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Stop Building Bombs and Start Building Starships

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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In 1969, a great shadow was cast over the United States. That shadow, however, was not one of gloom. Instead of evoking the absence of light, this shadow caused us to look up in wonder at the brightness that created it. When the Saturn V Rocket propelling Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins dashed across the blue, cloud-splotched sky, we did not see a dark present. We glimpsed a bright future.

Elsewhere, however, truly ominous shadows were cast by rockets which never saw the sun. Nestled in silos and buried beneath barren landscapes, “Minuteman” missiles meant not to uplift man, but to deliver the end of man, shrouded much of our world in trepidation.

These two rockets, with two very distinct purposes, bring into focus a problem that has long plagued our nation. We spend far too much money on war, and not enough on science.

Considering that we are nearing the ominously titled “fiscal cliff” — a series of government spending cuts and tax increases that will automatically take effect if Congress and the President do not act to stop it — we have a unique opportunity to review Federal spending and ensure that we are investing our time and wealth to their most productive ends.

I argue that such a review – if guided by reason – would reveal that defense spending should be reduced in order to make way for a world-changing commitment to science and technology, a bold move that will put both the United States and the world on a path to a bright future.

As it stands today, the United States is clearly over militarized. Defense spending in 2011 was estimated at $711 Billion. That’s equal to the combined budgets of the next fourteen top-spending countries, over half of whom are strong U.S. allies. Moreover, a 2011 Government Accountability Office audit of defense spending found that a combined $70 billion was wasted in 2010 and 2009.

This over-the-top spending is indicative of a military-industrial-complex run amok, precisely the scenario that President Dwight D. Eisenhower, perhaps the most revered military commander of the 20th century, warned against in his farewell address. “Together, we must learn how to compose differences not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose,” he avowed.

I can think of no better way to fulfill Eisenhower’s vision than through the pursuit of science.

By intelligently, purposefully, and gradually drawing down the defense budget from 4.7% to 3.0% of GDP (from $709 to $453 billion), and diverting some of those funds to meaningful science projects of both national and global significance, the United States can accomplish the essential goal of protecting its citizens, while simultaneously making the world a safer, healthier place and reinvigorating our economy.

We can begin the funding transition at home by re-committing ourselves to NASA. If we double the space agency’s budget (currently at $17.8 billion), our space accomplishments in ten years will dwarf even the monumental success of this summer, when the Curiosity rover landed on Mars.

We can complete the James Webb Space Telescope, allowing us to peer farther into the Universe than ever before. We can go to Mars by the end of the decade, a mission which astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson insists “would reboot America’s capacity to innovate as no other force in society can.” And with the recent news that warp drive may be more feasible than originally thought, we can focus on researching and eventually engineering interstellar starships that could one day take humans to Gliese 581 g — a potentially habitable Earth-like planet — in a mere two years. Along the way we could solve a myriad of other problems, writes’s Clara Moskowitz:

“…if human beings can solve the challenges of interstellar spaceflight, in the process they will have solved many of the problems plaguing Earth today, experts said. For example, building a starship will require figuring out how to conserve and recycle resources, how to structure societies for the common well-being, and how to harness and use energy sustainably.”

In addition to funding NASA, we can make fusion energy research a top national priority. Fusion power – an unparalleled energy source that generates electricity by effectively creating a miniature star – has eluded scientists for decades, but researchers now believe that successful fusion is within mankind’s grasp. Before the year is out, scientists at the National Ignition Facility in California hope to fire the world’s most powerful laser into a small test chamber with pea-sized fuel pellets of deuterium and tritium inside. The two isotopes of hydrogen will fuse together and potentially create up to one hundred times more energy than was used to ignite the fuel.

This breakthrough could serve as our “Sputnik Moment” for energy production. If we can put a man on the Moon a mere eight years after deciding to do so, then surely we can master “star power” if we pledge ourselves to the task. Fusion produces no carbon emissions, could provide power for thousands of years, is estimated to be cost-competitive with coal, and is unquestionably the energy source of the future. Yet despite the impressive resumé, fusion energy research is only allotted a relatively paltry $474.6 million. Why wait for the future to happen later? With additional spending freedom by making cuts in defense, we can fund fusion and make that future happen now.

