Many congratulations to the JPL/NASA team early this morning (GMT) in achieving such an incredible feet in space-flight.
Spirit and Opportunity’s almost decade-long hiatus of technological progress will no doubt show in the upcoming pictures, panoramic landscape shots and rich sensor data. That said it is absolutely amazing just how much the twin MER’s have accomplished. Such pure elation was seen on the faces of those in the control centre at the moment that touch down was confirmed, after almost 5 minutes of deafening silence during the sky-crane firing stage. Nothing quite compares; even the Phoenix landing stream seemed almost an office party by comparison, though equally as successful in landing and subsequent data production.
Yet, as with all reports on space exploration – the one frontier we have had so many lost hopes and dreams sacrificed to, meets cynicism, doubts and the inevitable one-liner of,
Such a waste on money where we have so many other problems in the world that need fixing.
Can these people even hear themselves? Yes – there are a lot of problems in the world today that need funding, but are these same ignoramuses focusing their criticism on other money-wasting matters. The bank bailouts for example; the middle eastern wars for another. Neil deGrasse Tyson measures in the former as the total sum of NASA funding since it’s founding, to the present day – almost 60 years. I’ve done a small calculation of my own, citing ESA’s manned Mars expedition on maximum NASA funding from a global initiative and the subsequent vast numbers of possible expeditions. Further figures suggest that religious tax exemptions in the US alone could fund another 27 Curiosity-sized rovers and that’s just this year. A staggering 28 could be sent every year.
The bottom line of that thought would be – why does a monotheistic belief system (one of over a dozen widely followed in the world, so hardly special) get financial privileges over what is undoubtedly the forefront of space research and exploration? Would people, given enough information on the facts of what this endeavour achieves, and how it changes our daily lives, would drop superstition and instead seek truth in facts that they can actually see with their own eyes? Something has got to change and quickly, before we end up heading straight back to mud huts and caves.
Is a picture like this not enough incentive for some? Just the magnitude of setting up this photo – taken by a satellite, orbiting a different planet, of a 4-5 metre-square top of a spaceship with a parachute deployed, about to land on a 12 by 4.3 mile ellipse. Utterly breathtaking; and the best part? HUMANS did that.