The Apollo program was long, arduous, tense, and very, very expensive. America's missile defence ambitions have been all of these things too. The Apollo program put humans on the moon. Missile defence has been a colossal failure. The cost? Equal.
Despite federal belt-tightening (or cutting off the belt entirely with a chainsaw), Congress has found a spare $US8.6 billion to fund work on the US missile "shield" — a 1.2 per cent increase from last year's budget.
This, despite the fact that the Pentagon has yet to find an effective way of shooting missiles out of the sky. Lasers, satellites, other missiles — nothing's worked well, and they've been trying for decades. All that trying (and failing) has racked up quite the bill: Bloomberg reports that failed missile defence has cost the US around $US150 billion — the same amount we spent putting a man on the moon.
What've we gotten for that chunk of change? Anti-ICBM facilities that are about as reassuring as me pointing a Nerf gun at the sky. Take the defensive silos at Fort Greely, Alaska, which sound a lot like my sophomore year dorm room:
They are battling mould in corridors leading to six underground silos that house rockets for shooting down enemy warheads. The mould and leaking pipes mean the installation must be replaced this year as part of a $US1.16 billion fix for the national missile defence shield
Even the current next-best-futile-hope for missile defence, a Europe-based shield outlined by President Obama, is a DoD wet dream at best: "The system is highly fragile and brittle and will intercept warheads only by accident, if ever," explains MIT's Dr Theodore Postol, himself a former Pentagon science advisor.