation.

  46. Almost seems redundant having me comment on this, but I felt compelled to do so anyway.

    When it comes to mainstream media, do we ever really trust what they say about NASA? I’ll never forget Columbia breaking up on re-entry and CNN reporting that it was coming in at 18 times the speed of light. There wasn’t even a second thought into what they were talking about, they just wrote what “sounded right.”

    Katie’s comment was most definitely the result of extreme bias, political spin, or perhaps an attempt by a law maker somewhere to divert attention away from Iraq. Ya never know. She certainly could have refused to run it live if it was someone else telling her to say it though.

  47. Chip

    NASA is way under-funded. Meanwhile there is Halliburton, a monstrous company contracted by the present government, being paid millions for hauling among other things, empty trucks in Iraq, risking the lives of drivers to attacks because the company is paid by the mile, not by what is shipped…(but I digress.) I wrote to Katie Couric via the “contact us” option on the CBS Evening News website and I included a link to this blog. (I doubt she’ll look over here, but it felt good to tell her off.)

  48. I always love the way we get this logic, as though were some exchange program where you could trade in Saturn V rockets and B-2 bombers for social justice or something. We’ve heard this crap for years. And trillions of dollars poured into “social problems” has produced very little progress. Worse, we keep defined problems upward so that they are never really fixed.

    You will never solve all the earthly problems. In fact, by the standards of human history, there are very very few problems. But going into space will solve one very important problem — the limited time the human race has on this planet.

  49. Melusine

    That picture is beginning to disturb me every time I open the page. Is that fair to Saturn?

    @Troy: Great way to break down the costs. Can I use that? A response I got recently to posting pictures of Victoria Crater and the rovers was, “Why are we wasting money studying rocks? We should spend the money on social programs, alternative fuels,” blah, blah. If the rocks were useful in some way, say for fuel, then it would be OK with him (and this is from a politically conservative person, btw). There was absolutely no amazement about the photos or what it took to accomplish those feats.

    The comments on the CBS site that I especially appreciated were about the pride we can have in what NASA has accomplished and the global partnerships we’ve created in doing so. NASA’s space programs and missions make the US look good in the eyes of the world, and we need that! The BAUT discussion board is a testament to how people from all over the world will come together in the interest of science and space exploration regardless of political opinions and issues about eachother’s governments. We have some of the brightest minds in our country working on NASA missions; this should be a source of national pride and a continual source of positive global relations in the interest of science.

  50. Irishman

    Confuddled said:
    >You respected that lady before, and one opinion of hers completly destroys it? That’s a very very odd social behaivor. o_O

    Yes, you are confuddled. (Don’t worry, I misread it the first time, too.) What he said was that he had very little respect with her before, and this killed that little remaining respect.

  51. Axenos

    Bonehead? Stop being so nice.

    She’s a sheepling that is overvalued. A Roboho of the highest magnitude.

    Everything’s a stunt of one kind or another these days, and CBS’s is backfiring on them. Nobody wants to see Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm relaying what the corporate mucky-mucks give her to relay.

    And shame on you for defacing Saturn. Put her face on a baboon butt and it would be somewhat more appropriate.

  52. BigJohn

    Bonehead, maybe. Liberal dogmatist, for sure. Wait…there’s no difference!

  53. Chip

    Bonehead, maybe. Conservative dogmatist, for sure. Wait…there’s no difference!

  54. Will

    Why do some people have to turn everything into Liberals vs. Conservatives?

  55. I loved the part when you say “does she think we ship payload-bays full of twenty dollar bills on the Shuttle and release them into space?” it made me laugh out loud. If anything, the budget for NASA’s current and past years is so low, that sometimes I think that you can run a space shuttle with a swiss blade and magic tape.

    And that’s what makes NASA so awesome.

  56. NASA, being a part of the Government, runs on Bureaucracy. That said, for a government agency, they generate a lot of return on the investment. When a wrote an answer to a letter to the editor in USA Today a few years ago (a lady scaldingly asking why we don’t spend the money on education instead of NASA) I ran the figures for the budget for Primary and Secondary Education. Turned out if every dollar for NASA was spent on school kids, we’d improve their budget by about $300 per kid when we already spend more than 30 times that, on average, per kid. Meanwhile, we’d still have to hire someone to maintain our satellite fleet or we’d soon lose the benefits of Satellite weather (or worse, Cable TV) and all the lives that saves. USA Today spent a lot of effort vetting my figures. I wonder how much time they spent vetting the letter I was responding to.

    I didn’t bother to mention how NASA helps farmers grow the crops that feed us, or the technology used in hospitals that save us, or the zillions of other benefits we reap from NASA.

    jbs

  57. PK

    And don’t forget aerogel!

