Excellent short article on the economic payoffs of NASA.
This is why (to my ears at least) when you argue that big externality-ridden, public goods like space exploration shouldn't be done because "if they were worth doing some private actor would have put his money on the line" you sound really, really dumb. This article deals mainly with the technology spin-off benefits which are hard enough to measure for the same reason that the benefits of information and research have always been hard to measure. It doesn't even begin to incorporate the economic benefits of making the human race an inter-planetary species.
And when you don't have costs and benefits markets don't function in the efficient way we apprecaite them functioning.
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