What it doesn't
Contrary to popular misconceptions:
- NASA doesn't do astronomy, unless the observatory is on a plane (SOFIA) or in space (Hubble, Spitzer, etc.); even then, most of the people that actually use these instruments are professional astronomers who don't work for NASA (Hubble, for example, is used through the Space Telescope Science Institute)
- Speaking of space telescopes, it seems that only space geeks know that Hubble is not the only one. Wikipedia has a nice list.
- NASA doesn't have a monopoly on space flight within the United States:
- the Armed Forces have their own space projects (e.g. the X-37B) and their own launchpads; NASA's shuttles have launched some spy satellites, but it turned out that launching them with disposable rockets is cheaper.
- commercial satellites are not launched by NASA, but by private contractors (such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Orbital Sciences Corporation); the same people provide launch services to NASA and other government agencies (such as launching meteosats for NOAA and spysats for the NRO)
- NASA doesn't have a monopoly on space flight outside of the US:
- Contrary to the popular (in some circles) slogan "NASA lies!", the most significant things NASA has been untruthful about are:
- how much money a particular project will cost
- how much time it will take to develop it
Well, the last point is mostly snark, but based on a kernel of truth: NASA's projects often end up over budget and/or behind schedule (Recent examples are the cancelled Constellation program and the James Webb Space Telescope).
NASA takes its directions from the President and its money from the Congress. This sometimes leads to some interesting deals and compromises (and fucked-up projects, including the current state of the human spaceflight program).
 Space exploration spending
A lot of people think (or at least have expressed the opinion) that a lot of money is spent on space exploration and could be better spent elsewhere. In the case of NASA, this is undermined by the fact that a) nowadays, NASA's budget is less than 1% of the federal budget, and b) the average American has no idea how small NASA's budget actually is. According to a 2007 survey:
“”...we asked respondents what percentage of the national budget is allocated to NASA and to the Department of Defense, the Department of Education, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Health and Human Services, among other agencies. NASA’s allocation, on average, was estimated to be approximately 24% of the national budget (the NASA allocation in 2007 was approximately 0.58% of the budget.)
And no, NASA did not spend billions of taxpayer dollars developing space pens.
 See also
- Face on Mars
- Moon landing hoax
- Project Blue Beam
- James Hansen, the current director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS)
- George C. Deutsch
- ↑ The acronym is often decoded as "Never a Straight Answer" by people who wouldn't recognise a straight answer if it hits them in the head, or as "Need Another Seven Astronauts" by people who lack decency. Often the two groups overlap.
- ↑ The X stands for eXploration. But at least their logo doesn't include a mecha.
- ↑ Space science: The telescope that ate astronomy, Nature News. There's a nice graph of the "cost curve."
- ↑ One can't be always sure that some kind of thought process is going on.
- ↑ Mary Lynne Dittmar, Sustaining exploration: communications, relevance, and value, The Space Review
- ↑ I don't want to live on this planet anymore.