NASA accused of misrepresenting costs in new GAO report, Trump's moon mission now threatened

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Trump’s moon mission threatened


Ugh. Glad that we get decent accounting of our civilian space program, but imagine what kind of graft we’d find if we could get a real audit of the pentagon as well. #whynotboth


We were going to send Trump to the moon? Dammit! Where can I donate?! (Kidding, of course. Marvin the Martian would never forgive us.)

Oooo. Then, ideally, Trump’s moon mission will be threatened by the fact he will no longer be President. God willing.

Misrepresentations by Trump made it difficult to ascertain who was going to pay for the Mexican border wall. This administration seems to be plagued by that problem.

I hope this doesn’t impact Trump’s Space Force plans as well. That’s on schedule and under budget, right?


It’s so quaint, this notion that hoarding money instead of spending it is somehow good for the economy.

I remember at some point learning about “the velocity of money.” I’m starting to think I hallucinated it, because nobody else seems to have gotten the memo.


The report comes as NASA is seeking congressional support for its plan to return humans to the moon within five years.

I work at a NASA center, and I can tell you that to a person every member of the rank and file on our campus knows perfectly well that Moon 2024 is pure politically-motivated fantasy, and roll their eyes at the notion. Don’t count on much of that support-seeking being a good-faith effort, even at the level of HQ. They must do enough to keep up appearances so they can say to Pence, “hey, we gave it our best shot,” but that’s all.


Not all spending is equal. Spending on infrastructure helps many people for a long time, and creates new businesses to be part of that increased ease of movement or take advantage of the results of ease of movement. Money that poor people get is immediately spent on a wide spread of essential goods, the benefits of which spread out even further.

Spending on low numbers of very expensive items doesn’t have that benefit. The number of people that get that money is low, they tend to be rich so it doesn’t spread as much, and the result (whether it’s military hardware that sits in a warehouse or a stunt in space) has little external benefit. In fact, there is a real cost of putting resources that are limited (energy, materials, brainpower) into this because it means it won’t be spent on something that benefits mankind more. Super expensive items are the enemy of increasing money velocity.


@ Pensketch- "We were going to send Trump to the moon? Dammit! Where can I donate?! "

I vote for the center of the goddamn sun.

Sending him to the moon is like turning a wilderness into a garbage dump, lets not spoil nature- send him to the garbage incinerator. He’ll get a tan on the way, and no waste. We can use his reentry to the corona as a sunspot study

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This can be true but doesn’t have to be true. Some super expensive items are worth spending money on, say, like getting off of carbon energy, or certain types of infrastructure projects (which are some of the by far most expensive types of money spends on the planet). It’s difficult to gauge the nonlinear relationship between that form of spending, and the overall return on investment, in terms of the overall positive effect on the wider economy and its various players.

You are certainly correct, not all spending is equal. Never said it was. My comment was more about how a particular dynamic, some might say most important dynamic, of economics is left out of essentially all mainstream conversation on the topic, in general, and in this instance (notwithstanding this dialog we are engaged in).

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Hey, if Trump can just make up numbers about everything, why can’t NASA?

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Unless Bridenstine has taken a leaf from legendary NASA Administrator James Webb’s playbook. In his excellent book The Man Who Ran The Moon Piers Bizony quotes NASA’s general counsel, Paul Dembling, who was in the office with Webb when the first estimates for the cost of getting to the Moon rolled in following President Kennedy’s 1961 speech.

“He got a figure of $10bn. He said ‘Come on guys, you’re doing this on the basis that everything is going to work every time every place no matter what you do.’ So they came back with a figure of $13bn. So Webb goes up to the Hill with that $13bn figure.”

Except, of course, he didn’t. Wary of overruns and not wanting to have to return with the begging bowl, Webb actually asked for $20bn.

“I put an administrator’s discount on it,” he replied when questioned on how the figure came to be.


I’m substantially in agreement with you for this particular investment (ie, going to the moon, again), however, the first “stunt” to the moon did give us integrated circuits.

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Wait, is this the moon moon, or the Mars moon?


Read the headline and thought: I do not care how much it costs (and where do I donate?) just let him have his moon mission and make sure the funds are cut off just as he arrives there.

ETA: Ok, so @Pensketch beat me to it. Great minds, etc. :wink:


Moon shots are significantly easier once you remove “And return him safely to the Earth” from the mission requirements.


Any argument about how we’d be better off spending money on more terrestrial, practical things is immediately undermined by military spending, which is exponentially more. We are still at war with Iraq, technically, and people are making noise about starting another war with Iran. This costs exponentially more than rocket ships.

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So, $30,000,000,000 is not better spent on things other than a vanity stunt, because more money is being spent on dumb things elsewhere? How does that make sense?

Haven’t you heard? They’re basically the same thing.


There is a history of politicians promoting bold new missions and then abandoning those projects when they get a bunch of artist’s conceptions and an estimate of the cost.

edited to add. This is not just true of the space program. Lots of big new ideas only get as far as the “artist’s conception phase.” But the space program is more prone to this that some other areas simply because getting stuff into orbit is so darned difficult.

Indeed. Apollo was an anomaly, in that it was a large-scale space project that survived successive administrations, and, people forget, fairly hostile public opinion. (It’s been argued by some space historians that it was the assassination of Kennedy that saved it, since Johnson saw it as Kennedy’s legacy and was unwilling to reduce the scope of the program.) From Nixon on, every time there’s been a change in administration there’s been a significant change in space priorities from those of the previous administration – e.g. diminished scope of STS/station when Nixon nixed the station in the early seventies, leaving no mission for the shuttle, the cancellation Bush Sr.'s SEI, the tumultuous history of Reagan’s Space Station Freedom (eventually reduced to the ISS), W’s VSE, Obama’s asteroid mission… the list goes on.

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You are technically still at war with North Korea, too.