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Counter argumentsEdit

Exploitation of resourcesEdit

Historically, Western civilization has always been short of resources. We have always attempted to solve the problem by finding more resources elsewhere, rather than trying to conserve what is available at home. There is a clear pattern: As soon as new sources of materials and energy were found, prices dropped, the population exploded, and consumption increased, leading to a new shortage within a short amount of time.

It is naive to assume that finding new resources in space will eliminate our shortages and solve all our problems. Consumption would simply adapt to the new abundance and soon we would be back where we started.

It is time to solve this problem on the demand side, rather than the supply side. If we reduce the world's population to a 10th of what it is today, and if we use technology to conserve energy, land, and materials we won't need to continue this unsustainable cycle in space.

A reduction in population is possible in the long term without coercion. Some of the most highly developed and educated regions in the world, such as Europe and Japan, are already experiencing birth rates well below 2.0 (in some countries as low as 1.2) without coercive one-child policies. A combination of education, higher standards of living, and contraception could lead to a worldwide population reduction.

Colonisation of other worldsEdit

  • Again, overpopulation is a demand problem, not a supply problem. Colonising other worlds will not solve overpopulation. The vacancies left of earth by emigrants would simply fill up again (see above).
  • Conditions on other worlds are too harsh to support an economically sustainable colony. A lot of people would be prepared to move to Mars, the Moon, or Europa, but they would quickly return to Earth after a few years, when they hype has faded and they realise how harsh life is in these environments. If big cities in the Arctic and Antarctic regions (where conditions are a lot more benign than on Mars) were economically viable they would have emerged by now. The Soviets did try to forcibly colonise the Tundra; apart from being an economic disaster, the project was a social failure. Planned towns in Siberia are suffering from misery, umemployment and large scale emigration, while the rest of Russia is booming.
  • It is not the government's job to ensure long term survival of humanity, nor is it the taxpayer's responsibility to pay for it.

Spin-off technologiesEdit

If you throw one trillion dollars at any pioneering project, it will produce some useful spin-off technologies. For example, the www was initally developed to manage data at CERN. Spin off technologies alone are not an argument in favour of manned space exploration, rather they are an argument in favour of funding technological advancement (space or otherwise).

Many exciting projects on earth, such as development of nuclear fusion, solar energy, and particle accelarators, would prove better value for money, since a) they are not limited in scale by the tiny size of launch payloads b) they could discover fundamental knowledge about the universe, not just the solar system c) they would produce spin-off technologies in addition to an economically exploitable outcome, such as clean energy.

There is little evidence that space exploration and war produces the highest returns of social benefits per dollar spent. These are simply two areas that have historically attracted a lot of funding, so it is obvious that a lot of spin-off technologies have emerged.

Arguments against public funding for manned space explorationEdit

Free marketEdit

Public perceptionEdit

An important problem is the public, which often thinks NASA is the one and only company to work in outer space. So this makes it quite hard for new firms to actually become involved in the "space biz". The laws that apply can be very complicated, and the hoops that companies have to jump through to get permission to launch or do anything in orbit often take years to work though. This needs to be changed.

Government Competing with Private IndustryEdit

How do we expect to build a real space sector with entrepreneurship and risk-taking when there is a large, government-funded organization whose primary purpose is to protect its own jobs? NASA has been risk averse for decades now, and this aversion to risk, far from increasing safety, actually reduces both safety and the amount of exploration we get for our tax dollars. Private entrepreneurship seems more likely to produce the "right" level of safety and economic exploitation, while NASA should focus on "far out" exploration. Fortunately, the AST (Office of Space Transportation within the FAA) seems to be committed to working closely with private space companies to help write reasonable regulations to allow the emerging private space industry to fluorish. Now we just need to make sure NASA doesn't accidentally step on the little guys.


Most space programs are conducted for prestige reasons more than anything else, and the purpose is often nothing more than boosting a politician's popularity. Their practical purpose is rarely analysed by policy makers and their benefits to the economy are questionable. While space programs do produce some useful spin-offs, their huge cost and limited range of appllications means that they are bad value for money, and the billions of taxpayer's money are better spent on more effective research, such as finding a cure for cancer.

Read: Perspectives ››

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