One of the oft-cited reasons for funding space exploration is the high return on investment, in terms of boosting the economy.

For example

Studies estimate that for every $1 the U.S. government spends on NASA, the economy is boosted by $7-$14. That means that with NASA’s current budget of $17.6 billion, the U.S. economy will get an injection of anywhere from $123.2 billion to $246.4 billion.

But on being challenged I've not found reliable sources that back up these claims.

Is there a reliable source on this data? Is it misconstrued?

  • 2
    In addition to the true economic arguments you're looking for, I also feel it's worth bringing up Dr. Wilson's famous senate hearing over the construction of Fermilab. It seems like a nice contrast.
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 19:52
  • Well, it funds 17+k jobs. Commented Jul 22, 2017 at 11:20
  • Cort, that's a good point and didn't think of that.
    – Mike
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 8:11

1 Answer 1


An econometric-based analysis of the ROI on NASA is presented here:


The 14 dollar estimate is the cumulative effect on GNP as a result of increasing (and sustaining) the spending on NASA's R&D department, about a decade after the initial increase.

enter image description here

Be aware that this is from several decades ago.

The source for the 7 dollar estimate seems to be Scott Hubbard, an ex-employee at NASA:


  • If you can add up 10 years of return I imagine any number of things could be said to have high ROI. I suspect the ROI on road work or funding education etc would prove to be much higher. Without compariting the claimed ROI to the alternatives the goverment could be earning by spending money elsewhere the value itself is kind of meaning. It's probably to much to ask for someone to look up the ROI of other funding options, just wanted to point out that one can't use the statistic to decide rather to fund NASA without such.
    – dsollen
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 14:13
  • this analysis even meta-returns by teaching about exponentiation Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 1:44
  • I've never seen road work or the like create new industries. While there are very obvious consumer products (e.g. microwaves alone driving annual revenue half of NASA's entire budget), there are countless hidden contributions. For example, known chemical and materials advancements and technologies used in industry drive uncountable revenue in closed books. Outside of education, other gov't spending can't hope to generate these things.
    – vee_ess
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 0:55

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