Abroad, armed with science, the United States could make an even bigger difference. Instead of paying $1 billion for a new B-2 bomber or $2 billion for a Virgina Class Submarine – tools designed to forcefully combat the symptoms of the world’s problems — we could pay less and actually work to solve those problems. We live in a new age where people can collaborate as never before, working cooperatively across previously insurmountable barriers of distance and language. In this modern age, we don’t need an army of soldiers; we need an army of scientists.

The United States should spearhead a global public-private coalition with the aim of using science and technology to solve the pressing problems of the present and the surfacing challenges of the future. Partner countries will join and lend funding as well. Such a program could recruit scientists from around the world and form them into separate divisions, each tasked with an individual goal, such as curing disease, solving the emerging water crisis, or spreading modern agriculture practices.

Effective communication and outreach on an unprecedented scale will be paramount to the project’s success. This must involve on-the-ground collaboration with local governments, scientists, and stakeholders, especially in the Global South and the Third World. Solving global problems will need to be reconciled with local priorities.

Such an initiative would be a boon, both foreign and domestic. It would create jobs, spur innovation, foster global goodwill, and boost the world economy. It may also result in revolutionary discoveries that would eliminate many of the primary causes of conflict and war. In a world fortified by scientific discovery, there would simply be no need for exorbitant defense spending.

After reading this proposal, it’s natural to be somewhat incredulous. The undertaking that I have outlined is bold and would require the type of political consensus that we haven’t seen in well over a decade. But it is not wistful, nor is it too costly or overly naive. It can be done.

Setting our defense spending at 3.0% of GDP is far from unprecedented; it’s the same level we had during President Clinton’s second term. And the notion of aiding the developing world through a massive, coordinated scientific endeavor was also previously conceived. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy entertained a proposal to undertake a large-scale irrigation project to benefit the Third World. Instead, he chose an equally worthwhile enterprise: going to the Moon.

That courageous expedition – conducted in the midst of a Cold War with the Soviet Union and a hot war in Vietnam — proved that Science can be mightier than the Sword. In the decades that followed, we have forgotten this. It is time to remember it.

Images: Submarine and Starship

Steven Ross Pomeroy About the Author: Steven Ross Pomeroy is the assistant editor for Real Clear Science, a science news aggregator. He regularly contributes to RCS’ Newton Blog. As a writer, Steven believes that his greatest assets are his insatiable curiosity and his ceaseless love for learning. Follow on Twitter @SteRoPo.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Comments 35 Comments

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  1. 1. dwbd 2:07 pm 10/8/2012

    Great post, right on target! And most of the defense budget is just a subsidy to Big Oil to protect and expand their Oil & Gas supplies. Wonderful how the $3T Iraq Oil War tripled the Oil price, killed several thousand Americans & a 1/2 million Iraqi’s, just so Big Oil could get their grubby hands on that $4/bbl to produce Iraq Oil and keep Sadam from pumping out cheap Oil at a record rate, which he was planning after the bogus sanctions were lifted, since their was no WMD’s and Sadam would shoot any Al-Qaeda who set foot in Iraq. Wonderful we pay the $3T and the triple higher Oil price and Big Oil reaps all the benefits.

    And the $1T Afghanistan war, ostensibly to “git Bin Laden” who they amazingly let slip out of Afghanistan early in the War, even though the CIA had him cornered, is in actual fact just another Oil War. Some of the largest Natural Gas reserves in the World are just north of Afghanistan in the Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan & Tajikistan. Turkmenistan already has 8.7% of the World’s proven NG reserves, 1300 yrs of domestic consumption vs USA at 11 yrs. Big Oil wants to ship that Natural Gas in pipelines through Afghanistan to the huge new market in India and to a lesser extent Pakistan. And they will profit immensely selling the NG likely at a World price of $15-25/mmbtu.

