A friend posted on Facebook today: “When I was a little girl I loved learning about space, solar systems, planets, walking on the moon. But when I grew up I learnt how much space exploration costs and how many people here are sick, hungry, abused. Now I see no justification for funding our curiosity until we improve life on earth”
Yesterday I spoke to another friend who was beside himself with excitement at this extraordinary pursuit of knowledge, and the incredibly feat that we – mere blips in the great expanse of the universe – have landed Curiosity on Mars.
There are the heartbreaking questions that come alongside the expansion of human understanding, that come with doing things that have never been done before just to see if we can… those heartbreaking questions include: Why is it more important to explore a dusty, red planet that has taken eight years and two and a half billion dollars to reach; than to feed the 25000 people who die every day from poverty.
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Trust the Yanks to use a gridiron term to describe the landing of the one-tonne plutonium-powered rover, Curiosity, on Mars.
But it was somewhat appropriate considering the landing itself was something of a “Hail Mary pass” - a phrase that originated in American football, meaning a very long forward pass made with limited chances of success.
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This is the end of an era. The final space shuttle launch takes place in less than a week, when Atlantis roars from the pad at Cape Canaveral, and I for one will watch this final flight with mixed emotions.
After more than 30 years and 135 missions, NASA is under presidential direction to retire the remaining shuttle fleet due to high operational costs and to free up revenue for other projects. Private enterprise will have to continue the dream past the space station’s orbit and focus on getting astronauts to asteroids and the outer planets in the coming decades.
Has the shuttle program been a success? Was it worth the fiscal cost and the loss of 14 lives in two separate accidents? History will be the judge, I guess, but it’s sad for this 60-something space nut to look back at the space program and think that since 1972, no human being has been any further than 600 kilometres from planet Earth.
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Thursday December 9, 2010, was an interesting day for news in the world. It was the first time in human history a private company launched and returned a capsule from orbit, possibly opening transport possibilities to the International Space Station.
The interesting thing about this is the remarkable lack of fanfare surrounding anything to do with humanity’s exploits in space these days.
When you consider that 40 years ago the world stood united by the feat of landing a person on the moon, it’s quite remarkable that now, when people are in space are doing life threatening work on a space station people really don’t care.
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I have a theory that about 90 per cent of the viewer interest in motor sport of any kind is the potential to watch serious crashes.
Just look at what they show from the “highlights” of the Daytona series on Sports Tonight – it’s 40 cars doing quadruple flips over each other at 200 kilometres with the commentator yelling “whoa mamma!”
As space shuttle Endeavour waits on the Florida tarmac like so many QANTAS “express” flights, any interest we maintain in the NASA space program has similarly boiled down to the initial take-off explosion and whether or not the shuttle will blow-up before it touches back home. This is a shame because space exploration is an amazing and important human achievement.
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