Has Curiosity killed the economy?

With NASA admitting that the cost of the Mars Curiosity rover has reached $2.6billion, $1billion over its original budget, LS asks whether the money would be better spent elsewhere?

NO – Henry Beach

Unless you’re an enthusiast of space, Mars, NASA or a member of the ‘astro’ cognoscenti, you may have a very limited knowledge of the Curiosity Rover. What it does, how it works or how it got there in the first place may well only be of interest to certain people, but Curiosity already has had an ineffable effect on culture, society and economics. Exploration and adventure breeds heroes, who then ignite the imagination and aspiration of generations. Aldrin and Armstrong did not simply walk on the moon, each step they took galvanised a nation and inspired a generation.

The exploration of the moon enabled us to discover Earth, the infamous photo gazing over the moon’s horizon to view the world as a whole was the protagonist of the cultural transformation of the early 1970’s. The Clean air act, Earth day, Environmental protection act, unleaded gas and Doctors Without Borders are all a result of the adventure to the moon.  The quantitative value of space exploration is immeasurable, yet there is still the argument of cost.

The $2.5 billion Curiosity rover employs some of the greatest minds on the planet to work within one of the most creative, exciting and innovative institutions on Earth. Pushing humanity beyond the atmosphere cost a sixth of the London 2012 Olympics. The US bank bailout of 2008 was a greater sum than the entire 50 year running cost of NASA. That includes every scientist’s pay, every astronaut’s, and the cost of every satellite and shuttle. Space is more than affordable. It is our monetary system that is warped.

The Curiosity Rover is an investment into the future, a preliminary to sending man to Mars. So far from this mission we have learnt that water most likely flowed on the red planet, this presents the possibility of life having been on another planet than our own. The discovery would have profound implications to our understanding of biology and current philosophy. It would breed another generation who aspires to be scientifically literate, that develop new technologies, new economies,
advance understanding and gain a new perspective. If you think the Curiosity Rover is just another metal box in space, then you’re on another planet.

YES – Tom Peters

At $2.6 Million, NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover might just be the most expensive remote control car ever, and at a mere 4cm/s it doesn’t even go that fast. This, amongst other things, has left many Americans asking if their ‘bucks’ were well spent.

NASA’s main aim of the Curiosity Rover is to establish whether Mars has ever had conditions to support life, and even after seven weeks of its two year mission of pottering about the red planet the Rover has already beamed back photographic evidence of previous fast flowing streams, much like ones on Earth. Now whilst this is all very interesting (although not for everyone I’ll grant you) there’s a lot that would argue (and are arguing) that knowing there was once a brook on Mars isn’t going to solve third world poverty, cure cancer, or stop climate change; and they’d be right.

Despite the tension filled landing, and life-affirming video of the Curiosity team actually jumping for joy when Curiosity was finally on Martian soil, even the team have admitted that the grainy black and white photos have lost their allure. We were already pretty sure that there was water on Mars, was it really necessary to blow half of NASAs budget to find out for certain?

With the rover providing the first step to a manned mission to Mars, should we even be allowed to colonise another planet? After polluting Earth and draining all of its useful resources, it feels like we are just looking for another planet to ruin. Perhaps the money should have been better spent on research towards renewable energy and fixing the problems we’ve made on earth rather than shipping off to somewhere else. Particularly at times like this, when government budgets are stretched as it is, surely the American’s would rather their money be spent on helping out small businesses, and those in poverty in their country?

Amongst all these more political issues, there’s also a case of Dejá vú – A ‘been there done that got the t-shirt’. The earliest mars rovers generated global excitement, with brand new evidence for a thicker atmosphere and water on mars, and now curiosity is saying exactly the same thing, except with fancy panoramic photos. To most of the general public, space exploration simply isn’t that exciting anymore, when we hear the same things all coming from yet another box on wheels.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *