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Monday, November 23, 1998 Published at 11:18 GMT


Talking Point


Is the space station a waste of money? Your reaction

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Not only is it a waste of energy and money, I can't understand why no one besides me wonders about what the heat, exhaust and thrusts from the take offs might have to do with the so called holes in the ozone and the supposed global warmings.
Marilyn Ueeck, USA

Given humanity's incapacity to cope with natural calamities, the money spend on such technological acrobatics, should be conserved to cope effectively, if not forstall, the natural calamities.
Eugin Robinson, India

When there are families homeless and hungry on THIS planet, why waste our money and resources on a useless and unprofitable for the everyday person on EARTH, it becomes poor stewardship of tax payers AND non tax payers alike. It goes to show the lack of priority of the leadership heads on this planet. Worry about your people instead of the development of MORE hi tech toys all for the name of science. I believe that the ancestors of our world would be greatly distraught at the lack of concern and the senseless waste of our resources. What ever happened to government for the people? Our nation as well as our world needs to get back to taking responsibility for the welfare of our fellow man.
Rachael Gade, USA

Space exploration was a feature of nationalist sentiment during the cold war. Useless expenditure of millions on meaningless research is as pointless now as it was then.
Colin Riegels, UK

Yes it is. I am normally a supporter of space research as I think that "we" (as a planet) have to keep growing and expanding our knowledge; however, given that there are SO many people who are underfed, who have suffered through wars and natural disasters, I think sums of money like that to be spent on the space station, would be put to better use developing agricultural areas/regions on this planet so that we can feed ourselves adequately - and that means ALL of us, not just the few who can afford to buy food. Maybe the space station can be built over a longer period of time while we concentrate on meeting basic human needs down here.
Pat Richards, Canada

There are sound arguments for obtaining greater returns from robotic space exploration. However, man must one day leave this small planet and explore the final frontier. It could be seen as the start of a long term plan and any progress is worth having.
Geoffrey Home, UK

More than the real and even symbolic worth, the space station recalls us to our nature. We build, we explore, we grow. We learn. Without striving for things greater than ourselves, we surrender our spirit. It is a need we have, perhaps best captured by Sir Edmund Hilary's, "Because it is there."
Mark Descallar, USA

A permanent presence in space is important to provide a base for research e.g. Growing food, because this will be important in manned missions to mars.
Owain, England

We've had the industrial revolution, we're in the middle of the Information revolution, the next revolution is obviously going to be colonising space. Whoever gets there first is going to have a vast economic and political advantage on all their rival countries.
Martin Baker, Britain

Why climb a mountain? Because it's there. Every society needs a dream to spur it on to higher achievement. Why not go for it?
Stephen Decarie, Canada

It is likely that by enhancing the appreciation of the scale of the universe, and the place of our species in it, we will foster a closer relationship between nations. The new space station, as well as being a binding international institution, will prove to be the catalyst for the next step in the evolution of humanity.
Graham Hendry, Scotland

We need to learn more about living and especially construction in space. Future interplanetary spaceflight will be dependent on learning these lessons. More money needs to be spent on space research all round or we will become mired on an increasingly overpopulated and resource depleted planet.
Stephen Cooke, England

One of the characteristics that make us human apart from the other animals is that we are not like "sheep". Our brains are wired to explore understand and try to do the impossible. Space is our final frontier and our future.
Grant Sayman, Canada

1) As many have already highlighted this is a flawed question, as space exploration is a branch of science and this simply isn't a waste of time, I doubt anyone could dispute that, if it were, we'd all be in the stone ages...
2) I hate to take a hard line here, but look at what happens to the aid that we do give, and which people advocate should be given to the third world instead of the space station, it goes straight into dictator's pockets (and charities administration costs...), with only a small amount creamed off for actual food. Its the richer nations' fault as well, we charge so much interest on loans too...
Henry Parker, United Kingdom

It is the future, we need to explore outwards to help solve the problems we have on the planet. It is worth every penny. It is just a shame that the UK is not more involved.
Neil, UK