  58. I give frequent public talks on the Cassini mission and am asked every time about the cost of the mission (about $3 billion over the 18 year life cycle of the nominal mission, from original congressional approval for a “new start” to the end of the nominal four-year orbital tour). I invariably get a shocked reaction from the audience at that number. I then tell them that it is equivalent to four cups total of Starbuck’s coffee per American in those same 18 years. Or that it is the price of 10 B-1B bombers. Or that they will spend more on the newspapers to read about Cassini’s discoveries than they spent on the mission itself. Couric’s commentary is particularly disappointing given that the same argument has been convincingly shot down ever since it was first raised during the Apollo program.

  59. idaho_bruce

    I have nothing to add beyond what each of you have written before me. I must say, however, that I feel such a kinship with all of you! There IS hope for the world!

  60. Melusine

    Not being a morning person, I never watched Couric much, though I did find her chatter especially annoying during the Summer Olympics in Greece. Still, when she got the anchor position I thought she was given a great opportunity, especially for a woman anchor, and that people should give her a couple of weeks to settle into her new job. But the “we’ve orbited the Earth “dozens of times”" comment is just more dumb chatter. ~sigh~

    I may have spoken too soon about national pride in NASA and positive global relations for science: I got a political cartoon emailed to me yesterday depicting us controlling space, but didn’t look into the matter until today. Bill Nye discusses it on the The Planetary Society blog. Ugh. What’s up with this? It does sound creepy.

  61. PK Says: “And don’t forget aerogel!”

    Aerogel was developed at Lawrence Livermore Lab, which is a DoE facility. JPL sort of hijacked it as “theirs” when they gave it its first big space mission (Stardust).

    - Jack

  62. mike

    ya know, the space program isn’t nearly as useless as Katie would have us believe- we dont “ship payload-bays full of twenty dollar bills on the Shuttle and release them into space” infact, protein solutions as well as x-ray crystallography equipment are periodically launched into space with the shuttle that are inevitably used to create nearly flawless protein crystals [growing crystals in zero-g] which are then used to determine the protein’s molecular structure. once we know what its structure is, we can target it [HIV proteases, cancer enzymes etc.] with drugs that prolong life and may even defeat cancer and AIDS.

    she wants a quick fix to things she has no comprehension of- Katie, in the real world, we [scientists] actually have to work for a cure. it isn’t easy but it is very worth it. even if it means “throwing away” billions of dollars on space every year if it works its going to be done.

  63. PK

    Jack, yes I just realised that after hitting the submit button. I worked at JPL for two years (not at Stardust) so that explains a lot.

  64. RussianBlue

    I wonder if there’s a website that tries to list the benefits and spinoff technologies from space travel. Anyone know of any? I read a book like that once.

  65. PK Says: “Jack, yes I just realised that after hitting the submit button. I worked at JPL for two years (not at Stardust) so that explains a lot. ”

    That’s OK, all is forgiven :-) Living, as I do, less than two miles from LLNL I tend to be a little territorial.

    At least you didn’t say “Teflon” (a Manhattan Project development).

    - Jack

  66. Adam

    Hi All

    Why so many well-paid idiots and poorly paid scientists? No wonder the US is inexorably drifting into scientific irrelevance. The rot set in when Nixon canned everything but the Shuttle back in 1970.

    Or so it seems. It’s bad for an autocracy to have too many well-trained thinking types running the country, so stupid is rewarded.

    Adam

  67. Mark Martin

    Yes, dozens of times can be millions of times. The distance between Earth & the Sun is on the order of 7.75 million-dozen miles. However, how often do people tend to express such a large number in dozens-units? People usually quote statistical data such that it expresses it to some representative order of magnitude. Had Couric meant more than a few dozens, she probably would’ve said “hundreds”, “thousands”, “millions”, etc.

    Couric is a know-nothing, and she reveals this by her choice of words. When she said Earth has been orbited dozens of times, she was just letting us know how uneducated she is. It’s rather similar to Apollo Hoax afficianados who frequently say that Project Apollo consisted of precisely one alleged crewed landing, or relativity cranks who cite only those exact words on the subject written by Eistein, but are barely aware, if at all, that any further research has been accomplished by others since then.

  68. Tracy

    $11,000,000*24h*365d*4yrs= $385,440,000,000

    A Music Student, I could be wrong, that should be the rough estimate the war has cost the United States. Even if I’m wrong, compare that to $3 Billion for a ‘nominal mission.’ For that matter the 17 Billion to NASA for funding and research. Both of these numbers are little more than pocket change compared to the above figure.

    As for the reason of well-paid idiots and poorly paid scientists: sheep security, obviously. Rather than telling J.Q. public about all the wonderful things the space program has done you keep your public in the dark. Then you get puppets (like Ms. Couric,) to spout nonsense so to lead the populace into believing the Space Program is a complete waste of time.

