1. Exactly. Why even smile? It’s just a ruse to fool us from the bleak realities of life. *sarcasm* The article-ending quote might seem like crap, but coming from Bradbury, it holds a bit more portent than from the average schmuck. IMO

  1. I think we have bigger problems to solve down here on earth at the moment and there’s no guarantee we just won’t export them to any new worlds we find out there

    1. Studying things beyond our planet is vastly important to humankind. Cosmology and Astronomy can invoke paradigm shifts. These shifts can lead to a better tautological understanding of life. It can be inspiring. Lead to boosts in education. Unify us. Force us to consider global impacts more carefully. Where would you have the attention be placed instead?

      1. The people who cause the problems on our earth are the ones whose paradigm (or superstitions) won’t ever shift. We need to focus on education an making our tenure on this planet sustainable, it will still be cheaper to fix earth than to terraform another world.

  2. Absolutely. For those us going up in this age, and with so many science fiction books out there, space exploration is the next step for humanity. Its incredibly depressing to think we might withdraw from it completely.

  3. Curiosity is important because it is Mars and we want to know what is there, and what was there. That is justification enough.

    The argument that we should spend our resources on cleaning up our own biosphere is valid. But rather than diverting money from the space program, there are a few wars people could stop fighting, pointless political grandstanding campaign, Euro sink holes to stop pouring cash down and oh yes close down the Kardashians et al. That should free up a few billion to spend on the space programme AND install renewable energy projects.

  4. The best reason to invest in space is economic & practical; one planet’s resources will eventually not be enough for an ever-growing population, and moving into space (either in orbit, or preferably other planets because they’re potentially more stable if terraformed) will eventually become a necessity. The timeline for this need is very long, as there’s a lot we can do to muddle through on Earth for a good while yet, but the time will inevitably come.

  5. This would seem like the right time to tell the truth. Many including the former astronauts have given hints that much has been kept secret and that much data and photos have been withheld during the space program. This is the last legacy program that held onto its funding. Everything else has been cancelled. NASA has been a laughingstock and in decline. This is their last great glory and triumph. This would be the last opportunity to declassify and show more than pretty rocks and propaganda. The data has already shown that there is life on Mars. They have been afraid to say so officially. At least admit soon that there are foosils. You could at least do that at your earliest convenience as you’ve been hinting, NASA. Let’s not have another round of ambiguity: Question: “Is there life on Mars?”. Answer: “Maybe.” Not acceptable.
    Timid Whistling On Mars

    Oh my murdered friend,
    have whistles yet
    been blown for you?
    Are none of
    your secrets heard?

    Oh by your grave
    no one knows where
    the weather balloons are.

    How many years must
    methane blow
    before life is revealed?

    The answer’s on Mars
    and not in the stars, and
    there’s a timid whistle in the wind.

    Oh how many years ago
    was it heard that you
    were murdered
    for secrets more precious than you?

    Oh I don’t believe that
    you were blowing in the wind,
    oh I believe you were whistling
    truth’s precious tune.

    How many years must
    methane blow
    before life is revealed.

    You don’t have to be a rocket scientist
    to know which way the whistle blows
    ’cause everybody knows
    there’s life on Mars.

    Oh my murdered friend,
    have whistles yet
    been blown for you?
    Are none of
    your secrets heard?

    If you think there were
    weather balloons over Roswell,
    wait ’til you see them on Mars,
    ’cause artifacts will not be denied,
    and whistle blowers are
    waiting in the wings.
    — Douglas Gilbert


  6. Wow – I must say I (the author of this post, J. J. Morr) am pleased that this has generated a conversation. Many of you point to salient issues regarding the very question that forms the focal point of this piece: why does space travel matter?

    To respond quickly I’ll simply say that I wrote this piece in order to proffer just one means among many for our nation to progress (economically, ideologically, scientifically, and yes, imaginarily) — and I fully embrace the complexity of such matters and am committed to thinking critically about what “progress” means, especially in light of what I might term modern social “ills” or “impediments.”

    Again, thanks to everyone who has reposted and for all of you who’ve contributed to the discussion above. Let’s keep it rolling with the questions, the sociological parsing, and the respect!

    J. J. Morr

    1. “…why does space travel matter?”

      Eh. People who gripe over $7 per citizen to send a REAL rocket to another planet will gladly take way more than that out of their pockets to play some stupid video game that pretends to shoot rockets at people and blow them into bloody rags … and then ask why the former matters.