The survival and fate of our species lies in space. The ISS is merely one more step toward that destiny. Would the money spent on the ISS have gone to other science programs if there had been no ISS? I doubt it; NASA's budget would just have been that much smaller. Building the ISS is no more a waste of government money than having a baby is a waste of a couple's money. It is a way of looking beyond ourselves to dream and hope for the future.
John de Nal, USA

I think it is a great idea, as in years to come people will want to travel into space. If plans to make biospheres on the moon take shape, then we will need a stopping point in which to go to. So I think it is not the white elephant like people keep saying.
Andrew Pearce, United Kingdom

In order to prosper, humankind needs to have a vision and a goal to strive for. In the past the great civilizatons have used conquest and domination as as the goal of their societies (Roman, British, USSR etc.) and once the goal was either achieved or lost, the society or civilization gradually declined in importance. Here we have the chance to establish a beneficial vision and goal, worldwide cooperation on the expansion of man beyond the confines of earth! Just as the Space Race resulted in tremendous technological achievements for the USA and USSR, the international pace station can provide the same positive motivation for all participating nations.
John Finston, USA

The scientific advancves that can be achieved are far beyond the costs incurred. Many scientific studies require a place with a zero gravity. If man is ever going to reach the vast depths of space he must also have someplace which can be a link between the earth and space, because launching anything to orbit from earth requires a huge amount of energy. Starting the journey from a space station means less fuel needs to be carried on the journeys. This space station should only be a beginning in a series of space stations not only orbiting earth but also possibly other planets.
Jyri, Finland

Absolutely not! Indeed the station as currently planned shows the desperately sad shrinkage in vision by the US politicians over the past few years.
C F Wray, USA

Every dollar spent on space research and exploration has been returned to the government by thousands of dollars of taxes from industries using spin-offs from the research. The space station will do the same thing and will give us a stepping stone to the rest of the solar system.
Richard T. Ketchum, USA

In order to make real long-term progress in the exploration of space we need to develop a proper infrastructure in low Earth orbit. It's a great pity that it has taken so long since the Moon landings to establish a permanently manned space station. Such a project is bound to have a large overall price tag but it is a very long-term investment. Yes of course there are many other pressing needs throughout the world which tend to make these projects seem extravagent and a callous misuse of resources. The point is that it is just as important to maintain an interest in what is the greatest challenge of all. Mankind, both rich and poor, stand to gain from it in ways too complex to discuss here. I believe that if we are really honest, the world overall is wealthy enough to make these investments as well as eradicate poverty and injustice.
Phil Hall UK

The paltry sum involved, yes paltry if you know anything about the US budget, is well worth the likely result of new science and technology to be gained from the effort. But if it is spent at the expense of other basic science, then we have a greater problem than a lack of funding for science. In that case we would be showing a terrifying ignorance of where we are, how we got here, and to what we owe our comfortable and healthy lives.
William Peak, USA

It is a waste of money. We as a whole people in the world don't benefit from this, except those few superpowers of the world who spy on other people and those who have a lot of money in their hands to waste. And the government is also wasting our tax money. The government wastes billions while it refuses to pay for my education. I think the government should educate its people, thus education should be free to all. I think that they could use this money to fund for the health of our planet Earth. Instead of going up there in space and wondering over things they don't know about or are curious about, they should be more concerned with things down here.
Teddy Armstrong, USA

If the space-station program is for the purpose of Russia and US good relations, then there are other ways to improve that. The outcome of this project should be for human race benefit. So far engineering has offered lot of exciting objects to human beings but also produced some dangerous or destructive products. Whatever engineering or space agencies are planing to do with this project, they should consider that do mankind needs it? Would it really really and honestly benefit them or is it just an other project which will create destruction to daily life/planet earth?
Shakeel Rathore, UK

There are a lot of comments in here regarding world poverty. Why does this exist? Because our earth is too small to support the millions of people trying to live on it. Even if the ISS does cost the earth, it can only be of benefit to future generations who may have a better life in space, on other planets or even in different solar systems.
Bob Harding, UK

Exploration of space is never a waste of money. What have we got from the lunar landings? Digital watches, desktop computers, non-stick frying pans, micro-surgery, and so on. What then, can we get from the space station? I would not try to speculate, because we can´t imagine it yet.
Jostein Sivertsen, Norway

