“Curiosity” Lands on Mars

NASA successfully landed the unmanned robotic planetary explorer name “Curiosity” on the surface of Mars last night.

The first pictures are found here:
NASA – Mars Science Laboratory

It was an astonishing, complex interplanetary landing unlike any previous landing by any other unmanned spacecraft in history. It exceeds the manned lunar landings in its complexity, yet 154 million miles further away.

Curiosity” is the most sophisticated unmanned planetary explorer ever built. It now begins its work.

It promises to revolutionize our understanding of the Red Planet as humankind continues its first fledgling steps to explore and inhabit the universe around us.

“Curiosity” Landing Site next to a mountain within Gale Crater on Mars

Thoughts on Space Exploration

This new mission won’t get much notice. Americans have become jaded to our own greatness. The Olympics, politics and another horrible shooting – this time of Sikhs – will take center stage.

That is to bad. Even President Obama has cut back space exploration to the point the United States is no longer capable of launching its own astronauts into space anymore. We have to hitch rides on Russian rockets to get to the International Space Station. We will have to do so for years to come.

But the United States is still capable of extraordinary feats of technological achievement unlike any other nation on Earth.

Even with NASA operating on a shoestring budget, the “Curiosity” mission is proof of that.

It’s true that the United States has a staggering $16 trillion national debt that grows by $3.5 billion every single day. We can’t afford a space program.

But some human endeavors transcend pure dollars and cents.

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Posted on Aug 6, 2012, in culture, economics, Life, Mars, news, Opinion, Politics, science, Space Exploration. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. “But some human endeavors transcend pure dollars and cents.”

    I use to think the same way, AZ. Now I wonder how much value we are getting for our investment?

  2. I’m cynical about many, MANY things. Space exploration is not one of them. I believe it is man’s destiny to conquer space and go to the stars.

    When I was a very small boy my father dragged the whole family out into the back yard to look up into the sky one cold fall evening. I had no idea why. What I saw was a tiny point of light drift silently across the sky and then disappear.

    It was called “sputnik”… which I later learned means “fellow earth traveler”. After that night I started seeking and reading books about astronomy and stars. I later made a makeshift scrapbook out of an old metal chemistry set box. I clipped out every newspaper article about the space race there was and read them over and over at night before I went to sleep.

    Years later, in college, I chose to study Russian for my language requirement so that I could read what the Russians wrote about their own space program in their own words.

    These days there are fewer and fewer outsized dreams and outsized dreamers. Founding an Internet start-up that goes public is about as far as it goes.

    I’d like to think there is more to life.

  3. Manned space flight is just too expensive and dangerous. Sending robots around makes sense to me and is super cool, but I have to admit I hope we are alone and there no other civilizations out there that decide to pay us a visit. Very creepy.

    • In 1961, astrophysicist Frank Drake devised a famous formula for calculating the number of intelligent civilizations in the universe.

      The Drake Formula was devised in response to the first seriously proposed SETI search in a paper publish in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal “Science” in 1959 by Morrison and Cocconi.

      It is more guesstimate than factual, but at a 1961 meeting Drake et. all estimated the number of civilizations in the Milky Way alone:
      Number of intelligent civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy “N” is between 1,000 and 100,000

      The Drake equation states that:

      N = (R*) X (fp) X (ne) X (fl) X (fi) X (fc) X (L)

      where:

      N = the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which communication might be possible;

      and

      R* = the average rate of star formation per year in our galaxy
      fp = the fraction of those stars that have planets
      ne = the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets
      fℓ = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop life at some point
      fi = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop intelligent life
      fc = the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space
      L = the length of time for which such civilizations release detectable signals into space[5]

    • Randel,
      Here is how much the Apollo manned moon program cost…
      It sent 8 manned missions to the moon, landed 6 of them on it and 12 men walked its surface.

      Put in perspective it cost – according to an estimate by the journal “The Space Review”(http://www.thespacereview.com/) – about the same amount the national debt grows in a single month.

      From Wikipedia:
      “The final cost of project Apollo was reported to Congress as $25.4 billion in 1973.[40] It took up the majority of NASA’s budget while it was being developed. For example, in 1966 it accounted for about 60 percent of NASA’s total $5.2 billion budget.[41]

      In 2009, NASA held a symposium on project costs which presented an estimate of the Apollo program costs in 2005 dollars as roughly $170 billion. This included all research and development costs; the procurement of 15 Saturn V rockets, 16 Command/Service Modules, 12 Lunar Modules, plus program support and management costs; construction expenses for facilities and their upgrading, and costs for flight operations. This was based on a Congressional Budget Office report, A Budgetary Analysis of NASA’s New Vision for Space, September 2004.[38] The Space Review estimated in 2010 the cost of Apollo from 1959 to 1973 as $20.4 billion, or $109 billion in 2010 dollars, averaged over the 6 landings as $18 billion each.[42] “

      • So when Romney says something dramatic needs to happen, maybe another moon program would kick the economy forward in terms of jobs and technology. That would be a good thing.

        The 1,000 to 100,000 is pretty creepy. I hope they cannot get here. I think Stephen Hawkings said something recently that based on the size of the sample sky already looked at by SETI, the probability we are alone on a blue marble is getting much higher. I hope he is right.

      • I don’t believe Romney has said anything one way or another about the space program.

        I suspect that Romney, if elected, will leave things just as they are and concentrate on fixing the economy and getting our enormous debt growth under control through other means than space spending.

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