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Thread: NASA's PR problems

  1. #211
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    If anything is of harm to NASA's PR, it's the constant assertion that NASA scientists are ultimately of inferior value, and that astronomy has brought no real benefit to the world -- such as, I don't know, advances in weather monitoring, monitoring of global climate by Earth observation satellites, satellite TV, satellite communications, disaster monitors and warnings in hurricanes, spread of forest fires, monitoring crop disease (all helped by satellites again), or the biggie, GPS. Not to mention that understanding the universe around us imparts no small value.

    NASA contributed greatly to many of the things you mention but had absolutely nothing to do with the development of GPS. That was the US Department of Defense.

  2. #212
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    First of all, I just want to note that there's an in-built quote service in the BAUT, and if you choose not to use it, I would appreciate being named as the person you're responding to, to prevent any confusion for other readers (just as Jay Utah does prior to quotation). Plus, the in-built quoting system allows one to immediately refer back to a quoted post with a click, which is convenient.

    Second of all, NASA having absolutely nothing to do with the development of GPS is technically incorrect, as I doubt that the DoD would have the satellite technology if NASA hadn't been working on it at the time. Further, NASA helps sponsor the GPS Applications Exchange, which I suppose is a small matter. I suppose my point is, the DoD benefits from NASA's work and experience. However, you are otherwise correct, and I apologize for misrepresenting the facts.

  3. #213
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    First, I generally agree with SolusLupus' main point, that NASA's PR "problems" among the general public have nothing to do with how quickly they release data. And, IMHO, NASA doesn't really have a PR problem with the general public. I suspect most people, at least in the US, have a favorable opinion of NASA. But a favorable opinion doesn't necessarily translate into a desire to budget more money to them, for example.

    Quote Originally Posted by SolusLupus View Post
    Second of all, NASA having absolutely nothing to do with the development of GPS is technically incorrect, as I doubt that the DoD would have the satellite technology if NASA hadn't been working on it at the time. Further, NASA helps sponsor the GPS Applications Exchange, which I suppose is a small matter. I suppose my point is, the DoD benefits from NASA's work and experience. However, you are otherwise correct, and I apologize for misrepresenting the facts.
    I'll give both of you another take on this question. Whether NASA had lots or little to do with GPS, I'd bet a lunch that the average citizen doesn't know it, and assumes that GPS, particularly the civilian applications of GPS, are all because of NASA. And so, if they have favorable opinions of the importance of GPS, this would add to their favorable opinion of NASA.
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  4. #214
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    First, I generally agree with SolusLupus' main point, that NASA's PR "problems" among the general public have nothing to do with how quickly they release data. And, IMHO, NASA doesn't really have a PR problem with the general public. I suspect most people, at least in the US, have a favorable opinion of NASA. But a favorable opinion doesn't necessarily translate into a desire to budget more money to them, for example.
    No, it does not, especially when there are other, sometimes more high-priority budgets to think about, such as law enforcement (which effects everyone in the now), fire fighting, defense expenditures, and other forms of scientific research.

    But no, I do not think that NASA has a PR problem with the general public.

    I'll give both of you another take on this question. Whether NASA had lots or little to do with GPS, I'd bet a lunch that the average citizen doesn't know it, and assumes that GPS, particularly the civilian applications of GPS, are all because of NASA. And so, if they have favorable opinions of the importance of GPS, this would add to their favorable opinion of NASA.
    Good point, although I do say that I appreciate being corrected, even if it was not technically important to the question at hand.

  5. #215
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    First of all, I just want to note that there's an in-built quote service in the BAUT, and if you choose not to use it, I would appreciate being named as the person you're responding to, to prevent any confusion for other readers (just as Jay Utah does prior to quotation). Plus, the in-built quoting system allows one to immediately refer back to a quoted post with a click, which is convenient.

    Second of all, NASA having absolutely nothing to do with the development of GPS is technically incorrect, as I doubt that the DoD would have the satellite technology if NASA hadn't been working on it at the time. Further, NASA helps sponsor the GPS Applications Exchange, which I suppose is a small matter. I suppose my point is, the DoD benefits from NASA's work and experience. However, you are otherwise correct, and I apologize for misrepresenting the facts.


    I've used the quote service a few times in the past and found it annoying. That's why I don't use it.