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  2. 2. billberit 2:44 pm 10/8/2012

    Stop Building Bombs and Start Building Starships

    Sugguest you read:
    OF PEACE 1967
    With introductory material by Leonard C. Lewin
    The Dial Press, Inc. 1967, New York
    Library of Congress Number 67-27553
    True or prop, it is the points that matter! BB

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  3. 3. sethdayal 2:53 pm 10/8/2012

    And while we are waiting for fusion, lets get some of those IFR’s and MSR Gen IV reactors built. Why not solve Global warming before it solves us.

    Only thing in the way is our Big Oil corrupted politicians like Obama and Romney, and it’s Big Oil owned Big Media sycophants dissing nuclear with faint support and active behind the scenes opposition.

    Currently as a result of Big Oil’s corruption and control of the Obama White House, it is staffed with virulently antinuclear members of its wholly owned Big Green team. They do everything possible to shut down nuclear world wide. The cleanest of clean energies “nuclear” is considered dirty by these corrupt Big Oil cronies instead of the biggest part of a clean energy future.

    Here’s IFR advocate Stephen Kirsch begging the nuclear obstructionists betraying their country in the White house to let the IFR go.

    Google “why-obama-should-meet­till”

    They have so far managed to eliminate nuke power from Obama’s all of the above plan substituting natural gas as green energy. Big Oil’s shills like Kerry/Obama like to promote, the junk science that tells us Natural gas is clean energy when in fact real science published and peer reviewed shows us it is as bad a warming forcer as coal with all its methane leaks. While less air polluting than coal it still produces large amounts of particularly deadly fine particle emissions killing lots of Americans and their kids – just less than coal.

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  4. 4. alan6302 3:35 pm 10/8/2012

    The nuclear war will be caused by a genetic disaster.

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  5. 5. gesimsek 3:44 pm 10/8/2012

    Unfortunately, science is not helpful for us to make right choices. Only after we make those it helps us how to get there in an efficient way. The guidance comes from a neglected study area, ie., humanities.

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  6. 6. MiddleAmericaMS 4:22 pm 10/8/2012

    And Romney & Conservatives want to DOUBLE the military’s budget!

    And very probably start a war with Iran too.

    No kidding.


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  7. 7. sjn 4:57 pm 10/8/2012

    I agree completely with the need to reduce military spending. If you look at just the Federal R&D budget, once the Nat. Inst of Health budget is subtracted, military spending (DOD, Homeland Security & DOE/nuclear weapons) is 80% of the remaining funding.

    Thus all of NSF, NIST, NASA, alternative energy, environmental safety, every non-military national lab, etc currently competes for about 20% of the federal R&D budget.

    However, starships & fusion power (where the common refrain is that it’s been 30 years away for the last 40 years) are not going to solve the pressing technological problems we are facing. ( I will leave the much more contentious debate whether fission power is our only energy solution to another forum).

    We need to rapidly commercialize new technologies for low-carbon energy generation, transportation and building construction. Not only do we need to resolve global warming threats, but with a growing population with demands for higher living standards we must become much more resource efficient. We also have to be much more proactive regarding removing/preventing toxic wastes from entering the biosphere.

    In other words, what is on the table is nothing less than the question of whether an industrial, technological society can survive & sustain us past the next 50 years. Moving off the planet is not an option. But if we don’t start a massive redeployment of technology resources we will turn the planet into a toxic desert.

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  8. 8. EnigmaMaitreya 5:02 pm 10/8/2012

    To the Original Poster:

    I am of a like mind, but I do not see the world as you do.

    There is a point to what follows, bear with me.

    I was 21 when “The Eagle Landed”, I was drafted in 1969 and one of the very last U.S. Dog Tag’s Draftee (U.S. dog tags were converted to RA dog tags).

    I honor and respect your world view and your implied desire for all humans to work together for the betterment of our species.

    I have known many that have given their life for your right to see things as you do. I, and I am sure all of them, would give 1 of our 3 wish’s that your world view was the one all of Humanity has. As a father I assure you, I would not wish the pain and agony of conflict / war on my children or their children (or yours or any who read this).