I think it will be one of the greatest achievements made by human beings. Instead of using that much amount of money developing Nuclear Weapons.
Sandeep S. Satoskar, USA

If you want to do good, science puts in your hands the most powerful tools to do good with. If you want to do evil, again science provides you with the most powerful tools to do evil with. It's what you want to do that counts. Space is one of mans last and greatest unknowns and we should look to understand it as much as we can.
R Harrison, England

Space exploration is a major component in our search for understanding and survival. A permanent space station should just be one of many efforts in this field. Surely the experience gained from all aspects, i.e. materials development, regular space shuttle/other missions, etc. will be invaluable. Let the world rather cut back on military research and put some international money this kind of project.
J. Appelo, South Africa

I note many correspondents stating that it is a waste of money as the $50 billion could be used to alleviate starvation, etc. A missed point here - there is NOT $50bn sitting in a slush fund - the money will come in trickles over the next decade. It is thus a fallacy to take that point of view.
Thomas Brown, Scotland

The International Space Station is only a waste of money if we have determined that we no longer need to continue to expand our intellectual and physical frontiers. If we have determined that we are content to stop exploring, stop learning, and stop growing as a species, then we should not spend the money - regardless of the fact that data and times has continuously demonstrated that society's return on investment from Government expenditures in research and development are far greater than the money spent.
Laura Yost, USA

The International Space Station will house just 7 people, so all the talk of a "city is space" is ridiculous. Like the Channel Tunnel, the agenda that spawned the project is political, not scientific. If we look at recent scientific triumphs in space exploration, these have been small, unmanned missions. Galileo's visits to Europa, for example, have revealed tantalising hints of a liquid ocean-a good place to look for life. Providing an orbiting retirement home for the likes of John Glenn squanders the opportunity to really push back the frontiers.
Chris Marlow, UK

The Space Station, if completed, will allow humanity the opportunity to rapidly develop new and beneficial products in the shortest time and least costly manner. Active Political resistance is stupid and only accomplishes the pitiful aspect of keeping the Political incumbent in the Media. In other words, cheap publicity.
Gordon E. Thomas, USA

I think we should sort out our problems on earth (hunger, wars and conflicts, pollution, health, etc...) first instead of searching for some E.T. somewhere out there. It's actually outrageous to see so much money thrown away like that while nearly 30% of the world population can barely survive.
Justin Brochet, Canada

Spend the money on cleaning up the earth first before cluttering up the skies.
Wendy Nicholls, USA

It could lead to scientific break-throughs and help mankind.
Ramon Lane, Spain

Having grown up in a so-called Third World country, I saw first hand the effects of malnutrition on the people and of poverty on the governmental and educational services. Malnutrition and starvation resulted from the least caprices of rainfall. Less than 20 percent of the population was literate, and unpaid workers and soldiers went on strikes that damaged government stability. Why are we pouring this money into computers in the sky, when it could save people's lives on earth?
Randy Ceton, USA

It's the beginning of a life raft to reach other planets for eventual colonization.
Sam Stevens, USA

The quantity of benefits we have already received from the "space race", including sociological benefits, must be facilitated. This is important because it is possible that science will become stagnated if the impetus is not there to solve new problems outside the scope of our current existence. To quote a common phrase "necessity is the mother of invention".
Ashley Groeneweg, Australia

If only for the value of world unity, the space station is priceless. Less than 10 years ago the West and the East were in a multi-trillion dollar Cold War, aiming the means of world destruction at each other. Today, Russia has joined its western friends. If the price of world peace is $50 billion, I'll support it.
Andrew Hoover, USA

Even if the ISS is a political gesture, and there would be more cost-effective ways of achieving the same results, it doesn't mean it's the wrong project. If cooperation in the ISS becomes a point of national pride, what a change from the days when national pride lead to military confrontation.
George Kendall, UK

Not every thing has immediate or obvious benefits. But they should not be stifled by short sightedness.
Courtenay, Wales (UK)

Yes, the space station has a high price tag, but you could say that about many other "public" projects for example the Chunnel. The thing that must be remembered is that the station will undoubtedly benefit mankind scientifically and lead to further global co-operation more than can be possibly imagined now. That is only a positive and other countries should have jumped on the bandwagon a long time ago.
Richard Kauffmann, Trinidad and Tobago\USA

