In 1970s, NASA Got $13.5M to Store Space Rocks

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What the National Aeronautics and Space Administration needed in the mid-1970s was more space to store its space rocks.

That’s what NASA said when it requested $2.8 million — $13.5 million in 2021 dollars — to build an addition to the existing Lunar Receiving Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center to house 100 pounds of moon rocks.

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It’s also what earned it a Golden Fleece award in 1976 from Sen. William Proxmire, a Democrat from Wisconsin who gave awards for wasteful and nonsensical spending.

“The fiscal irony of NASA’a request is that it is not needed,” Proxmire said in his award announcement. “In 1971, after spending $8.7 million to house the moon rocks, NASA curator Dr. Michael Duke indicated that the existing building would be ‘the permanent facility for storage, handling and doing detailed studies of the rocks.’”

American taxpayers had already shelled out almost $15 billion then for the Lunar Exploration program and were being asked to pay another $2.8 million to build an addition to what Proxmire saw as “a perfectly adequate $8.7 million concrete structure to house a wheelbarrow full of moon rocks.”

NASA argued then that the new addition was needed “to ensure that the lunar samples are adequately protected against natural and man-made hazards for the foreseeable future.”

But the existing facility operated successfully since 1971 to support an active lunar sample research program with several hundred scientists, Proxmire argued.

“It’s still unclear what ‘hazards’ NASA has in mind,” Proxmire said. “The present building is a massive concrete structure. Most observers grant that almost nothing short of a bomb blast or massive earthquake could penetrate the maze of concrete buildings that make up the mammoth Johnson Space Center in Houston.”

The #WasteOfTheDay is presented by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com.



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