29 September 2008
What can $700 Billion Buy?
Posted by Ryan Anderson
With all the talk about the government bailout in the news right now, I got to thinking about just how much money $700 billion dollars is. So here are some depressing numbers.
1.25 Iraq Wars (based on the ~$558 billion cost shown at this site at 12:30 am EDT on Sept 29, 2008)
5 Apollo Programs (at ~$135 billion inflation-adjusted dollars for the entire program from conception to cancellation)
40 times NASA’s budget ($17.3 billion)
116 times the budget of the National Science Foundation (~$6 billion)
214 Cassini-Huygens missions (at ~$3.26 billion apiece)
538 space shuttle launches (averaging ~$1.3 billion per launch)
1,750 MER rovers (based on the ~$800 million cost to build, launch, and operate both rovers for 90 days)
$2,324.50 for every american
salaries for 1,104,148 new teachers (using the national median of $33,973)
42,795,133 college educations (using the average total cost for a 4-year public, in-state undergraduate program)
That is a lot of money.
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I see a crucial item missing from your list. How many Mars Science Laboratories can 700 billion dollars buy? Apparently none, if you are to believe the latest news as the project is heading for cancelation! What a tragedy for near-term Mars exploration that would be.
What’s your take on this? Isn’t there anything we can do?
I didn’t include MSL because nobody knows how much it will cost…
MSL is NOT going to be canceled. Too much money and effort has already gone into it. We’re in the midst of doing practice planning sessions while the instruments are delivered and tested. In the worst case, the launch would be delayed for ~2 years until the next launch opportunity, but right now the NASA folks and instrument teams are working crazy overtime so that we can launch next fall. The latest I’ve heard is that it might be delayed by a month and launch next october.
Considering that the $700 billion figure is estimated to be less than 1/2 the total cost of the fix, how close to a base on the Earth’s moon would we be if we had invested all along in space technology instead of hedge funds, collateralized debt obligations, and credit default swaps? Investors have wanted immediate returns, not long-term payoffs, so the equity markets have created new ways of making money out of nothing. And nothing is what we all will have, soon, because we spent our money trying to get rich quick.
Already, several trillion dollars has disappeared from the world economy. If 1/2 of that had been spent on space technology, we would actually have something to look forward to.