    NASA was never seriously involved with satellite navigation systems. That was always a DoD function, first with Transit and later with GPS. You seem to be under the misconception that if it involves space, then it had to come from NASA. That simply isn't the case. The DoD has operated a lot of satellites over the decades, primarily in the areas of missile warning/detection (see DSP/SBIRS), weather (DMSP), precision navigation and timing (Transit/GPS), communications (DSCS, WGS, Milstar, GBS, UFO, Fleetsatcom, etc.) and with the NRO, a whole series of intelligence/surveillance/reconnaissance (ISR) satellite programs. In some of the areas you mentioned, the DoD did the pioneering work. For example, they were launching "earth observation" satellites (AKA spysats) starting around 1960 with CORONA. The Agena upper stages used during the Gemini program for docking experiments were developed to support ISR satellites like CORONA.

    As for communications satellites, Hughes and Bell Labs did a lot of the early work on active repeaters in orbit. NASA developed a series of advanced technology communications satellites that benefitted the industry but a lot of the real work in development came from the commercial sector. NASA's Landsat program was valuable in that it was targeted towards earth environmental monitoring and resource detection but a lot of the technology was first developed years before by the military and NRO.

  6. #216
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Jacks View Post
    NASA was never seriously involved with satellite navigation systems. That was always a DoD function, first with Transit and later with GPS. You seem to be under the misconception that if it involves space, then it had to come from NASA.
    I assure you that I am not under any such misconception. I have also admitted that you were correct in the majority, but I disagreed that NASA had "absolutely nothing to do with it", as it's a bit more complicated than that. As the rest of your post assumes I hold a simplistic view that I do not, I see no reason to respond to it.

    Either way, I believe we're getting derailed from the main topic here, which does not have a lot to do with specific claims of GPS development.
    Last edited by SolusLupus; 2010-Jul-21 at 07:49 PM.

  7. #217
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolusLupus View Post
    No, it does not, especially when there are other, sometimes more high-priority budgets to think about, such as law enforcement (which effects everyone in the now), fire fighting, defense expenditures, and other forms of scientific research.

    But no, I do not think that NASA has a PR problem with the general public.
    I don't understand "No, it does not". I interpret your comments to be similar to Swifts. Basically; General public PR is OK but does not necessarily translate to funding.

  8. #218
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    Quote Originally Posted by NEOWatcher View Post
    I don't understand "No, it does not".
    Swift: But a favorable opinion doesn't necessarily translate into a desire to budget more money to them, for example.

    Me: No, it does not, especially when [...]

    I was referring to the last sentence of the quoted paragraph.

    I interpret your comments to be similar to Swifts. Basically; General public PR is OK but does not necessarily translate to funding.
    That is correct.
    Last edited by SolusLupus; 2010-Jul-21 at 10:18 PM.

  9. #219
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolusLupus View Post
    If anything is of harm to NASA's PR, it's the constant assertion that NASA scientists are ultimately of inferior value, and that astronomy has brought no real benefit to the world -- such as, I don't know, advances in weather monitoring, monitoring of global climate by Earth observation satellites, satellite TV, satellite communications, disaster monitors and warnings in hurricanes, spread of forest fires, monitoring crop disease (all helped by satellites again), or the biggie, GPS.
    It hasn't. That's a fact. All the things you have listed were first done for military applications and then commercialized.

    Quote Originally Posted by SolusLupus View Post
    Not to mention that understanding the universe around us imparts no small value.
    Except that it has no practical benefit. Okay, some of the space observatories do produce results which validate some physical theories, which may be of practical use in the future. However, a lot of money is currently being blown on planetary research, which provides no practical advantage whatsoever, because these bodies are too far to be of practical use at the moment. There's precisely one body in the Solar System (Luna) which could be usefully exploited with present-day tech -- and that body keeps getting ignored.

  10. #220
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    Quote Originally Posted by kamaz View Post
    Except that it has no practical benefit. Okay, some of the space observatories do produce results which validate some physical theories, which may be of practical use in the future.
    Even if that is correct (I'm not conceding it, but I'll let it go for the moment), so what; does absolutely everything have to have a immediate practical benefit for the government to spend money on it?

    However, a lot of money is currently being blown on planetary research,
    A lot? Compared to what? Do you know what percent of the federal budget is spent on NASA and what percent of that is spent on planetary research?

    And back to the OP, do you think any of that impacts the public perception of NASA?
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  11. #221
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    Quote Originally Posted by kamaz View Post
    It hasn't. That's a fact. All the things you have listed were first done for military applications and then commercialized.
    Sputnik 1 sent back telemetry including identifying the upper atmosphere layer's density, radio-signal distribution in the ionosphere, and the first opportunity for meteoroid detection. While it was launched by the Soviets, and thus did have some military application (and propaganda application), the very first satellite in orbit aided astronomical understanding; and that was the first Earth-orbiting satellite.

