No. We don’t.

We really don’t: Australia needs a space program.

Might be an idea to leave it to the countries who can generate the trillions of dollars needed for one. Some people really should think before they speak. And for those who don’t, they can join the Liberal Party. They seem to be doing a good job at that. Speaking and not thinking that is.

Thomas.

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8 thoughts on “No. We don’t.

  1. Yes we do Thomas. Mind you, I’m biased. I played a role in re-establishing it and actually ran it for a period, only to see progressive loss of vision and focus!

  2. I respectfully disagree with you Jim. Granted you know infinitely more about this than I do, from my simple point of view, here is how I come to my conclusion. Our economy can’t possibly generate the money required for an adequate and reliable program, not while there are problems in any of the following fields:

    – Medical (hospitals, nurse shortages, doctor shortages)
    – Education (underfunded school, universities, languishing resources)
    – Indigenous affairs
    – Environment (water, providing for farmers affected by drought, sustainable energy)

    And that’s just what I can think of in 1 minutes. I’m sure that someone could come up with a dozen more problems that society faces that deserves the money more than a space program. In my opinion, a space program is stealing money from sectors that desperately need it. Mismanaged as some of sectors are, there are specific funding issues related to some. Start a space program, and money gets put into that, and not somewhere that society will benefit more.

    Again, my opinion, with very limited knowledge, and said with the utmost respect to yours.

  3. Thomas, sorry for the delay in coming back. Far to Uriah like, my friend, especially considering the standard of your response. These are all questions of judgement. Let me try to explain my views and biases.

    Part of it is simply a dream. I don’t think that we should be locked into this planet. Part of it is simply pusuit of knowledge. Your arguments apply equally to radio physics or to any other blue sky endeavour. Should we be being investing money in astronomy?

    Part is practical. Space is at the leading edge of technology. It can link and drive other parts of industry. It is also a big industry sector in its own right.

    Australia had the opportunity to become part of the European Space Agency. The Menzies Government did not have the vision. Had we done so, the rockets might be launched from here instead of French Guyana.

    fwe look at the areas you cite. The current nurse and dcotor shortage is due to previous Government decisions. A little money then, and we would not need to throw cash at it now. Again, indigenous affairs. We have to throw money in because of past policy failure. The amount of wasted money in this area would have made Australia a leading space nation.

    I think that my core argument is that most of these things are not either or. We stopped spending money on space. Did it improve indigenous disadvantage?

    I feel at least six blog posts coming on!

  4. I expect this would be a minefield for a blogger like yourself!

    I’ll readily acknowledge that previous governments have failed dismally in those areas that are a problem now, but the reality is that we have these problems regardless of the ‘what if’s’ that could be applied. I mean, I could just say that if we fixed all these problems, then I would be for a space program. But the fact of the matter is that there’s likely to always be problems an area of society that needs attention.

    So perhaps one day, when all the nuts and bolts have been tightened, I’d change my opinion, but while problems like this exist now, the last thing we need to do, I feel, is start pouring money into a program and industry that will only start yielding results in no less than 5 years. And in that time, things could have got a lot worse. So you pointed out, neglect by government just compounds issues. And while bright-eyed optimists about the Rudd government such as myself (Neil too – who I wonder what he thinks about this issue) are confident that they will do a lot for the country, I don’t think even we expect him to have fixed the country in the blink of an eye.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big supporter of delving into the final frontier. I have arguments with friends and family about the U.S. and European programs. They say they are a waste of time; I say they are crucially important to mankind’s (as you said) pursuit of knowledge. I long for a day when I and my generation have our own ‘moon landing’ moment. Whether it be so significant or symbolic or not, I would love to look back one day and be able to recall “where I was when …”

    But when you look at the expenditure put in by governments, it’s huge. And the upkeep and what-not. China just started one, and look at the economic boom they are in. Europe can because they have a joint-initiative going on, plus some of the biggest economies going. The U.S. is … well, the U.S. and have invested heavily (and intelligently) in their’s. But look at the U.S.’s monetary problems at the moment. Not exactly something that we want to find ourselves at.

    However, as with your expertise knowledge here, you highlighted something that I didn’t know anything about – a joint initiative that involved Australia and (what is now) an established space-faring country. That is something I’d be more open to. Where the Australian government didn’t have to front the enormous amount of capital investment alone. Surely the amount of land and our position is still tempting for one of these two programs?

  5. Actually, Thomas, the idea of joint endeavour to set up launch facilities in Australia was a feature of the last Keating period, and for the reasons you give. I was not a supporter. I felt that it was pie in the sky.

    Huge is a relative concept. In 2007 NASA’s budget including aeronautics was about $16.3 billion, well down in real terms from its 1966 peak. This is very small relative to the US deficit and the $3 trillion cost of the Vietnam war.

    The Chinese space budget is reported to be between $2 and $3 billion US. Japan spends about the same. I think that Europe is a bit over 3 billion euros.

    All space agencies have suffered from a similar financial squeeze. What we don’t know, however, is space Defence spend. My impression is that this is substantial and growing.

  6. Haha, pie in the sky. I like it.

    Huge to me is something like the figure near to our total budget surplus being spent on a space program. Yeah, a bad example, as you couldn’t honestly expect us to equal US spending on a space program.

    Seeings I know nothing about those dollars and cents, I have to ask a few questions. Do any of them include the cost to launch something into space? And what is the initial cost of establishing facilities that would be used under the program? Obviously (at least to me) Australia lacks the industry to produce these items? Does that mean buying them as exports, or establishing the industry here?

    And if other agencies are suffering from a financial squeeze, wouldn’t that indicate that perhaps foreign governments are over-committed to their programs, or at least finding that they don’t have enough money to spread around? If it’s the case of the latter, and they have chosen their space programs as the first to get cuts, isn’t that symbolic of the sort of ‘luxury investment’ that space programs really are for first-world societies?

  7. Thomas, I will try to continue our discussion tomorrow. For the moment I am obsessed with one post. Really enjoyed your post on Bilbo, by the way.

  8. Haha, thank-you.

    On the side, there’s no real urge to continue the discussion if you find time is pressing for you. Things do run to an end.

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