The Magnanimity of MarsMonday, August 6, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Last night (or rather, this morning), NASA's Curiosity rover touched down on Mars. There were many people, myself included, who watched the event unfold, albeit at a 14-minute delay due to limitations concerning the speed of light, via live streaming at NASA's website. However, there were many more people who didn't even know that anything happened. And make no mistake, this is a big deal. Not only is it the most complex landing that's been attempted, but it also is the largest rover we've put on Mars, and in the best place to study, due to the ability we now have to greatly narrow the landing site's uncertainty.
Why is this? Well, first off, people don't seem to be nearly as interested in space exploration as they should be. When you bring it up, most don't care, and the more vocative among them tend to talk about how it doesn't help cure cancer or make jobs or whatever pet cause they decide to adopt at the time. These people are wrong. Space exploration certainly creates jobs (it's just STEM jobs, which these people don't want), and, as for the "curing cancer" and that sort of bullshit, these people are completely unfamiliar with how science works. You don't just decide on an end goal like curing cancer, and do it. There have to be advances. And, better than most other fields of study, space exploration tends to advance the fuck out of science. You know what would make it better? Actually funding NASA. And don't give me that "private space exploration" bullshit. That's commercial, and therefore profit is still the bottom line. NASA is there for science, and as such it can do a lot more to advance science than these private firms. And NASA isn't that well-funded, despite what you may think. It takes up less than 1% of our national budget. So let's spare them some money to keep making awesome things like Curiosity happen. Good? Good.