    NASA's example was Explorer 1, which also had scientific value.

    Except that it has no practical benefit.
    Sure, when you deliberately trim all the practical benefits that we've ever received, that's the natural conclusion you'd be led to.

    Personally, I see a ton of practical benefits from this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nasa#NASA_science

    And there have been many offshoots from the space program, that don't quite seem obvious as offshoots.
    Last edited by SolusLupus; 2010-Jul-22 at 04:01 AM.

  12. #222
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    W-e-l-l he said they had good PR. ESA may be worse than NASA, but I don't think pointing at someone else an ocean away and saying "They're just as bad!" is much of a defense.

  13. #223
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    A lot? Compared to what? Do you know what percent of the federal budget is spent on NASA and what percent of that is spent on planetary research?
    I have to demonstrate that practical, directly applicable and marketable results can be produced to get $150K of funding over 3 years for materials science. In contrast, a mission like New Horizons will not produce anything (in terms of mission science, not spacecraft technology) that will be of any practical value for the next 100 years, while costing hundreds of millions.

    Does this answer your questions?

    Quote Originally Posted by SolusLupus View Post
    Sputnik 1 sent back telemetry including identifying the upper atmosphere layer's density, radio-signal distribution in the ionosphere, and the first opportunity for meteoroid detection.
    The goal of Sputnik-1 was to demonstrate that an R-7 ICBM can deliver payload to orbit, and is therefore suitable for delivering nuclear warheads to U.S. soil. The science was tackled on as a PR exercise, so the Soviets could claim that the project had no military applications. Immediately the idea of orbital weapon platform was validated and manned spaceflight capacity was being developed to allow for crewing these platforms. The U.S. just played along by the same rules, until the idea was abandoned as impractical in mid-1960s and USAF was forbidden from space exploration.

    Then a funny thing happened in the U.S., because when the military was out, and Nixon did not see the benefit in expanding the U.S. presence in space by building on the Apollo legacy, the scientists have started running the show. As a result, the focus was shifted from doing things with practical benefits (like military assets on the Moon) to research for the sake of learning more about the universe. This was not bad in itself. But the problem is, that learning more about things like KBO composition is not going to solve our looming energy crisis. Things like orbital power plants could provide a solution, but they are ignored as scientifically uninteresting. As a result, there is no practical, directly applicable and marketable results from most of the things that NASA does in space.

    Sure, you have spin-offs from technology development, but these things are small and fragmented and so the public does not even see them.

  14. #224
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    Quote Originally Posted by whimsyfree View Post
    W-e-l-l he said they had good PR. ESA may be worse than NASA, but I don't think pointing at someone else an ocean away and saying "They're just as bad!" is much of a defense.
    You're missing the point, Zvezdichko clearly has double standards when it comes to certain things and it shows up in his posts if you follow them. I'm not planning to pick out every one of them that illustrates this, I just brought up the latest example djellison was talking about.

  15. #225
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    Quote Originally Posted by kamaz View Post
    Originally Posted by Swift
    A lot? Compared to what? Do you know what percent of the federal budget is spent on NASA and what percent of that is spent on planetary research?
    I have to demonstrate that practical, directly applicable and marketable results can be produced to get $150K of funding over 3 years for materials science. In contrast, a mission like New Horizons will not produce anything (in terms of mission science, not spacecraft technology) that will be of any practical value for the next 100 years, while costing hundreds of millions.

    Does this answer your questions?
    No.

    I think it a false dicotomy to say if we weren't spending this money on NASA, we would be spending it on the NSF or the DoE or whoever is doing your material science funding.

    Here is a pie chart showing the FY2010 spending of the Federal government. Social Security, DoD, various social service spending, Medicare, and interest on the debt account for about 80% of the budget. NASA gets 1.34% and some of that includes aerospace research and even materials science. It troubles me that various science agencies have to fight each other over the scraps that are left.

    And I also don't think it is right that your materials science research has to show "practical, directly applicable and marketable results"; I think the support of fundamental research is critical to many things in the US and in the world as a whole.