    Unfortunately I have seen that there are those in the world that are evil (note not biblical evil), they desperately seek the downfall of Civilization as we know it, they would totally thrive in Anarchy were they can be the King of the hill.

    In short, “The very very very few are very determined to ruin it for everyone else”.

    I was 21 when “The Eagle Landed”, we were going to the Moon, the Planets, the Stars. We were absolutely alive and evolving to a Solar Economy (no not Solar Power, the use of all the resources of our Solar System).

    What the heck happened to us, well the Space Program got gutted in favor of buying votes via Welfare. Before anyone wants to rip me on this let it be known, I believe we have the WORST of Socialism and Capitalism. If I were King of the World, I would have every man, woman and child be guaranteed a Poverty + 10% income, Healthcare, Housing, Education (no upper limit).

    The Space Program was gutted in favor of buying votes. The Robotic Space Explorers finished the gutting of the Space Program and we have been stuck in this Ground Hog Day event ever since.

    Rover is not the epitome of the Space Program, it is rather nothing more than the newest “Bright Shinny New Toy”, doing NO useful exploration of Space. Yes yes yes, the Pictures are … Cute and Novel, but that is all they are, just Wallpaper on Computers.

    Had the money spent by the Robotic Space Explorers, been spent on propulsion systems instead, Humans and Robots would be on Mars, the Asteroids and looking at the Moons of Jupiter and Saturn next. There would NOT be the material shortages we are running into by being locked down on this one tiny Planet.

    Less than 800 people have been to space out of 7 Billion + humans and yet we are told NO HUMAN can survive in space based on the statistics of 800 humans going to space. In short the statistical sample is 0.0000114% (or if you like, 0.000000114), Yes this is really good, objective, Science there when we are told NO HUMAN can survive in space.

    The dialogue you want to be having is Military RandD vs University RandD.

    Military RandD gets locked up for a while but becomes available to the public, mostly when it is obsolete vs the technology the Military has.

    University RandD, gosh what can one say about what has happened to the Ivory Tower People, they guard their treasure with the lives of everyone around them, they are surely the most “Jealous Lover” ever. While I accept there may be a crack in this University RandD Black Hole via the Open Publishing movement, I see NO evidence that there will be any publishing anything freely for the benefit of Humanity.

    So if one is to choose between Military RandD vs University RandD, then hands down Military RandD as at least we the people get something out of it, like a PAYCHECK (No I do not work for the Military Industrial Complex that Ike warned us of) and improved goods (trickle down technology).

    You want to get to the Moon, Planets and the Stars? Easy get the politicians that want to buy votes and the Robotic Space Explorers, line them up on the wall with the Lawyers and the Commodity Speculators and shoot em (no not really it is just an expression).

    That will get Space Exploration back online and save the majority of the 7 Billion + people on this tiny Planet that on a good day can keep 2.5 Billion people alive on a renewable basis.

    So it isn’t the Bombs, Bombers and Subs that are the problem, it is those that choose to stick their heads … well lets just say in the sand and “Know they can survive the Predator Prey Crash” that is coming. (Hint we are the Predator)

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  9. 9. Percival 5:29 pm 10/8/2012

    Outstanding post; hard to believe SA published it. (Insert smiley here)

    I’ve long observed that our military is designed to fight the last war (or the one before that in some ways) and is consequently terribly inefficient. Physical defense is necessary, but consider that Nature’s lifeforms use many alternative strategies to overwhelming force with greater force. Compare the grizzly bear and the skunk. Both are predators but large, fierce grizzlies rarely eat small, retiring skunks. The skunk responds to threats with a *nonlethal* defense that doesn’t require a lifetime investment in muscles, teeth, and claws. Surely we can do at least as well against real-world National threats.

    Mind you this won’t fly in Washington until those States that will lose jobs from defense cuts see how they can retool for starship/fusion/other Big Science projects without an intervening upheaval.

    Some of the earliest funds transferred from Defense will therefore have to go into such retooling, as well as retraining displaced Defense contractor employees.