If at some time in the future man as a species wishes to live and work elsewhere in the solar system, we must keep up the research. If money is a problem, then why not ask the world public to contribute directly? An international space lottery perhaps. Cash prizes and maybe short stays on Space Station for big winners. Now there's a prize!
Geoff Halsey, UK

The space station will be like a galactic Butlins.
Jaysson, Scotland

Nothing that can further our understanding of our universe can be a waste of time.
Sue, South Africa

The entire space program is badly planned and badly operated. The notable exceptions have been the unmanned probes. These gather far more information for the money spent than any manned missions. What was the gain from the foolish Moon Walk? A couple of insignificant rocks. Like many Government programs it develops a life of its own and an influential group of supporters most of who get substantial financial gain.
Hal Turell, USA

No. The ISS is NOT waste of money. An International project which encourages nations to work together, uses international expertise for the good of the world, and pushes out the boundaries of technology and knowledge for the good of all, has to be good thing. Those people today who claim it to be a "waste" would very probably have criticised the first aircraft or the first trains as too expensive and unnecessary technology - I'll bet they take now the technology of trains and aircraft for granted? The ISS is pushing our "technology and adventure boundaries" out further and should continue to do so. I say "go for it". I would much rather see this international collaboration than millions spent on the technology of war.
P. Wrenn, UK

Sure...it's a lot of money...which could be spent on other important issues, but who's to say it would be anyway? If it serves as a statement of peace and progression then fine. The technological and medical benefits gained from this project may take some time in coming, but when they do it just might be worth it. See the many changes of the past 100 years...what will the next 100 bring I wonder?
Alan Danks, UK

I think the construction of the International Space Station is a wonderful thing.It is of course true that mankind has many problems which need solving and that the financial resources used to build the ISS could be utilised in solving them. However, it is also true that the spirit of exploration is at the very heart of our species and must not be suffocated by turning away from such adventures. By looking through a window high above our planet, perhaps one day we will learn to truly respect our fragile home and be inspired to find new ways to solving those problems.
Andre Webb, Jersey

Who asks today whether Frobisher, Drake and Captain Cook were wastes of money?
Jon Livesey, USA

For the first time in history we can eradicate starvation: UNICEF estimates it would cost about 30bn a year stop the daily death from malnutrition of 30,000 children. So we take the 30bn and build a toy. What a civilized world!
David Manley, USA

I was Space Minister in the last government and decided that the space station was largely a political gesture, a poor investment of scarce resources and moderate scientific research. Unmanned space exploration is far better value for money.
Ian Taylor, UK

The problems of poverty in the world cannot just be solved by throwing money at the situation. In a short time it would be spent but the underlying problems would continue. The space station is likely to be a much more effective long term investment in the quality of life for everyone, in terms of the scientific research and developments it will make possible.
Jennifer Groves, UK

No, the space station is not a waste of money. It may turn out to be a life saver, literally. We are doing our level best to destroy the planet we live on. Humanity as we know it may very well end up having a chance to survive on those very same space stations.
Joan Lisa, USA

What is the point of being able to see this space station from the ground if you are homeless, hungry, or unemployed ? We have so many problems on Earth, and $50 Billion could go a long way to helping a lot of people. Space exploration is a good goal, but we don't need to leave the Earth just yet.
Yoel Sano, UK

Sure it is a waste of money. There have been space stations before - Mir, Skylab, What have these contributed ? What about all the Space shuttle experiments we keep hearing about ? Does anybody really hear about what the experiments are really about. I Agree the Spin Off technologies might make it worth the effort, but these would happen anyway if Money is spent on Research on something else that is worthwhile.
P.B. Srinivas, India

The space station is many things; a scientific tool, an exploration base, but most of all perhaps it is a symbol of the continuing desire of mankind to explore and discover anew. Nations are cooperating on a grand scale in this endeavor, and it will almost certainly bring us new wonders over its lifetime - we can and should be thankful for projects such as this that extend our reach in all sorts of fascinating directions.
Chris Carter, USA

The ISS is man's second step towards leaving the planet Earth. We must leave this planet if we are to survive as a species, or risk extinction when the resources run out, or ultimately when the Sun dies.
Chris Harris, UK

