• Rich Barlow

    Senior Writer

    Photo: Headshot of Rich Barlow, an older white man with dark grey hair and wearing a grey shirt and grey-blue blazer, smiles and poses in front of a dark grey backdrop.

    Rich Barlow is a senior writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. Perhaps the only native of Trenton, N.J., who will volunteer his birthplace without police interrogation, he graduated from Dartmouth College, spent 20 years as a small-town newspaper reporter, and is a former Boston Globe religion columnist, book reviewer, and occasional op-ed contributor. Profile

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There are 5 comments on Whither NASA?

  1. “Is space travel profitable? Going into space is at least as entertaining as going to Disney World, and that enterprise is quite profitable. If the price point drops, space travel could easily become the vacation du jour.”

    Ah, yes, the urban myth that NASA needs to get “out of the way” and let the private sector open up space for the rest of us.

    The reality, however, is that NASA has never been in the way, and the commercial sector, which is profit-driven, has accomplished almost nothing over the past half-century. But if you can come up with a way to make money, please go ahead and put out your shingle, attract private investors, build your spacecraft, and the sky is the limit! Good luck.

    As as far as commercial space opening up LEO to ordinary people like us, just how much can you realistically afford to spend on a 1-week joyride in LEO? Do you have credit card debt or student loans? Is your house and car paid of? Are you saving up enought for retirement, considering the bleak prospect for social security?

    Can you afford $50M today? Maybe $5M in 25 years? The answer is not in our lifetime. Maybe for a few billionares. Maybe the children of millionares in 50-100 years. But not ordinary people.

  2. “Is space travel profitable?” Um yeah, are you kidding me? I hope that is rhetorical. If we got any good at it maybe we could tap into the resources of other planets/asteroids and stop destroying ourselves from the inside out.

    1. It’s not that simple Dan, To get to space is expensive and to harvest materials and Get them back is also expensive, so Is space travel profitable…. for right now the answer is no until we can improve technology to make it more cost effective.

  3. NASA is an example of corporate welfare. Or a government jobs program gone wild. This new rocket can lift 70 tons and it is going to cost $18 billion just to fly a test flight in 2018. We all know how solid a NASA budget is. We can usually say it is under budget if it only cost 2’xs that amount first quoted. After 2018 there will be additional on going costs (in the billions) tied to this rocket once the program get established. For a point of reference, $18 billion is actually $18,000 million. There is an upgrade planned for this rocket so it can eventually lift up to 140 tons but there is no solid budget for that and that takes us into 2020’s.

    Now a small commercial company SpaceX, is going to launch a new rocket called Falcon Heavy it can lift 50 tons in to orbit. They have a fixed price, (I’ll round it up) at $150 million per launch. It is scheduled to launch in 2012. Well ask any 2nd grader what is a better value?

    For $18 billion or $18,000 million you can buy 120 Falcon Heavy’s @ $150 million.

    I think any 2nd grader would know what is better value, if you put it into terms they could understand. Ask them if they would option A) A single 70 ton ice cream cone that requires them to wait an extra 5 years. Option B) For the same price get 120, 50 ton ice cream cones and you can start eating them 5 years earlier.

    ($18,000 million/$150 million per flight = 120 flights @ 50 tons = 6,000 tons). The answer is obvious as to what is the better value for the tax payer. But since this isn’t considered the unpopular type of welfare no one blinks an eye.

    The issue is congress people do things to get reelected even if it makes no financial sense. No congress person is going to refuse a $5 billion federal program for their state or ask to have it sent to another state because the other state could do it for $4.7 billion and save the tax payer’s $300 million. The powerful space states got $18 billion directed to their states so they can yell that they “Fought for your jobs! and I created new jobs! Vote for me!”. To who do you think the large contractors are going to be making reelection contributions to?

    Who loses? The rest of us. Who is to blame? Everyone, we need to change this. I am not saying privatization is the cure all but it does address the spending money just for the sake of spending money in order to score points with voters. At some point the spending is more important then actually flying a rocket. These congress people only want tax payer money spent in their states, if the rocket ever fly that is only a bonus. If it gets canceled in 5 years that only means another new rocket will be suggested and they’ll make sure their state gets the contract.

  4. Space travel is INCREDIBLY expensive. Have we abandoned the international-space-station? To ship a lunch to the space-station, you not only have to get into ‘space’, but you have to get into ORBIT – going somewhere in the vicinity of 17,000 miles per hour relative to sitting here on earth.
    Where goes NASA?

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