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The cost of science

Over the past few years U.S. astrophysics has hit hard times financially. Everyone is feeling the pain as they submit ever more grant applications each year, only to get more rejection letters citing the lack of funding provided by Congress.

Science is an expensive enterprise. It takes money to pay student, postdoc, engineer and professor salaries. Telescopes require a lot of funding each year to maintain. For example, a night on the Keck 10-meter telescope costs $100,000, or about \$167 per minute. And that's a bargain compared to ALMA, LSST and JWST.


So let's put the tremendous national cost of astronomy on an easy-to-understand scale. Take the Iraq War. The total direct costs of the war from 2003 to 2010 were about a trillion dollars, or 390 million dollars per day.

The combined NASA Astrophysics and NSF AST astrophysics budgets are 1 billion dollars a year. That's a lot of money. Tax payers spend a billion bucks a year on astrophysics. Think about it, that's 2.5 days of war. PER YEAR!

Astronomy for a year costs 2.5 days in a war of choice. Jeez!

We're lucky congress is so generous to fund such a luxurious enterprise as understanding the mysteries of the universe. In a more ideal world, we'd swap astrophysics for two and a half days invading a foreign land for...um... weapons of mass... er...to get rid of terrorists... hmmm... Screw it, WE WON! (Oswalt 2006)

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