Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Gardner-Kvashennaya International Telescope

That team looks so happy to be doing this.Chew #4 by John Layman and Rob Guillory (2009)

There's some kind of something going on in Chew. Top Russian and American scientists have built an incredibly sophisticated and high-tech telescope--and the governments have apparently sponsored a covert research team to observe the planet Altilis-738 and search for alien life. This is very expensive. It costs the U.S. $34 million a year.

And it is a lot of money. Apparently, the job was only supposed to cost $3 million, but thanks to the machinations of a certain Senator, the funds were bumped up. Suspicious, I'd say.

Yet, I'm not surprised this funding went through. Here's the thing. $34 million per year for a telescope might seem like a lot of money in an absolute sense. But take a look at the US outlays for space flight, research and supporting activities. The total budget allocated for 2009 was $18.1 billion. Of that, about $12 billion was devoted to science, exploration, and NASA-supported activities. About $5.7 billion was assigned to space operations. And about $200 million was given to the NASA Office of the Inspector General (OIG), education programs and "other."

The OIG is responsible for oversight of NASA--preventing crime and abuse, reducing waste, maximizing efficiency, and those kind of things. That combined with education takes $200 million to operate.

Next to this, $34 million (about 0.18% of the total space budget) to fund a team of geniuses gathered together under the guise of finding alien life actually seems kind of modest.

OK, so it turns out the operation was a fraud and the scientists had some...strange habits. And it should have only cost $3 million. But the public doesn't know that, so it's OK.

22 comments:

Will said...

I have a completely unrelated question to economics, but isn't a location that has 6 months of daylight a really lousy place to put an observatory dedicated to monitoring a distant planet? It might be amazing for 6 months, but for another 6 months it is basically worthless. It would seem like a spacestation or a mountaintop near the equator would have made more sense.

E said...

Will, the below quote refers to antarctica, but I assume it could also apply to the arctic:

"The south pole area has an advantage in astronomical observation due to its cold and dry climate, long polar nights, low wind velocity and little dust."

Will said...

@E Interesting. I obviously no very little about astronomical observation, but that does make sense. I would think the cold temperatures could create problem for the equipment, but space is a lot colder and that was my recommendation.

Tom said...

I haven't read the issue in question, but it is also possible the telescope is not observing light in the visible spectrum. I believe an ground-based infared/radio telescope would work ok during the 6 daylight months.

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