back to article Americans clueless on NASA budgets

A recent survey, carried out on behalf of The Space Review, has revealed that the average American believes a quarter of the country's public purse goes towards funding NASA. The survey found that most people reported the belief that NASA is almost as well funded as the military. The Department of Defense does receive roughly …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Americans clueless

    You could have stopped the headline there.

  2. Ross Fleming Silver badge

    Brave enough to mock??

    "Probably best not to mock too loudly"

    Honestly - who would be able to mock this?? I'd be gobsmacked if more than 1% of the UK could stab a guess at what a particular department of our government gets out of the national budget.

  3. The Other Steve

    Really only have themselves to blame.

    If NASA have failed to effectively communicate this to the (admittedly mostly thick as pigshit*) 'merkin population, then they need to rethink their PR strategy a bit.

    *Don't worry 'merkins, I'm sure a goodly portion of the populace of these benighted isles wouldn't even have been able to tell you who NASA are, unless it was somehow mentioned on popular bear baiting analogue 'The Jeremy Kyle Show', long running grim up north soap 'Coronation Street', or tedious cockerney whinge drama 'East Enders'.

    I'm told some of the rest of them can actually read, but I doubt NASA budgets feature much in 'Shite Z List Celebrity's Tits Gossip Weekly' magazine either.

  4. BoldMan

    Large Numbers...

    I think the problem is that people really don't have a good grasp of the size of the numbers involved in National budgets and expenditure.

    I mean how many Billions does NASA cost?

    How big is the US GNP?

    Personally I have no clue, they are just large numbers to me.

    How much money has been "loaned" to Northern Rock?

    How much is the budget for the NHS?

  5. Rob

    Shorter headline

    seeing as you asked for it, you could have gone for a shorter headline:

    "Americans Clueless"

  6. Bill L

    Just ask AIDS or Stem Cell Researchers What Can Be Done With .6% of the US Budget

    We get bombarded by the NASA trolls in forums about all the things that that were tested in space before they were turned over to Big Business to make products to grace our consumer shelves (yet we wonder if the fat cats ever paid adequately for the technology or if NASA is basically a way of handing favored businesses contracts and technology).

    I'm thinking what if we were to hand that dough to other favored beings who could use it to find a cure for AIDS, Malaria, Multiple Sclerosis, not to mention Sars, bird flu, and that new killer cold going they've discovered here in the States. And then there's stem cells.

    But that wouldn't be useful for giving the little Bushster a JFK sheen, and maybe a little closer look is being made of where earthbound science uses it's money. Or maybe it's just the bigger contributors are in the space industry.

    What we are looking at though is the possibility that the great war boondoggle plug will be pulled by the American public so I'm sure they're counting on the great space race boondoggle to keep things going. (I wonder if Blackwater guys can fit into those space suits. OK, just kidding there.)

    Now I have to go, but I'll be back to see how long it took for the paid NASA troll to come and "refute" my comment with his or her paid propaganda. (Please don't try to deny it. I've seen the record at of a bill passed just to fund NASA Internet trolling.)

  7. Steve Foster


    What is this "Big Brother" of which you speak?

    Come to think of it, what is this "TV" of which you speak?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    If NASA wants more money.

    All it needs to do is somehow convince BushCo that there are huge oil reserves on the Moon and Mars. That should get a mission or two lined up in no time.

    PH as the icon because vapid celebrity comings and goings (especially comings, in her case) are all most of the sheep could care about. Baaa!

  9. Anonymous Coward

    RE: Boldman


    How much money has been "loaned" to Northern Rock?

    How much is the budget for the NHS?

    Well i think the Northern Rock got like 25 Billion and the NHS i heard has an annual budget of 120 or so billion.

    But then i am probably wrong but i seem to remember something like this.

  10. James Nordgaard

    Public ignorance

    This has got to be put in context of the general public's profound ignorance about not just the federal budget but about everything, plus the willing of people to give off the cuff answers that even they would not even believe if they were think about for more than a moment.

