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On the Moon

Charles Krauthammer is not a big fan of spending billions to expand health-care coverage to all Americans. But he is, as readers learned Friday, a big fan of spending billions to fund space travel. Some might consider those two opinions in tension. "Oh, please," answers Krauthammer. "Poverty and disease and social ills will always be with us."

That's true. But the degree to which they're with us is directly dependent on where we spend those billions. And the moon isn't going anywhere either. Gil Scott-Heron had a nice little riff on this way back in 1970.

Anyway, a good health-care reform bill should save us some money over time and free up some money for space travel. So it's not all zero sum.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 20, 2009; 1:40 PM ET
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-- The greatest example? Who could have predicted that the moon voyages would create the most potent impetus to -- and symbol of -- environmental consciousness here on Earth: Earthrise, the now iconic Blue Planet photograph brought back by Apollo 8? --

And that show Big Blue Marble too. But since money is so tight, we must have a photo laying around somewhere that will inspire the next big potent impetus for whatever. I saw some pictures of giant jellyfish this morning that are still freaking me out. Or we can use that Flickr link you posted last week to find some potent impetus. Or, to honor both interpretations of the moon landing, we can just fake something with Photoshop.

In the meantime, someone should remind Charles that it's been exactly 30 years since the Sandanista revolution, which led to that triple album by the Clash, which is the definitive argument against triple albums, if you see where I'm going ... He can use that for his next column.

Posted by: eRobin1 | July 20, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

It's not a matter of "spending billions" for one vs. "spending billions" for the other. It's "spending hundreds of billions" for one vs. "spending not quite tens of billions" for the other. NASA's annual budget is a little under $18 billion -- all of NASA, not just the manned space program. The F-22 program alone cost almost as much as four years of NASA.

In the negotiating going on over the proposed health care plans, those involved are routinely adding or subtracting amounts far greater than NASA's budget. There's no reason why the US can't afford both.

Posted by: JHGRedekop | July 20, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

So space, and the moon, and Mars will not "always be with us"?

Posted by: jimvj | July 20, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Well, it is nice to know that Krauthammer is uniformly idiotic.

There is no justification for humans in space. It is excessively expensive, they spend all their time keeping themselves alive, and robots are neither of those things.

Ask yourself how many stories have come out of the ISS compared to, say, the Voyager program or any single one of the Mars landers.

The big news out of the ISS lately is that they broke their toilet, so plumbing has moved to the top of the priority list.

Voyager didn't need a toilet.

Posted by: pj_camp | July 20, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Space exploration is one of the reasons that I believe I am living in one of the most exciting times in history. What would you trade Hubble for? Imagine a world without all those beautiful pictures and amazing insights. Were you there when Voyager encountered by Saturn? I was. Did you see the surface of Mars with Spirit and Opportunity? I did. Don't you ever wonder if anyone else is out there, or are we all alone?

Cancel one of those Defense Dept toys instead. We still spend approximately as much as all other nations combined on defense. Why do people always pick on the measly NASA budget?

Posted by: bonyfingers | July 20, 2009 8:44 PM | Report abuse

It's not so much picking on the NASA budget. It's lets do more Hubbles, Voyagers, and Spirits instead of paying an exorbitant amount of money to go visit a wasteland.

Posted by: PPhilly | July 20, 2009 9:09 PM | Report abuse

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