Saturday, February 11, 2012
Mars Exploration - Or Lack Thereof
Remember the movie "Mars Attacks" where those little green men attacked earth and were ultimately defeated by us playing some yodeling country-western singer in their ears? The music blew their heads apart.
Well, looks like we won't be the ones to see if Mars has any little green men for real. NASA has just canceled our next Mars mission - a place we could eventually go to and colonize - in favor of pretty pictures of places long gone and totally unreachable by us humans... ever.
I occasionally comment on this generation of NASA decision makers, who have almost without exception, made poor choices and favored prohibitively expensive pie-in-the-sky projects - effectively shooting themselves in the foot over and over - unwise projects which have had the distressing habit of coming back to bite them in the butt.
Now, NASA has sacrificed several near-earth exploration missions in favor of a multi-billion dollar telescope so they can take more pretty pictures of galaxies, nebulae, black holes, quasars, etc. etc. billions of light years away, pictures that will show those objects as they existed billions of years ago.
The desire to discover the origins of the universe is of great interest to some of NASA's decision makers, and almost all of us went all wowzers over the Hubble photographs. Here's one below:
Very pretty. But do we need to spend billions for more like it? Studying pretty photographs of how the universe was billions of years ago is not really too helpful to us when we are trying to find out what our own little solar system is like, and how we can take advantage of the potentially reachable resources available out there to improve the lot of all us denizens of planet Earth.
What we certainly don't need to do right now - us being over 15 trillion dollars in debt - is to spend scarce taxpayer dollars on a new multi-billion dollar space telescope... so a tiny number of very privileged scientists can look at more pretty pictures showing the universe as it was back in the incredibly distant past.
NASA doesn't need a CW singer yodeling in their ears to blow their heads to bits. All NASA needs is another strategy session to do that.
At a time when millions of citizens are trying to keep their homes, wondering how they will be able to pay the monthly bills, and worrying about a government spending us into bankruptcy, NASA pirouettes down the yellow brick road searching for OZ.
As the government tries to decide who gets how big a slice of our vanishing money pie, NASA makes the decision that results from justifiable near-earth exploration is not important... pretty picture are. Someone needs to tell them that Congress is just not interested in spending billions for some new photographs of yet another supernova somewhere in the distant past.
Maybe, someday when we are not going bankrupt, we will be able to spend this kind of money on another deep space photo album.
But not now.