    For example, if you polled people on every function the government does, each individually, you would probably find the public believes government has funding exceeding 1000 percent, maybe even 10,000 percent (the questions have to done separately, or people will start realizing their totals have to come up with something like 100.

    In other words, this is an absolutely worthless and meaningless poll, simply designed to give a desired result for a specific purpose.

  11. Bill L

    Why can't we use the money on major diseases and alternative energy?

    Personally, I'd like to see more spent on AIDS, Malaria, Mutliple Sclerosis, other diseases, and Stem Cell research. There should be lots left over for developing Alternative Energy like solar, wind, geothermal, that is doable here on earth. One year I read that only 1.4 million dollars were slated by a Bush administration energy bill for alternative energy development. I doubt that's enough to develop an alternative ice cream cone, given the way the government handles it's accounts.

    I don't think sending NASA out to find new energy sources is a good way to spend even .6 % of the national budget.

    We have so many tech billionaires playing Jor-El and trying to get into space themselves.

    Let them work out their kinks, test new products, and we know they will sell what they find to other businesses for a fair price so we taxpayers don't have to worry about another very expensive way to funnel new technology to fat cats, and exploring for new energy sources for Bush administration favored energy companies.

    BTW, much pro-NASA Internet action is paid for by us, American Taxpayers:

    Here is the text from the subcommittee approval of the 2005 NASA reauthorization bill. This was reported on a forum. The original wording could be found and confirmed at the House Committee on Science and Technology on Aug 8, 2005 when the original post was created, but has since been hidden or its location changed. (We checked it out back in 2005.)

    Quote: "The Committee directs NASA to engage in a national awareness campaign. The purpose of such a campaign is to provide NASA with a venue in various media (print, radio, television, Internet, etc.) to articulate missions, recent accomplishments and recruitment efforts to young Americans."Unquote

    The bill was passed earlier (in early July of that year IIRC).

    Here ( is a reference at the House Committee of the national awareness program (where is Joseph Goebbels when you need him?).

    Now during the flight of Discovery that July, big forums were swamped with talking points people yodeling about all the great products that were the result of NASA testing. But no one told people how much Big Business pays for licensing of all the products developed through space exploration or otherwise how how most of us down here really benefit from NASA's wanderings.

    Another point is to forum and comment readers. Just because you read it in a post (in science as well as politics venues), doesn't mean it hasn't been paid for.

  12. mark

    I hate sterotypes :o(

    Americans are not stupid - just ignorant of particular facts which is exactly the same as us British. I have lived in America for over 5yrs and one thing I know to be true is that there is very little difference between a yank and a brit - all the same types I grew up with in Wales are here in the States. Nearly everyone in the Southern has been polite and helpful in thier dealings with me and my work colleagues are just as intelligent as any I had in the UK.

  13. Jerry H. Appel

    The numbers are too big for most to figure

    NASA gets about $10 billion a year. That sounds like a lot of money, but it isn't compared to a $1.8 trillion budget. Now back in the 1960s NASA was getting about $21 billion out of $600 billion budgeted which was a larger percentage, but still tiny compared to the Vietnam debacle. Now we have an Iraq debacle eating up trillions. Now just imagine how much R&D we could do with that money, terrestrial or extra-terrestrial!

    You see it's about the numbers. Most of us have problems balancing a check(cheque)-book or credit card statement. Just trying to deal with five and six-digit numbers boggles most citizens. Now you are asking them to deal with nine to eighteen digit numbers. Well, it just looks like a big mess to most. I mean do people really get the idea of a 3 GHz processor? Do they realize that the computers they work on are processing bits and bytes at billions of times per second? No, No and No!

  14. cphi

    delusions of grandeur

    I can't remember what the figures were back then but there was some equally huge overestimate recorded by a survey about 10 years back. Wonder whether it's got anything to do with NASA's hubris - if they stopped pretending they're anything more than a minor government organization, they might get more respect for their achievements.