    So, how does America transform its military from grizzly to skunk, without losing competence during the transition?

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  10. 10. DennisK 6:01 pm 10/8/2012

    While I applaud the article in principle, a couple of facts are in evidence.
    First, many of the advances that the United States made in technology during the 1950′s, 60′s, and 70′s, even in the race for space, were driven BY the cold war.
    Secondly, we DO have enemies in this world who would build bombs (or use our own planes against us) to do our country harm.
    If we could truly remain isolated, I would applaud “turning our swords into plowshares”

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  11. 11. jerryd 6:58 pm 10/8/2012

    While the defence budget which repubs want to spend $70 more than the Penagon asked for, needs instead to be cut by about 50% as it’s just not needed anymore and frankly much is wasted.

    I agree completely with dwbd, surprised?, as oil, coal is our biggest threats to both our economy and health plus the cause of the last 2 wars.

    But from there I disagree with the author on fusion, space ships, what kind of stuff is he smoking.

    What we need to do first is get rid of our biggest security threats. First is get off oil as fast as possible as it’s caused 5 of the last 6 recessions, multiple oil wars and basically bankrupted us.

    The beauty of this course is we would create 5 million new jobs that with the lower military costs of protecting international oil companies and dictators for free!! Would cut our budget by $1T/yr bring us to a balanced budget just by getting off oil. We have the tech already it’s just being stopped in congress supporters of oil, coal, mostly repubs.

    Now once our economy is brought back by this we can focus on basic research and bring the cost of universities by letting high school kids to take uni courses as soon as they are able like 9th grade for many and let them pay for it by helping other kids, cleaning, cooking and other school jobs. And put most education on video, computers for those who can do it that way and stop spending money on school books, etc. This cuts both lower and higher education costs and benefits everyone.

    Make X Prize style challenges for things that are needed like home/bulding size solar CSP units, CHP units, 100mpg equivalent cars, high mileage trucks, etc we need.

    Same in medicine, space and any other field that needs to get with the program of making us better.

    And a bottom limit of very basic support for everyone so people don’t get so low they cost much more o bring back. Just very simple shelters with basic food, etc so people no longer have to worry about how to live, eat so they can concentrate on getting back into life.

    Some might call it welfare but the costs are much less than prisons, hospitals, etc. I can house, feed someone for $240/month!! Isn’t everyone worth that Vs 1 hospital stay costing $10-100k homelessness causes? In the long run it’s far cheaper.

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  12. 12. Xopher425 9:43 pm 10/8/2012

    If only. I’ll dream about this going to sleep tonight.

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  13. 13. TTLG 10:13 pm 10/8/2012

    While I am all for reducing the amount of money thrown away on so-called “defense”, much of this article seems to be replacing one set of boondoggles with another. While spending money on researching controlled fusion is worthwhile, making it a national priority is not. There are much more achievable ways of solving our energy problems. As far as a warp drive… this is a pie-in-the-sky idea which will likely never become a reality and certainly never be of any real benefit to most people.

    Meanwhile, there are many areas of basic research which would give a much higher chance of near-term payback such as improved solar cells, electrical energy storage, high strength and high temperature materials, and so on.

    This is one of the things which is bothering me more and more about science today: it is becoming more like the other businesses which are more after grabbing as much taxpayer money as possible rather than focusing on actually producing something worthwhile for the money.

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  14. 14. geojellyroll 12:40 am 10/9/2012

    Ya, sure.

    Military spending should be whatever it needs to be…1% or 99% of the Federal budget.

    Easy to advocate cutting back on a,b,c,d, etc. until you own son or daughter is in uniform. Since the end of the Cold War nobody in the western world goes to be with even a thought of any physical threat to their country’s security…it’s a self-fulfilling comfort when one has an overpowering military capability. We take it for granted.

    If there is savings to be made…don’t spend it on anything. Put it towards creating another 1.1 trillion dollars annualdeficit and not increasing the 16 trillion dollar debt.

