In the late 1960s a good chunk of the world’s brightest minds and fanciest labs were devoted to one thing: space exploration. When NASA’s funding peaked in 1966 the organisation employed 400,000 people and consumed more than 4% of the US federal budget. Three years later, after less than a decade of serious investment, man was on the moon.
These days NASA spending makes up just 0.5% of the same budget. Scientists who once would have designed rockets or tested spacesuits have largely moved into the private sector.