    But again, what does have of this have to do with "NASA's PR problems"?
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  16. #226
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    NASA gets 1.34% and some of that includes aerospace research and even materials science. It troubles me that various science agencies have to fight each other over the scraps that are left.
    Actually, I think it is even less than 1.34% according to the chart it looks like it is 0.53%

  17. #227
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    Quote Originally Posted by bunker9603 View Post
    Actually, I think it is even less than 1.34% according to the chart it looks like it is 0.53%
    You may be right, it was getting hard for my bifocal eyes to figure out which slice went with what, and I was too lazy to go find the table version of the data. My basic point remains the same.
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  18. #228
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    I think it a false dicotomy to say if we weren't spending this money on NASA, we would be spending it on the NSF or the DoE or whoever is doing your material science funding. [...] But again, what does have of this have to do with "NASA's PR problems"?
    My funding is a mixture of national and EU funds, and space research is now a piece of that pie as well. But I'm not arguing that I want to cut space research, so I get a bigger part of the pie.

    That's not the point. The point is that when I apply for my funding I am held to certain standards of producing something of practical value. Planetary research, in contrast, does not produce anything of practical value. I am not arguing we should cut planetary research. I am arguing that if that money was spend on useful planetary research, like a propellant factory on the Moon, than you could point at that and tell the public: "See? We save $N billion per year thanks to this". Even sending a probe to do a sample return of lunar ice could be sold to the public by saying "We need to learn more about that ice, because we want to convert that into propellant and save $N billion per year that way". And so on. Surveying future landing sites is useful. Doing sample returns to locate resources is useful. Researching asteroids so we know how to blow a dangerous one up is useful. Researching KBOs is not.

    The main goal of science PR is to secure funding. The best way to do that is to demonstrate that money spent for science produce something useful.

  19. #229
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    For reference, this is the EU FP7 pie: http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/budget_en.html

    Materials science is 3475M EUR (10% of cooperation funds), space is 1430M EUR (4.4%). Also note, that this is not ESA budget. ESA is not EU agency, so its budget is separate.

  20. #230
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    Quote Originally Posted by kamaz View Post
    The goal of Sputnik-1 was to demonstrate that an R-7 ICBM can deliver payload to orbit, and is therefore suitable for delivering nuclear warheads to U.S. soil. The science was tackled on as a PR exercise, so the Soviets could claim that the project had no military applications. Immediately the idea of orbital weapon platform was validated and manned spaceflight capacity was being developed to allow for crewing these platforms. The U.S. just played along by the same rules, until the idea was abandoned as impractical in mid-1960s and USAF was forbidden from space exploration.
    So if it doesn't do scientific research, it has 100% military applications. If it does do scientific research, it has 100% military applications. In other words, reality will conform to your arguments no matter what lies within that reality -- life is simple, not complicated, and we can simplify it all as "Military" regardless of any other ways that tool is used.

    Then a funny thing happened in the U.S., because when the military was out, and Nixon did not see the benefit in expanding the U.S. presence in space by building on the Apollo legacy, the scientists have started running the show. As a result, the focus was shifted from doing things with practical benefits (like military assets on the Moon) to research for the sake of learning more about the universe. This was not bad in itself. But the problem is, that learning more about things like KBO composition is not going to solve our looming energy crisis. Things like orbital power plants could provide a solution, but they are ignored as scientifically uninteresting. As a result, there is no practical, directly applicable and marketable results from most of the things that NASA does in space.
    When you ignore all the benefits, you can claim there's no benefits. I agree.

    So, since you oppose the construction or funding of anything that does not have immediate and obvious benefit, doesn't solve the energy crisis, etc., I assume you loathe the LHC? I'm sure you'd be up in arms against that -- what "practical" use has that benefited us? In fact, almost all particle accelerators would fall under the same heading, would they not?

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    Quote Originally Posted by SolusLupus View Post
    life is simple, not complicated, and we can simplify it all as "Military" regardless of any other ways that tool is used.
    I'm sorry, but e.g. in electronics military application dwarfed civilian ones until ca. 1980-1990. Today it's the other way round. That's a fact.

    Quote Originally Posted by SolusLupus View Post
    So, since you oppose the construction or funding of anything that does not have immediate benefit, can you explain the existence of the LHC? I'm sure you'd be up in arms against that -- what "practical" use has that benefited us? In fact, almost all particle accelerators would fall under the same heading, would they not?
    1. The very reason CERN was created was to stop the emigration of scientists from post-war Europe to US. It was a jobs program from the beginning and you can find it in the official literature.

    2. Advanced microtechnology is already hitting boundaries of current physical theory (i.e. the Casimir effect is observed in micromechanics), so pushing basic science forward is also important.

    I'd say that research has practical value if we can see the applications being possible in ~50 years timeframe.

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    Hmmm, I'm spotting a double standard! Does anyone else see it?