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  15. 15. jtdwyer 6:26 am 10/9/2012

    How can we send 3-4 billion people to Gliese 581 g?

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  16. 16. EnigmaMaitreya 8:04 am 10/9/2012

    @jtdwyer “How can we send 3-4 billion people to Gliese 581 g?”

    Why would we want to this centry?

    The Moon will take a … number, Mars will take a … number and the Astroid Belt will take a number.

    These numbers do not need to be small, they can be very large indeed.

    One fate is certain for them, the other fate is of THEIR own making, THEIR inginuity, skills, Duck Taping etc.

    Which fate would you chose? A certainty or “Give me a chance to determine my own fate”.

    With less than 800 People having gone to space, most of them post Duck Tape Era of Human Space Exploration, people have bought into the “I wantg a 110% guarantee that I will be safe and … and have everything I want”.

    The Universe is NOT a safe place, ask the Dinasours how it worked out for them by staying on Earth … Oh wait you cant, there arent any … welll there arent any live ones, just fossiles in a museum.

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  17. 17. Ace_Maleek 9:05 am 10/9/2012

    Only if everyone thought the way you all think. But it’s good.

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  18. 18. zorathruster 11:00 am 10/9/2012

    We did not launch to the moon to explore space, in contrast to your position we launched to the moon to gain the high ground before the Soviets did. That was a real military objective not an essoteric and frivolous concept that you appear to believe was our rationale for launching back in 69. A better understanding of what was going on is obviously in order.

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  19. 19. andujar 11:11 am 10/9/2012

    Why don’t we let scientists work for less in the United States feeling safe in the protection provided to them by the brave men and women in the armed forces who risk their lives to keep us all safe and keep the world’s air space and sea lanes open for peaceful progess.

    Because if scientists think they shouldn’t take a pay cut let them go live in China, rapidly imploding Europe, Russia, the Muslim Middle East, or whatever local is willing to spend the money they want spent.

    Scientists can increase the number of projects they get to work on right now by funding them with cuts from their own pensions, benefits, and wages like the rest of Americans in these hard times.

    We just had an ambassador killed in Libya, and I can’t remember a scientific solution to that problem, but I do know more money spent on military defense could have prevented that tragedy.

    Forgive me for not chiming in with the company line that we need to turn our checkbooks over to scientists at the expense of defense so we can give peace a chance, all just get along, and sing kumbaya around the campfire of humanity.

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  20. 20. EnigmaMaitreya 12:39 pm 10/9/2012

    Hum, I want to thank you for the opportunity to add to the times 50′s, 60′s and 70′s.
    I am starting with this quote:
    “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
    You seem to believe those words were about Gaining the High Ground vs the Soviets.
    Strange wording indeed to express the “Gaining the High Ground” goal, very strange indeed.
    Reading the words, to me, it is inescapable that they mean an entity is challenging themselves, to push themselves to brink and beyond what they think they can do.
    There does not appear to be any one upsmanship, any US vs Soviet in those words.
    Some things you can do, tell us who said those words that inspired perhaps one of the greatest leaps in technology, that was translated to improvements for HUMANITY ever.
    While your doing that why don’t you also list the “Join projects for any and all nations that were proposed at the same time”.
    I assure you I was there (as in alive and kicking) when the Eagle Landed, I saw the hope of Humanity (how many HUMANS watched the landing?).
    Some other things to google that would be great for you to put in here.
    GoodYear inflatable Space Habitat.
    NASA Nuclear rocket engines.
    NASA Moon Base project.
    NASA Mars Project.
    All of the above were HUMAN space exploration plans.
    And one last piece of trivia for you, how many Shuttle buyers were there originally?
    What do White Sands AFB, Vandenberg AFB and Shuttles have in common.