    Roughly two years ago, I gave a Speech in my class on the Benefits of Space Exploration. Astronomy being my first love I thought ‘sure, why not.’ Judging by their reactions, many were surprised, including the Professor on the amount of positive things that came from it. It just went to show me what people were unaware of- and still are today…

  69. Irishman

    One of the problems with “NASA spinoffs” is some things commonly thought to be developed by the space program were actually developed elsewhere, but were implemented by the space program. Tang, Teflon, Aerogel, and the Space Pen are examples.

    However, the flipside is true as well. The truth is more of a combinatory effect – space applications and research entertwined with earthside reseach and technology. The two feeding off each other. Developments for one paving the way for alternate uses in the other. It’s difficult to point at a pure “space development” that is used commonly. Those items had to be modified to be implemented in the new application.

    That’s called engineering. You take some existing principle, device, mechanism, or means and tailor it to suit your new design need. Science studies and discovers. Engineering applies it. Technology is the equipment and knowledge that performs the application. They’re related, but not the same thing.

  70. The Bad Economist

    First, don’t get me wrong, I have no intention of defending Katie Couric. I didn’t even see the report, and I have no reason to doubt that she did indeed opine that NASA funding should be cut, despite the total absence of evidence to that effect in the original post. And I have no doubt that the author of the original post has conducted a careful economic analysis of the effectiveness of spending on the space program, and isn’t simply getting his economics from the same place the Planet X people get their physics and astronomy. I’m sure this individual has training in economics, facts and relevant figures, a logical and consistent macroeconomic model, calculations in support of the claimed hypothesis, etc. – in short, all the things that would immediately be demanded if, for example, someone showed up at BAUT and claimed that a mysterious giant planet would destroy the earth in year 2012. So what could be easier than showing, numbers and all, to the satisfaction of anyone with basic training in macroeconomics, how the NASA budget produces more benefits than any alternative use of the same amount of money? Describe the macroeconomic model used to conduct the analysis, the assumptions used, the data collected, the analysis performed, etc. We would want people to think BAUT is an ATM economics forum, would we?

    That said, let me express my total agreement that it is outrageous for a journalist to mention, even if not endorsing, a point-of-view that is inconsistent with those widely held at BAUT. This independent thinking can get out of hand. Before you know it, people will be demanding evidence for claims. They might even start saying things like “strawman fallacy” even when the offense is committed by a self-proclaimed rational person! This is intolerable.

  71. Bad Economist, you may have missed the whole point of the entry. Well, actually the main point is that she is dead wrong, but the fact of the matter remains: she and her staff didn’t do even the least amount of research before she said those silly things.

    I don’t need all those models to know that NASA is what helped put up weather and communication satellites, and does aerospace research to help keep planes safe. I suspect that those industries, worth hundreds of billions of dollars per year, are getting more for their money than the initial investment of 17 billion per annum for NASA.

  72. Mark Martin

    The Bad Economist,

    No one needs a macroeconimic model to know that spacecraft delivered to the near vicinity of various planetary objects yield data which wouldn’t be had via purely ground-based observations. The return on investment is the body of data. The question is then only how valuable one holds these data.

  73. mungascr

    Ray Gray referred to the “We came in Peace for all Mankind” line.

    Given that the Lunar landing were a result of the space race with the Soviets at the height of the Cold War and only a few years after America and Russia nearly destroyed all human civilisations over a few missiles in Cuba that’s kind of ironic.

    When you consider the fact that the only people to go to the Moon were White anglo-saxon American male pilots with the exception of one white anglo-saxon American male geologist that looks a lot ironic.

    Then when you reflect that it was over thirty years ago now and still no women, no Asian or African or Indigenous or … qwwell no bodyatall else has been back .. The whole line seems rather cringe-worthy.

    Don’t get me wrong though -space exploration – the lunar landing, the shuttle, even the ISS has done a heck of lot for humanity. It ain’t a waste of money and Katie Couric is a waste of space.

    Wish the feminists, ethnic lobby groups etc .. would see the point I raised above as an strong reason to lobby for more NASA funding aimed atsending women, indigenous people, Asian and African individuals etc .. to the Moon. The Moon -& space explorationingeneral -should be for everyone who wants to go & cares enough and is prepared to train hard enough.

    Oh, and anotherbefit -seeing the Earth as afinite planet -apale blue dot inspace even a “living spaceship” has worked wonders for the
    environmental movement. Space reserach – studying, for instance,
    how hard it is to establish life; how alone human and advanced ecologies maybe – can shed a lot of light on some key areas and awaken a lot of valuable thought and ideas – and minds!

    Think of that as yet another good reason as to what we’ve gained and why we need to keep going forward.

  74. mungascr

    Ray Gray referred to the “We came in Peace for all Mankind” line.