      1. fireandair,

        You raise pertinent points regarding the use of American tax/governmental dollars and are also right to mention the creative capacity – jobs, for instance – of NASA’s projects (this W.P. article fills in some of the informational gaps http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-nasa/2011/06/09/AGliJgtH_story.html).

        All this to say that whereas your opinion and straightforward dealing with the questions raised here is appreciated, I would ask that you refrain from employing stereotypical and/or presumptive terms in your estimation of some of the other commenters here. Regardless of (in)correctness or perceived lack of knowledge, a discussion must be had – and should be all-inclusive. This applies to everyone else as well.

        J. J. Morr

  7. It’s worth remembering that the $2.5billion that this project cost was not packed into the rover and sent to Mars. That money was spent right here on Earth and landed in the pockets of American companies and American workers who designed and built this thing in the US. Probably created more jobs, resulted in design advances, and for a squintillionth of the money that this place spends on bombs in a month.

    And come on, it works out to $7 per American. Most of you spent more than that last night on a disgusting heart-attack special pizza and a 2-liter bottle of sugared battery acid.

    Stop trying to be all deep and emo, kids. This is the best $7 I ever spent. And it’s the best $7 YOU ever spent, too.

  8. Don’t remember who originally said this, but I love this statement: “If the dinosaurs had had a space program they would still be here today.”

  9. The data obtained by Curiosity will fuel scientific discovery far beyond its mission. The space programs have “proven a fertile source for innovations that have moved beyond NASA and into the public sphere.” [http://spinoff.nasa.gov/Spinoff2011/index.html p11].

  10. I agree there is a lot we can do on earth now too, but to use an overused analogy it’s is silly to leave all our eggs in one basket, when the first step to settling other planets is technologically feasible and affordable, especially when compared to the amount currently spent of military budgets throughout the world.

    Lets hope Curiosity makes us more curious.


    1. A.F.M. –

      It makes sense that one should be disconcerted about the staggering and uneven (more than half of the entire U.S. budget) amount of money that funds militaristic “defense.” Less than 1% of G.D.P. funds space/technology initiatives.

      Also, I’d not heard of the “Mars Trilogy,” so thanks for sharing that as well.

      – J. J. Morr

  11. Sorry to be pessimistic, but if space is so vast and incomprehensible, isn’t it somewhat of a waste of time trying to understand it? I think we merely venture out into it, as a way to further human accomplishments, in all seriousness, there’s plenty to worry about here on Earth.

  12. Very nicely done, J.J. Morr. I think you make a great beginning case. I believe the successful landing and utilization of Curiosity is one more “giant leap for mankind”. Sorry to see a few ignorant, near-sighted comments above. As a child of the space age, I can tell you it was great inspiration for me. I took a greater interest in science and astronomy; because of the excellent Space content of the 1968 World Book Encyclopedia (I was 8) and because it cost my parents $800 which may have well have been a million to them, knowing what they made, I went ahead and read every book, A-Z…no lie. I built, successfully launched AND retrieved model rockets. I learned. I never made it into space but I made it into a field where I saved lives. Believe it not, mankind has been the beneficiary of a vast wealth of knowledge and technology, in addition to just Tang; even entire industries, thanks to space exploration. Thanks for your insight and for propagating the idea of supporting ongoing space exploration, nerd-girl. Let’s hope this generates a few more nerds, if that is what this implies =0) Peace.

    1. Terry –

      Your insight and personal narrative are very welcome and provide a wonderful context (and example) for the sort of “inspiration” to be had through such extraterrestrial endeavors. You’re also right to point out that I’ve merely made “a beginning case” here, one sorely lacking a more in-depth argument regarding the implications of space travel in a modern context. This is, of course, why I’m so happy that a conversation has been started here. More questions, more points for discussion, more commiseration or disagreement.

      It’s also amazing to hear about your World Book Encyclopedia. Wish I’d have had something like that as a child, although “Zoobooks” and Jules Verne seemed to have sufficed for me then.

      J. J.

  13. I ask why we need inspiration from space to spur economic growth, incite interest in the maths and sciences, refocus cultural energy and revoluzionize the way we understand reality and humanity?
    I think exactly the problems we have on earth with divisive, discouraging and destructive trends and dynamics are as much interesting and challenging to get analysed – mathematically as well – and solved as is the encounter of questions beyond everyday life, somewhere out there in what we think to be “space” and we persuade ourselves to be able to name it.
    I get the impression, that the enthusiasm about space research is a kind of escape from the reality on earth. It reminds me somebody trying to conduct an orchestra with no idea of a scale.

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