  15. The Other Steve


    "my work colleagues are just as intelligent as any I had in the UK."

    Sure, its just that they are lacking in the ability to recognise irony, sarcasm and things of that nature, which is presumably why you fit in so well.

  16. Luther Blissett
    Paris Hilton

    @The Other Steve

    WTF have merkins got to do with it? Pubic hair has been the pits of fashion for about a decade.

    Do you mean some people want to have their pubic hair and not have it, like an accessory? Rich little girls in Rome are now asking Daddy for a boob job for their 18ths, so you miight be onto something. Merkins by Prada? Dolce and Gabbana? Only Versace for Hollywood, of course. The mind boggles. But what might the semiotics of this accessory be, enquiring minds would like to know.

    I would have chosen the Leaning Tower of Pisa icon had there been one. Disenfranchised again.

  17. Thomas Saulnier

    RE: I mean do people really get the idea of a 3 GHz processor?

    That's exactly why it's marketed with the GHz at the end ... the number 3 is a lot eaiser for Joe consumer to get his head around.

  18. lglethal Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Why complain about the money NASA gets?

    When the US military budget is larger enough that you could end world poverty by taking one years budget and giving it to the world.

    Reduce the US military budget by 0.6% and see what you can do for Aids, malaria, etc. We might also see a reduction in the US's ability to run illegal wars at the same time which might lead to a little more peace in the world, no?

  19. Bounty

    HIV - Alt power trolls

    so 15 Billion for Nasa and 600 million for health and human services... lets see what we can find.... says the US spends about 15 Billion for HIV... neat. Truely, lets see what they can do with .6 of the national budget.

    Also, the ISS runs on alternative engergy. NASA does alot of research on alt-energy duh! Come to think of it, I don't know of a single spaceflight that was based on gasoline.... which means everything they do is based on alternative energy. So, they're probably looking into it.

  20. Martin Gregorie

    NASA has been there before

    The Apollo Program was stopped despite more missions being in the pipeline because the American public didn't know the reality of the Federal Budget and screamed about the cost of space.

    A poll done around the time of Apollo 17 showed that the public thought that NASA's spend was the same as the Federal health spend, i.e. about $30 billion per year. In fact the total cost of the 10 year lunar landing program was under $30 billion. A previous poster said $21 billion. Either way its tiny compared with the Federal budget.

    Northern Rock has borrowed 25 Billion (Radio 4 this morning)

    NHS budget 2007/8 is 90 Billion (£110_billion_by_2011).

    NR's money grab is relatively much bigger anything NASA has ever been given: about 30% vs 10% by comparison with the nation healthcare programs. NR looks even more greedy when you consider that the NHS gets far more of the Treasury pie than the Federal health programs get from US government spending.

  21. Johan Bastiaansen

    They should have been asked

    How much they spent on defence, how much on NASA and how much on foreign aid. Than add the 3 percentages.

  22. J

    @Bill L

    "Just because you read it in a post (in science as well as politics venues), doesn't mean it hasn't been paid for."

    Good point. Which makes me wonder: who's paying YOU, eh?

    Not everything written for free is true, as not everything payed for is wrong.

  23. Chizo Ejindu

    @ Bill L

    Bill i agree with some of what you are saying, big business has exploited NASA discoveries for it's on profit with the blessings of various US administrations, much more should be spent on advancing medicine and cheap clean abundant fuel sources before we destroy the planet completely.

    But it seems to me your anger is directed at the wrong target. Back in the sixties space exploration was a very big deal, the apollo missions were watched by tens of millions are the world and given big news coverage. Nowadays people are far too interested in the latest celebrity gossip and terror story to care about what, in my personal opinion, is the greatest adventure humankind will ever take, exploring the vastness of space.

    You complain that 0.6% of the US's national budget is spent exploring space - how much is spent bombing various bits of the world? Building ever more new and innovative death-tech? Propping up all those companies that seem to hoover up various government contracts? Does anyone know how much money the US military spends sending stuff into space? I wouldn't be surprised if it a surprisingly large amount given the spend on NASA. You say we should leave space exploration to the billionaires, how will that help anyone other than more rich people? What about humanity as a whole or should space only be a priviledge afforded on those few super-wealth individuals, the ultimate playboy playground?

