IN SPACE - AUGUST 5: In this handout image provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech, one of the first images taken by NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars on the evening of August 5, 2012 PDT. (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech via Getty Images)
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No doubt by now, you have seen the new pictures from Mars that were sent back this morning after NASA's newest toy, ah, rover landed successfully there early today.
It is a great accomplishment. That can't be debated. Also beyond debate is the significant cost. The bill for this mission is around $2.5 billion.
So is it worth it? Even if we find some convincing example of life from long ago (the rover's mission), is it money well-spent?
The traditional argument for space exploration is that to advance our own kind, we need to see what else exists. An argument against it is that our country is flat broke, running a deficit of nearly $16 trillion, and we don't have $2.5 million, let alone $2.5 billion.
Recently the folks at NASA have begrudgingly agreed to work with other countries on space projects, like the space station. Additionally, private firms have also made huge strides in planned space exploration. This type of collaboration is the only way we should be proceeding with our space program.
Ultimately if we make a huge discovery in space, all citizens of the Earth will be benefiting. So why up to now has it only been citizens of the U.S. who have been footing the bill?
Contrary to popular belief, I am not some no-fun, stick-in-the-mud guy who is 36 going on 86. I have looked up at the heavens, and wondered if there is life out there. I have also look at my son and wondered what his generation (and those beyond) are going to do when they are saddled by debt they won't be able to pay off.
I say the money shouldn't have been spent in the first place. But in case it was burning a hold in Uncle Sam's pocket and had to be spent, maybe we should ask how many schools would $2.5 billion build? Diseases cured? Famine eliminated? Infrastructure improved?
Maybe, just maybe, the aliens are the puzzled ones as they look at us?
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