Would NSF have funded Galileo?

Still, says Clette, it is fascinating to ‘work’ with colleagues from hundreds of years ago. For instance, he says that even though Galileo’s coverage of the Sun was spotty because Galileo was “busy with planets and other things”, the drawings are detailed enough to reveal information about the magnetic structure of the sunspot groups and the size and tilt of the star’s dipole. “You can extract from those drawings exactly the same information as from a drawing made today,” he says.

More than that, however, he is taken with his forebears’ foresight. They faithfully recorded what they saw, thinking that it could be useful later on, he says. “It’s a fundamental aspect of science,” he says, “not worrying what will be the final result.” [emphasis mine]

From a wonderful article in Nature on long term research.