Economic Impact of Large Public Programs: The NASA Experience

By Eli Ginzberg; James W. Kuhn et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter One
Assessment of the Impacts of the Space Program

As the activities and expenditures of the federal government have grown during the past two decades, the impacts of large public programs have come under closer scrutiny ( Solow, 1961-62; Benoit and Boulding, 1963; Oliver, 1971; and U.S. Department of Labor, 1973). Impacts are distinct from the specific accomplishments of an agency in carrying out its overall mission. The placing of a man on the moon or the orbiting of an earth resources satellite are examples of a specific accomplishment. Whereas specific accomplishments relate directly to agency objectives, impacts do not. In achieving a specific goal, a public agency may stimulate the development of a new technology or a new industry, dramatically alter the infrastructure of a city or a region of the country, or create new occupational categories. These ancillary effects are all examples of a program's impact.

The legislation which created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) explicitly recognized that the agency's programs would influence the economic and social structure of the nation. The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 directed NASA to conduct long-range studies of the potential benefits from the use of aeronautical and space activities for peaceful purposes. Since its inception, NASA has carried out this mandate by supporting various impact studies of the space program.

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