We seem to go through this discussion at the start of every major scientific initiative. Why should this be any different.
Ian Blanchard, Canada

Human space flight is expensive and dangerous entertainment. Very little scientific work has been done by men in space. Real physics, chemistry, biology, and medicine are done over time by scientists on the ground with scant funding, limited in large part by the gigantic cost of human space flight.
Kevin Cahill, USA

It doesn't bother me, how many squillions are spent on the space station. I'm sure the money is better spent on a collaborative project and cheaper than a military confrontation. Besides, there are bound to be plenty of commercial spin-offs which could recoup some of the cost. If the money isn't spent on the space station, will it be refunded to the taxpayers, spent on social programs or third world aid? Get real.
Tom Bowshall, Australia

I think the construction of an International Space Station is the next logical step in mankind's progression of expansion and exploration. On top of that I think that space offers huge economic benefits which may only be seen with a lot of money up front. There are many benefits of having the world work together and I believe a secure future is one of them.
Nicholas Cole, USA

Was putting a man on the moon a waste of money? of course not and neither will be the building of the space station, this is another step in mans destiny to conquer other planets beginning with mars, and beyond that who knows. We must build this space station.
Dean Cowley, Hong Kong

Of course it isn't a waste of money. Anything that advances science and technology is of vast benefit everyone. Nothing really new has happened in space for a while now and we need to generate some more interest.
Ganesan, India

Compared to the billions we have wasted on our nuclear arsenals the Space Station is good value for money. It is a icon of the new age where the nations of the world will co-operate to advance ourselves forward instead of trying to destroy one another. The real question is why European nations especially Britain are not taking a more high profile role? Projects like the ISS will be the drivers of future technology and wealth and we are losing out. It is time Europeans became more ambitious in space. Why don't we begin to build the first moon colony and ask the Americans to join our project? It's time the European Space Agency had the budget and power of NASA.
Sinan James Isilay, England

Of course it isn't a waste of money. Anything that advances science and technology is of vast benefit everyone. Nothing really new has happened in space for a while now and we need to generate some more interest. Expand the horizons of man's understanding and all that.
Steve, England

Reluctantly, yes, it's a waste. It's an exciting, sexy project but sinfully inappropriate with so much poverty back on Earth and the Russian economy in such disarray. The Russian government is asking their people to cut back on necessities. How does it make sense to spend billions on a space station and yet ask people to make a bath towel last 23 years and get a new winter coat only every 8 years? Madness!
Barrie Martindale, Canada

If, as you report, many scientists say that the space station will be the greatest achievement (technical, I presume) since man walked on the moon then I immediately have my doubts. Putting men on the moon was a purely political gesture which emptied the NASA coffers for many years. Space exploration was retarded, not enhanced, by that "great achievement". If the US politicians are right and the space station is just another political gimmick then stop before real space exploration is once again greatly retarded. Forget men travelling through space a la "Star Trek". Many problems need to be solved and generations will elapse before man is ready for such travel, always assuming that mankind hasn't destroyed this planet long before!
Tony Hague, UK

It may be expensive, but many years from now it could herald the dawn of a new space age. The price will seem insignificant.
Peter Knightbridge, England

While there are children starving for the want of a few pounds, such expenditure should be used to give ALL our children a future not just the well off. Even if only 5% of the total cost for this project was used think of how many children would live to see the stars from earth. do we really need a space station? If we did have visitors from another world what would they think of us? why should they visit a people who can not look after their children? Let's sort out the world's problems first before we go looking for more.
Robert Stephens, England

If the many explorers and inventors had felt their time and efforts were a waste of money where would we be today? I think the new space station is another good step into space and must be continued. Now, if you really want to talk about a waste of time and money, lets talk about Judge Ken Starr the sexmeister.
George Britton, USA

You can only define something a 'waste of money' if it yields no benefits. The space station will
a) Enhance our knowledge of the universe
b) lead to potential scientific break-through
c) Enhance world co-operation and peace
d) Open the door to the possibilities of the Moon and Mars
e) allow mankind to develop
Sounds like money well spent to me.
Roy Matthews, UK




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