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  21. 21. brublr 8:40 pm 10/9/2012

    For a certain implied and ominous portent, how about that latest modern miracle of non-aging mice? A portent of, say, having to live in 10 year shifts alternating with 20 years of suspended animation until galactic colonization can tidy up on humanity’s excess proliferation? Or perhaps mulching the remains of those choosing virtual sublimation so as to enable interstellar colonization would be the optimal solution to Malthusian constraints. Upload colonists’ consciousness to a digital utopia for the interstellar journey! On arrival, download such colonists to the optimal format required for any given alien habitat! Minimize the earthly resources required for exponential rates of colonization! Relieve both the tedium of interstellar ‘Daddy, are we there yet?’s as well as our planetary congestion! The galaxy is ours!

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  22. 22. Sassan31 12:44 am 10/10/2012

    Unfortunately we have Islam to deal with and this is not feasible at the time.

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  23. 23. afmeh 2:22 am 10/10/2012

    Dear Friends
    Steven Ross Pomeroy has said with his clean heart and i am very agree with him but the most important problems in world are people morals and cruel , corrupt and robber rulers .
    it is not your problem only more often of nations have your problem and their rulers are devil and spend much money, time and power for them self,killing , and eliminate of human rights and destroying .
    on the other hand people is going to way of badly immoral so .
    until we have this two big problems you can build maximum some heaven cities not even a heaven country and please draw a line around the world !

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  24. 24. dubina 6:05 am 10/10/2012

    A third of US healthcare spending is wasted on needless or ineffective treatment.

    Defense spending is arbitrary, an end in itself to those who serve and provision. It could easily be cut by 50% or more with no adverse effects except unemployment and corporate hardship.

    The TSA is a joke.

    Lots of government spending is wasteful. Not all.

    The idea of a Hundred Year Starship Project is half-baked nonsense, another lame excuse to funnel Federal money to crackpots.

    Newt wanted to build a permanent American Moonbase by 2020, supposedly to mine He3 for a fusion reactor that doesn’t exist.

    Government should take less and do less, and in the process of doing, should aim to do things that serve a real common good more than indiscriminant public opinion and fanciful special interests.

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  25. 25. hhnabipour 9:22 am 10/11/2012

    I approached NASA numerous times, soliciting my proposal for an interstellar propulsion technology. But they turned me down each time saying we only deal with US-based firms. I even offered my technology to them for FREE for development, they still were not interested. If only, and only, I could get a tiny fraction of those billions of TAX money which is being spent on “research”, I could do a better job at it than the entire NASA’s+ Lockheed Martin’s+ ATK’s+ P&W’s…. engineers and scientists combined. Seriously, people only need to think outside the box and beyond. That’s all it took me, well for 4 years.

    Check out my invention to see it for yourself:

    -Hossein Nabipour, inventor of the first practical interstellar propulsion engine

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  26. 26. ironjustice 11:54 am 10/11/2012

    The world cannot sustain a lifestyle of the Western civilisation. Monies would be much better spent on the lowest of the low , the 99% of the world who haven’t the bare necessities to survive. America is only beginning to ‘feel’ what it is like not to have it comfortable let alone what it is to feel like with nothing at all . A basic housing human right , healthcare human right , food human right , safety human right must be addressed for the 99% of the world who don’t have it , before , the Western world thinks about going to space , a luxury. It is common human decency.

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  27. 27. patrickh74 1:07 pm 10/11/2012

    The U S government is neck deep in its own fodder. It has been brought on by our government’s allowance of lobbiests in and around our capitol. Get ride of ALL lobbiests. Make senators and House reps do their own research on issues and make it ILLEGAL for any party with any vested interests to give politicians a DIME!! Money corrupts ALL!! Make those in Washington earn their pay or get out and let honest men and women run our country.
    I know that I’m wasting my breath but that is the ONLY way to guarantee honest politics. Oh well…. here’s to being disillusioned. :(

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  28. 28. patrickh74 1:10 pm 10/11/2012

    And for the record: Obama AND Romney are both embarrassments to our country. All you have to do is look at their respective track records for proof.

    Link to this
  29. 29. vernauthor 4:08 pm 10/11/2012

    This blog seems to have touched a nerve, so many comments, so many view points, so many different perspectives. As a military Officer I see the need for weaponry and readiness. As an ardent follower and suporter of science I see the benefits for humanity. As a philosopher I see the problem in broader terms and as an innate contradiction stemming from two conflicting human traits; (1)fear of anything new, especially if it threatens long held beliefs and (2) curiosity; how does nature work? who are we? and why we are here?

