NASA's cost versus the bailout

By Phil Plait | December 5, 2008 11:00 am

How much will the banking/mortgage FAIL bailout (FAILout?) cost us? Well, the total cost so far is over 4 trillion dollars. That’s an enormous number: 4,000,000,000,000. That’s roughly 600 times the number of humans walking the planet right now. It’s 20 times the numbers of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. It’s about how many days separate us now from the Big Bang.

That’s a lot of cash, and it’s growing every day.

Still, there’s nothing like seeing it. The Voltage blog has posted a pie chart showing the cost of the bailout compared to other massive government plans. It’s a sobering plot, to be sure. Interestingly, they included the (inflation-adjusted) cost of both the Apollo missions and the running total of NASA’s budget since its inception in 1958.

The number they listed for that is 850 billion dollars. That’s a lot of money too, though only about 1/5 of the bailout… and that’s for 50 years of space exploration, one of the costliest endeavors ever undertaken by man. Think of everything NASA has done: gone to the moon, launched countless weather satellites, built a space station (more than one, really), orbited communications satellites, visited every planet in the solar system (Pluto soon, too), visited a handful of asteroids and comets… and don’t forget Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, Fermi, Swift, Ibex, JWST, Kepler, Copernicus, the OAOs, IRAS, SWAS, SOHO, and many, many more. It’s hard to say how much Hubble cost, but I would guess it’s near 7 or 8 billion bucks by now. That’s only 1% of NASA’s lifetime budget.

And mind you, NASA gets less than 1% of the national budget today.

What to make of this? Well, I’m not precisely sure, except to point out that our grandest triumphs, in dollars, only cost us a fraction of our mistakes.

Tip o’ the accountant’s visor to BABlogee Dariush Molavi.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: NASA, Piece of mind, Politics

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