By Jonathan I Lunine
In her commentary of Octobr first Ingrid Burger trots out the same financial objections to space exploration that were used thirty years ago. And yet, over the three decades since that time, American spending on space has plummeted by a factor of four: from 4 percent of the nation's Federal budget to just 1 percent. At the same time, social programs total upwards of forty percent of the federal budget - FORTY TIMES what we spend on space. Space exploration is simply too small a part of the federal budget to have significant impact on th much larger social programs.
In 1996 Americans spent over three times as much money phoning psychic hotlines as they did developing the Pathfinder Mars lander (source: Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Mercury Magazine). This statistic is concordant with Burger's chilling view that, because there is so much out there that we don't understand, we should therefore not seek to understand it. I fear for the future of a nation that, in the aggregate, holds to such a view.
Jonathan I Lunine