Last week it looked like Spirit, one of two remote controlled NASA rovers currently exploring Mars, might not make it out of its winter hibernation. The worst part of this robotic near death experience is that it had nothing to do with technical difficulties on the aging rover. Budget cuts at NASA were to blame. Fortunately, NASA rescinded the letter it sent last week mandating budget cuts that would have abandoned Spirit and greatly reduced Opportunity’s (Spirit’s sister rover) exploration of the red planet. Both rovers have long outlasted their intended lifespan of only a few months, sending back valuable scientific data for 4 years. Gimping the rover program at this point would have been an incredibly stupid move. Especially when considering the cost of sending another rover to Mars (one of the reasons for the budget cut) when you have two healthy robots already in place whose yearly operating budget is fractional in comparison. I would hope that NASA came to this conclusion on its own, but I feel that it is more likely that outcry over the incident from the scientific community and the general public caused NASA to reconsider giving Spirit its walking papers just yet. While the loss of an incredible scientific tool is nothing to scoff about, this incident puts a light on a much larger issue: How the US government allocates it’s citizen’s tax dollars.
NASA, regardless of whether or not you think it is participating in the coverup of the existence of extraterrestrial life, is an important part of America and the World’s scientific growth. (DISCLAIMER: I have some relatives that in the past have worked either directly for NASA or one of its contractors.) NASA has made and made possible numerous discoveries that have expanded our understanding of the universe and improved life on Earth. Yet, this important agency constantly suffers budget cuts and may one day be budget cut out of existence while an endless stream of money is spent ensuring fuel costs continue to rise generating record profits for oil companies… oh, wait sorry I meant fighting the “war on terror”. In this particular instance, a program that cost roughly $20 million dollars a year to run found its head on the chopping block when the US spends an estimated $720 million dollars A DAY funding the war in Iraq. Taking a single day off from the war could fund the Mars rover project in its current state for another 36 years!!! A day and a half off is enough to develop and send another two rovers to Mars and fund them for 13 years!!! Imagine the scientific exploration and discovery that would be possible if we spent more on science and less on an un-winnable war whose only logical purpose can be ensuring unrest in the Middle East, giving the oil companies that line American politician’s pockets an excuse to jack up prices and guarantee record profits. Hopefully, before it is too late, the American people will wake up and elect representatives that are more interested in America and the World’s peaceful future than sustaining corporate dinosaurs, whose unwillingness to evolve should have ensured their extinction long ago.
NASA Cut Means No Roving for Mars Rover [via Gizmodo]
NASA Mars Rovers Won’t Be Cut [via Gizmodo]
War Costing $720 Million Each Day @ washingtonpost.com
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