    Given that the Lunar landing were a result of the Space Race with the Soviets at the height of the Cold War and only a few years after America and Russia nearly destroyed all human civilisations over a few missiles in Cuba that’s kind of ironic. They were fighting Vietnam then as we’re similarly bogged & going backwards in Iraq now. Americans coming in peace? Better get your guns ready .. you’re about to be invaded more like.

    When you consider the fact that the only people to go to the Moon were White anglo-saxon American male pilots with the exception of one white anglo-saxon American male geologist that looks a lot ironic.

    Then when you reflect that it was over thirty years ago now and still no women, no Asian or African or Indigenous or … well no body at all else has been back .. The whole line seems rather cringe-worthy.

    Don’t get me wrong though -space exploration – the lunar landing, the shuttle, even the ISS has done a heck of lot for humanity. It ain’t a waste of money and Katie Couric is a waste of space.

    Wish the feminists, ethnic lobby groups etc .. would see the point I raised above as an strong reason to lobby for more NASA funding aimed atsending women, indigenous people, Asian and African individuals etc .. to the Moon. The Moon -& space explorationingeneral -should be for everyone who wants to go & cares enough and is prepared to train hard enough.

    Oh, and another benefit – seeing the Earth as a finite planet – in CarlSagan’s words “a pale blue dot in space” even a “living spaceship” has worked wonders for the environmental movement. Space reserach – studying, for instance, how hard it is to establish life; how alone human and advanced ecologies maybe – can shed a lot of light on some key areas and awaken a lot of valuable thought and ideas – and minds!

    Think of that as yet another good reason as to what we’ve gained and why we need to keep going forward.

  75. mungascr

    Sorry – thought that first message hadn’t gone thro’ – got something about ‘wrong header’ and other computerese gobbledegook… :-(

    Clicked back, edited a bit, added a bit and then tried again – only to find it had come through before after all .. Sigh.

  76. eddie

    I’m a little late to this discussion after taking a week’s vacation during which I swore off the Internet, but I have some thoughts on this.

    First, the comments on Couric’s site that referred to her “leftist” leanings are off the mark. She may indeed be of the liberal persuasion, but that’s not the issue here. The issue is that she’s the very definition of a “talking head,” and as one reader commented here, she is paid to read the news from a teleprompter, and that’s where her job should end, as her commentary clearly proves.

    Secondly, I’m a member of the print media, and we do make mistakes. Do those errors speak to our credibility? Absolutely. But we’re not all idiots, and unless you’ve felt the pressure of deadline when a story is happening under your very nose, your comments are taken with a grain of salt.

    Couric is an artifact of popular culture and really has no place in the world of true journalism. In my opinion, CBS should have ridden Bob Schieffer until he could no longer handle the job because he’s a throwback to the days of journalistic honesty, integrity and, yes, even compassion. He never made such commentary off the cuff; everything he editorialized seemed well-researched and much thought and consideration were obviously undertaken before he dared open his mouth.

    I don’t blame Couric for taking the millions and giving it a shot, but I do hold those who hired her accountable, and wonder if we’ll ever return to the principled journalism of the Cronkites and Schieffers of the past, be it delivery of the news or the commentary that follows.

    Just my opinion and thoughts.

  77. Monty

    Please accept my apologies for chiming in on the Katie Couric commentary at this late moment. Still, NASA content aside, Couric gets a huge audience every evening and it’s worth my time to say a few words about her presence as anchor on a national U.S. television network which eventually impacts most Americans.

    After a few months of periodically viewing Katie Couric at the bridge of CBS News, it’s clear to me that the Peter Principle has manifested itself. Couric is now “out of her league”. She clearly lacks confidence in front of evening viewers – my guess is that this is, at least in part, a result of receiving a lot of negative feedback thru the CBS web site and other channels. Of course, the “rules of engagement” make it clear that it’s CBS’s web site and they quite obviously manage all associated content. This is entirely fair. What is unfair, to me, is that we have Katie to view if we choose to tune in to CBS News in the evening, which I elect to do as infrequently as possible.

  78. Halidai

    My initial reaction was that a boycott of CBS should be organized and kept in force until they relieve that vacuous cow of her unearned paycheck.

    I think what would be more productive though would be to have her every word from now on examined and criticized until CBS decides on its own to demote her to the game show hostess position she merits.

  79. dave's not here

    Years ago, i spoke with a reporter, who was a guest lecturer at one of my writing courses, about tv news. When I asked him his thoughts about TV newscasters, he replied, “There’s a reason they call them anchors. Their only purpose is to drag journalism down.” I think that’s the perfect summary of Katie.

  80. Shamantern

    Give the woman a break, they pay her less than a $million a broadcast and she knows what sells junk food for thought.

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