    1. The very reason CERN was created was to stop the emigration of scientists from post-war Europe to US. It was a jobs program from the beginning and you can find it in the official literature.
    And again, we see your logic that scientific principles are always on the wayside; if it actually provides benefit to scientific understanding, well, that's not why it could have possibly been built. It must always be some other simple explanation that must never be about scientific understanding.

    No wonder you see PR problems in NASA.

    2. Advanced microtechnology is already hitting boundaries of current physical theory (i.e. the Casimir effect is observed in micromechanics), so pushing basic science forward is also important.
    But of course, pushing the boundary of understood planetary development is not pushing basic science forward, and ergo is not important.

  23. #233
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolusLupus View Post
    But of course, pushing the boundary of understood planetary development is not pushing basic science forward, and ergo is not important.
    It is conceivable to think that the LHC experiment will produce a new underlying physical theory that will have useful applications. For example, if we manage to unify gravity with electromagnetism, and we learn that we can manipulate one using the other, then it may open the way to constructing anti-gravity devices, which would be practically very useful.

    Now, if you can give me conceivable practical applications of improved models of planetary formation possible with the next ~100 years, I am willing to revise my statement.

  24. #234
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolusLupus View Post
    And again, we see your logic that scientific principles are always on the wayside;
    It's the government who divides money for research. Ever seen a government that works solely by scientific principles? I haven't.

    I'll explain. I have been to several courses about obtaining funding from the EU research programs. One lecturer put this best:

    We [that means the funding agency] give money for solving problems that the society currently has. The problems are listed in such-and-such documents. Your job is to find a problem you think you can tackle, and propose a solution. Then, and only then, you get the money for developing this solution.

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    Right, I'm sorry. The government is putting its money (and quite a bit of it!) on anti-gravity devices being available in the next 50 years. That's much more plausible. My mistake.
    Last edited by SolusLupus; 2010-Jul-22 at 06:10 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kamaz View Post
    It is conceivable to think that the LHC (some fantasy about antigravity)
    No, it is not. It is not in any way "immediate, useful application". You have only "may, if, would, could" here. LHC is equally unpractical as deep space research. I was surprised you did not go all the way and did not agree that we should protest LHC as lacking immediate, useful applications. You probably recognized that, taking this thinking to logical conclusion, you would have to deny half of entire existing science.

    Quote Originally Posted by kamaz View Post
    Now, if you can give me conceivable practical applications of improved models of planetary formation possible with the next ~100 years, I am willing to revise my statement.
    Your assumption that things are worth doing only if they have immediate, useful and practical applications is very, very wrong. This is blindfold that you put on yourself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MaDeR;1766261
    Your assumption that things are worth doing only if they have [b
    immediate, useful and practical applications[/b] is very, very wrong. This is blindfold that you put on yourself.
    Indeed - if we applied that rule - we would have no WWW.

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    Also -- and I'm not an expert here -- wouldn't having improved models of planetary formation aid in creating better models of earthquake prediction?

    What happens to other worlds can be applied to the understanding of Earth.

    That's just one example. While "immediate benefits" are not a primary goal in scientific research, stating that it's utterly useless to understand bodies outside of Earth is entirely based in ignorance.

    Kamaz, I recommend you see the series called "Connections". It demonstrates, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that pure science has produced many unforeseen benefits, possibly more than applied science.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SolusLupus View Post
    What happens to other worlds can be applied to the understanding of Earth..
    Comparative climatology, magnetometry, geology, biology, mineralogy all have benefits on Earth. Furthermore, the act of building instruments for exploration of other worlds has engineering spinoffs here on Earth. Bioimaging and Mass Spec's both span-out from the space research centre in Leicester, UK - from X-ray astronomy and the Beagle 2 payload into diagnosis of medical conditions. That's just one example I know of personally. There are many many others.

    Furthermore - it's a well documented fact that money put into science and engineering benefits the economy massively, in a way out of scale with the initial investment. PLUS - it triggers people to seek careers in those industries - industries we desperately need people in to solve the future problems of Earth.

    Claiming planetary science has no benefit is not only wrong, it's just plain dumb.
    Last edited by djellison; 2010-Jul-22 at 07:52 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MaDeR View Post
    No, it is not. It is not in any way "immediate, useful application". You have only "may, if, would, could" here. LHC is equally unpractical as deep space research. I was surprised you did not go all the way and did not agree that we should protest LHC as lacking immediate, useful applications. You probably recognized that, taking this thinking to logical conclusion, you would have to deny half of entire existing science.
    Let's not forget that without CERN we might not be having this conversation.

    Never forget: TBL
    Last edited by Garrison; 2010-Jul-22 at 06:58 PM. Reason: clarification

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