In skimming the interwebs for data on various topics, I acquired some bits that fit together as follows:
Even using a lowball figure, it appears a year of prosecuting the Iraq war cost approximately 15 times the 2013 NASA budget. Put another way, 25 year of funding NASA totals just one quarter of what it's cost for seven years of war in Mesopotamia.
Put a third way, 17 astronauts have lost their lives aboard spacecraft in the entire course of NASA's history, while nearly 4,500 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq since the conflict began. (Civilian casualties have been harder to pin down, but one figure so lowball it plows a furrow puts it at roughly 66,000.)
I'm not so silly as to think that if there hadn't been that war, the money would instead have been wholly dedicated to our space program. Realistically, it would've been best if the money had never been borrowed in the first place.
But let's say that money had been borrowed with no upfront goal in mind; if it had been used to triple the annual NASA budget, there would've been well over another two billion annually to apply to things like upgrading our infrastructure, going full speed ahead on renewable energy, giving our national parks system a real boost…all kinds of things that would've made us a rightly prouder nation with a much brighter future.
Ah, pipe dreams…