Monday, March 4, 2013
MEGA PROJECTS FOR THE FUTURE
Our Federal government has spent enormous sums for mega-projects, and many of them, but not all, were well worth the cost. For example (in 2013 dollars--the range is because people disagree on the methodology):
World War II ($288 billion in 1940 dollars equal from $3.8 trillion to $43 trillion today, depending on the economic parameter)
The Civil War preserved the Nation, and, certainly, we had to win World War II, where $26 billion for the Manhattan Project was a relative bargain. Similarly, our space efforts helped to bankrupt the Soviet Union, ending the Cold War Without the fiscal bailout, the world could still be in depression today. On the other hand, I don't think the Gulf Wars nor the Space Shuttle Project are examples of necessary government spending.
So let's look at some mega-projects today:
1. $396 billion for the F-35, which is presently grounded. The first production plane flew in 2008, 64 have been delivered and 2,456 more are planned for purchase. We have no enemy capable of contesting our air superiority, and there will be none for the foreseeable future. China will crash before they can become competitive, and they have no interest in invading the USA, anyway. DING!!!
2. Man on Mars could cost $500 billion. Much of NASA's expensive projects are preludes (see above from the 21February2013 issue of Scientific American). Dennis Tito wants to fly a married couple to Mars in 2018 for a billion dollars. They would spend 500 days zipping to Mars (without landing) and back. The odds on success are uncertain. He is seeking investors. My question is why? Space adventures could be justified during the Cold War Era. Not anymore. There are too many other environmental, infrastructure and sociological priorities. DING!!!
3. International Space Station (ISS): too late, $150 billion has already been spent on this white elephant. Best to quickly decommission it.
For 1% the ISS cost, the Pacific International Ocean Station has been proposed to begin to develop our ocean resources in harmony with the marine environment. In fact, prospects look promising for actually enhancing Planet Earth and Humanity, for hurricane formation can be minimized and global warming can be remediated. The Blue Revolution is the next sensible pioneering challenge for society.