    I was enthralled by our explorations of the moon, my mother was afraid of the concequenses of messing around “up there”

    Link to this
  30. 30. Mimosa 4:11 pm 10/11/2012

    Great Post.
    Fusion reactors will be the future. But perhaps the best place for fusion reactors will be in space – as the power source for large space station cities.

    If people are to live in space, one of the main things we need to do is to create habitable areas where almost all of the cosmic radiation has been deflected away. Cosmic rays are charged, and the magnetic field around the earth keeps the radiation levels from cosmic rays safe for us on earth.

    About 89% of cosmic rays are protons moving at high speed. A fusion reactor in space could use protons moving at high speed as a fuel source. The problem is to build massive electromagnets in space that could deflect cosmic rays into manageable streams so that these streams of protons could be made to collide inside a fusion reactor in space.

    These massive space electromagnets (like large nets of wires dispersed over a large area like a shield) serve a dual purpose of clearing most cosmic radiation from habitable areas in space, while the channeled high speed proton are used as the fuel source for the space station.

    For a bit more on this idea see:

    Link to this
  31. 31. Mimosa 2:09 am 10/13/2012

    “It might be feasible to design nuclear fusion reactors for space that would use focused cosmic rays (high energy atoms) as a fuel source. To focus cosmic rays you would need large electromagnets acting like a lens for high energy protons and helium nuclei moving in a given direction within a given range of energies. A cosmic ray fusion reactor would have a number of these electromagnet lenses focusing cosmic rays from multiple directions.

    By designing a fusion chamber where these streams of high energy protons are made to collide, it might be possible to sustain fusion reactions in space. The particles for the reaction are from the cosmic rays themselves, while the speed of the atoms is used as the energy source to start the fusion reaction. When the particles are made to collide, the sudden change in velocity and the proximity of the the other atoms in the fusion chamber provides the conditions for the fusion reaction to occur.

    These kind of space-based fusion reactors using cosmic rays as a fuel source could be self sustaining. It depends on the size of the electromagnets needed to focus enough cosmic rays with the right energies in the fusion chamber. The flux of cosmic rays in space can vary quite a bit as well.

    Being able to demonstrate a space-based fusion reactor which used cosmic rays as its fuel source would be the moment when building living quarters in space would be feasible, safe and realistic.”

    Link to this
  32. 32. ironjustice 6:43 pm 10/13/2012

    I still can’t figure out why we can’t harness lightning.

    Link to this
  33. 33. fixerdave 3:07 pm 10/15/2012

    Great idea, except it neglects one little point of logic. The Apollo missions to the moon, and all the technology that made them happen, were an act of war. Yes, it was wrapped in civilian cloths. Yes it was a great scientific achievement. But, it never would have happened without the Soviets taking the “rocket lead” in the Cold War.

    Unfortunately, history shows that humanities greatest technological achievements have typically been the product of us trying to kill each other. This is something that we are very, very good at. If you want to redirect money to non-military science, solving this problem, the problem of us developing ways to kill each other and being rightly afraid that others are developing ways to kill us, will be a necessary first step. Sorry, I don’t have that solution. No, I don’t think optimism will help.

    In our technical/cultural evolution, this constant interplay between fear and aggression has likely propelled our technological development far more than any lasting peace and devotion to science might have achieved. Again, if history is a guide, we’ll probably be building that starship soon, right after we have a compelling need to get to that nearest habitable planet… because ours won’t be anymore.

    Sorry for all the pessimism… I guess I woke up grumpy.

    Link to this
  34. 34. MarkmBha 7:49 am 12/15/2013

    How about we learn how to feed the 10 or so billion
    people on Earth?

    Link to this
  35. 35. Markjonson 4:32 am 02/3/2015

    Great idea, it will be appriciated by all of us. What will be the task of starships.

    Link to this

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