    IMHO space exploration should be under the auspices of the UN, with all countries channelling 1% of their national budget into a global fund for space exploration, from which we all benefit, not just a rich and powerful few.

  24. Hate2Register

    Vulture hack has gnomes.

    "We'd like to add.." sounds very posh. Like you have a team of gnomes or other minions working round the clock getting your copy ready. Or is it the royal "we". Or maybe "we" refers to the pixies at the bottom of your garden. I know which answer I'd prefer.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @people who want to spend cash on more meds

    Seriously, the last thing this world needs is more people living longer.


  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    just out of curiosity...

    While I would never actually lump the UK in with the likes of the Frogs or Krauts, but how many Brit's have landed on the moon through their own program? Anyone? As for the whole hiv/aids issue... How's about a little education over the use of condoms, non-use of previously used needles or that, in the case of numerous examples in Africa, deflowering a prepubescent little girl doesn't do a god damn thing towards a cure.

  27. Eddy Ito


    "so 15 Billion for Nasa and 600 million for health and human services... "

    I'm not sure where you are looking but on the very link you pointed out shows that in 2006 Health & Human Services got $616,040 Million. Now add So-so security, $593,212 million and there goes nearly 100X the Nasa budget.

    Clearly the whiners are right 46% of the budget going out in raw entitlements isn't enough. Sure, 23% going to the military industrial complex is a lot but then tossing 46% into the equally bloated pharma and ponzi schemes is at least equally stupid.

    Clearly spending double the annual military budget doesn't end poverty or cure disease. It does make a lot of lawyers rich, especially the ones working in D.C.

  28. JeffyPooh

    To those that fail to see the value of space...

    ...Just remember that about 99.44%* of all space hardware launched is AIMED BACK AT THE EARTH for THE DIRECT BENEFIT OF ALL HUMANS. Communications. Weather. Surveillance. You name it.

    (* The '99.44%' is made up - but it IS the ~vast~ majority.)

    Only a very tiny fraction of space hardware wanders off to explore distant worlds.

    And if we didn't have all that hardware orbiting the earth, then we wouldn't be worrying about stem cells and AIDS. We'd be too busy cleaning up after unexpected hurricanes, and trying to call for help with Morse Code over HF. Think about it.

    To be civilized and improve the lot of the average human, we need more space systems. Not less.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    End the War

    I'm an American citizen and I would like for my Government to reallocate the budgets for both health care and space exploration. Instead of putting all of our tax money in a pointless war with people who do not want democracy or US policy in the middle east, let's provide more money for health care programs that will insure every family in America has the same health care members of Congress do! I would also like to see some of these veteran congressmen and senators in Washington retire.... It's really time for most of them to move aside and surrender their power and let my generation fix most of what they have destroyed including diplomacy with foreign countries proliferating nuclear technology. Most of our problems today can be solved with diplomatic means as opposed to war. To be honest the only benefit i can see to space exploration is finding another planet humans can start over on, that is of course after the world destroys itself, worst thing is, guess who would be first in line to bail out to another planet? The "leaders" or the same people who have put innocent people in risk and started this entire process... All I know is all these budgets are a bunch of bullshit. The US Government does whatever they want whenever they want regardless of what normal people want!!! nobody ever asked me or anyone I personally know if they agreed with anything the government is doing... Its all a bunch of bullshit and a lot of us are tired of having that shit feed to us and told its good for us. My country needs a change in leadership.

  30. jedd


    Tsk tsk, Lucy. <insert something here about better funding for education>

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Talking to Americans

    Canadian comedian Rick Mercer did a series some years ago, which I think was used as a segment on "22 Minutes", then collected into its own special. It featured Rick asking absurd questions of random Americans, college students, professors and politicians, who ought to know better.

    The highlight was candidate George W. Bush congratulating Prime Minister Poutine on something or other. Of course, Mercer fed him the name, and GW was so clueless about nearly everything he didn't know the PM's name was Chretien, and poutine is a Quebec dish, cheese curds covered in gravy.

    Some of of the others were really far-fetched, and allegedly educated college students bought them. Did you know we just got electricity in Canada?

    Thankfully he didn't test the savoir faire of anyone up here in Surrey.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    @Bill L

    What the hell, dude? Did NASA sleep with your sister or something? I mean... wow.

  33. William Doohan

    Dollars and Donuts

    The article implies that the US is now using the 'wonga' as a currency unit. WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN! ? As an actual american, I'm clueless of course. :-P

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  35. Hollerith

    Poutine correction

    Poutine is a dish of french fries (aka chips, for the UK), covered with gravy and cheese curds. Cheese curds as in sort of like cottage cheese with the whey drained off.

    This dish swept Canada while I was living abroad. I'd like to think, had I been living there at the time, that I would have fought to stem the tide to the last barricade.

    But as a Prime Minister, it could have won my respect.

  36. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Lack of vision

    People who think that space exploration is a waste of money, which should better be spent on other things here on Earth, are about as shortsighted as the Portugese who refused to fund Columbus' 1st voyage.

    There's gold in them thar planets, sto-o-o-pid!

  37. PolicyWatcher

    Relates closely to other surveys...

    That show that most Americans think that their contribution to the UN is also several orders of magnitude greater than it is.

    In both cases it shows a failure by the respective organisations to promote properly their cases and the reality of their costs, as well as a deliberate attempt by opponents of those organisations to portray them as far more expensive than they really are.

    In neither case does it really say that much about the American people.

  38. Tom

    This is news?

    Most citizens of the world are clueless about how much money is spent by their governments regardless of country. What the governments need to do is give an "annual report" along with the tax forms they send. It might even help let the taxpayers "have a clue"!!

  39. Joe Stalin

    No Idea

    The same goes here. The number of people that jump up and down over the amount of money the UK gov spends on the Royals (the civil list) is real stunning. Quick google comes up with 11.2 million for 2005, that would buy maybe 2 miles of motorway, maybe even a whole hostpital ward or even one square yard of floor space in the scottish parliment building. chuck in the in going year on year running cost of these alternatives and compare that to the amount of money the Royals drag in from tourists they start to look like a bargin.

  40. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Northern Rock

    For the benefit of non-UK types, NR is a bank that grew too fast on borrowed money and now has no future (shhh, don't tell the shareholders) because of the sub-prime fiasco.

    For the benefit of UK types, the money has been loaned. If you don't know the difference between lending and spending, then perhaps you should make fewer jokes about "silly Americans".

  41. Paul Brown

    Where is the money spent in the UK?

  42. mark

    @The Other Steve

    There was no "irony, sarcasm and things of that nature" in the posts before mine - just sterotyping. And I don't actually fit in, I'm welsh and they don't have any damned sheep here :o(

  43. Guy


    As per the beastie boys, "theres no sheep till brooklyn"

    Wooly hat with a bobble on and mittens await

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Annual Report

    In the U.S., if you look inside your tax i.r.s. books, it does give a basic breakdown of where tax revenue goes. It just requires one to READ.

    As for NASA, it really doesn't get proper funding for what it does. That in and of itself is a shame. What bugs me about NASA is that it's astronaut program is very clique-ish in it's selection process.

    Paris angle... I think the relation to vaccuum/spaced would be close enough.

  45. Eli


    Not just Americans, like myself, but people in general, cant comprehend the practical applications of space and space technology. Space in itself if given the opportunity would pay for it self 100-fold. Maybe, since the private sector is including itself now, we can actually see some signifigant improvement.

  46. Bounty


    sorry, meant to say 600 billion... As for Saturn 5 rockets... I guess refined dinosaur works pretty well for rockets!

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