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Mars Rover Perseverance Landing... and continuing...

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
You know if we weren't in the middle of a global pandemic, through which America has suffered more deaths than any other nation, I'd be more likely to see the merit in "exploration for the fun of it." If we didn't have failing schools, a crumbling infrastructure, declining life expectancies, inadequate healthcare, and just generally a lower standard of living than the rest of the developed world, maybe I'd agree.

Except, of course, that the NASA budget is only half of one percent of the US budget. Cutting it would not substantially impact the major problems on the ground.

And except, of course, that NASA's budget is spent on Earth, and mostly within the US. All those dollars go into paying salaries of people who live on Earth, and to companies who make all the parts that NASA uses. It is not removed from the economy.

And, except, of course, that of all the government programs out there, NASA is one of the few that generates more value in the overall economy than it costs. We listed a few spinoff technologies, but overall, they are legion, and their value to the private sector is in excess of NASA'a budget.

Economically speaking, cutting NASA is cutting off your nose to spite your face. In terms of overall dollars, cutting it is a losing proposition.

Put great minds to work on that kind of stuff.

It isn't like NASA is the sole repository of great minds. You note the pandemic as a point - There were great minds left, right, and center were trying desperately to tell the Administration what needed to happen, both in terms of mitigation plans, and for the vaccine rollout. They were ignored. Plans already created were tossed out.

The block to handling these other problems is not lack of genius, or lack of money that could come from NASA. It is lack of political will. Beyond that, we get into real-world politics.
 

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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
What good does NASA do? If you want to totally ignore their accomplishments:

NASA employs 17,000 people, and supports 312,000 jobs nationwide. They generated 64.3 billion total economic output in the fiscal year 2019. NASA generates 7 billion in federal, state and local taxes.

Hey, @Arilyn , I'd love a cite on these numbers for use in other discussions, if you have it.

Note: in 2019, NASA's budget was $22.6 billion. Their output was $64.3 billion? They output nearly triple what they cost. Seems a good investment to me.
 

Ryujin

Hero
Hey, @Arilyn , I'd love a cite on these numbers for use in other discussions, if you have it.

Note: in 2019, NASA's budget was $22.6 billion. Their output was $64.3 billion? They output nearly triple what they cost. Seems a good investment to me.
Their 2020 Fiscal Report and other such documents would be a good source of those numbers. For example in 2020 they list 16,520 employees.

 

Arilyn

Hero
Their 2020 Fiscal Report and other such documents would be a good source of those numbers. For example in 2020 they list 16,520 employees.


Their 2020 Fiscal Report and other such documents would be a good source of those numbers. For example in 2020 they list 16,520 employees.

Thanks. You beat me to it. There are also several NASA economic impact studies, that pop up on a Google search.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
There are also several NASA economic impact studies, that pop up on a Google search.

Yeah, but it sets such a better example if the person who makes the assertion shows their evidence, rather than telling folks who might not believe you that they can google it.
 


Arilyn

Hero
Yeah, but it sets such a better example if the person who makes the assertion shows their evidence, rather than telling folks who might not believe you that they can google it.
Ryujin beat me to it. 😊 The google suggestion was made because there are a lot of other sources out there that I thought I'd just mention.
 

Rabulias

Adventurer
Not wanting to stray too far into politics, but I will note that it seems to me there has been a marked dismissal of science, math, learning, knowledge, and experts in general in a portion of American society over the last few decades. That attitude has consequences that we are seeing today.

Though I am heartened by the efforts to focus on STEM over the last few years, and I am also buoyed by projects like Perseverance.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Not wanting to stray too far into politics, but I will note that it seems to me there has been a marked dismissal of science, math, learning, knowledge, and experts in general in a portion of American society over the last few decades.

More than the past few decades. One can see anti-intellectual sentiment going back to the early days of the nation. Its root isn't strictly political, but is more broadly present in the culture.
 

Orius

Adventurer
I'm not trying to troll or criticize anyone's interest, but I'm left wondering what the point of this is. Haven't we had rovers on Mars for the past 40 years (or longer)?

They haven't all been rovers as other people pointed out. The Viking landers were stationary, as was Phoenix. And the Viking landers had technology that was over 45 years old as well. While the Viking landers returned no evidence of life on Mars, science and technology has advanced since their landings. Possibly the Viking landers were in very lifeless areas of Mars, or as some people have speculated, the crudeness of the instruments used may have destroyed any evidence of life. This current mission not only has much more advanced technology, but it's in a place that would have been conducive to supporting any Martian life that may have existed. Not only does this rover have better instruments to investigate specific scientific questions we have about Mars, but it's also designed to leave behind samples that a future mission can return to Earth that scientists can study directly in ways a rover can't.

The point of all of this is to determine if life did exist on Mars in the past and if any sort of life still exists. It's still an open question, and answering it is of fundamental importance to any manned presence on Mars. Beyond that the whole question of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe is one of the most fundamental unanswered questions in science today, one of the top 10 if not top 5 questions.

I very strongly disagree with anyone who thinks space exploration is a total waste of money, regardless of where they sit on the political spectrum.

More than the past few decades. One can see anti-intellectual sentiment going back to the early days of the nation. Its root isn't strictly political, but is more broadly present in the culture.

While there's always been that anti-intellectualism, it hasn't always been the same as it is today. Early Americans didn't really idealize stupidity, but rather they valued practical learning and education that was more immediately applicable to their daily lives and would help them prosper rather than more theoretical ideas. Modern anti-intellectualism isn't entirely the same, but there's a lot of it that's very political in nature.
 

Horwath

Hero
The missing information isn't NASA's. The specifications of all the parts is known, yes. However, the methods used to create some of the parts was not recorded by the manufacturers, who were, I must reiterate, not NASA proper. The program was never intended to create a model of rocket that NASA would use for decades into the future. So, there wasn't a drive to collect such information (which would have been a hassle, as in some cases it was apparently proprietary, not industry-standard practice). This was especially true in some of the materials for seals and other non-metal parts, where chemistry matters so much.
All of this is true and yes, many companies that produced parts for Saturn program do not exist anymore, but claims that it is impossible to make another rocket of that size and that trust just fuels the fire of conspiracy theorist that say that the whole Apollo program was staged.
I am not even going to comment those folks :D

But saying that today engineers cannot (re)make that machine with more than 50 additional years of global experience in rocketry in little insulting to those folks. Yes, todays version would not be a carbon copy of those made in 60s/70s as some things would have to made by new companies and some parts would made anew, and also some parts would be much better(and maybe cheaper) if made with todays technology.

One fact is also true that, when you adjust for inflation, you can get 11-12 Atlas V launches for one Saturn V. And as we can see today NASA budget is 9× smaller than in the 60s we can see why they are even not trying to build one.
Other reason is that they obviously decided that there is nothing new that can be found on Lunar surface to justify this huge cost.
 

I'm just stunned whenever people say "Why are we doing this?". I'm sure when people were working on the first aircrafts, there were folks who asked the same question. Why bother? What is the point? Now thousands of people fly across the earth every day.

And as stated, the question whether life exists (or existed) on Mars is one of the most important in science today. It may shed light on where we come from, and if there might be life on other planets.
 

Horwath

Hero
I'm just stunned whenever people say "Why are we doing this?". I'm sure when people were working on the first aircrafts, there were folks who asked the same question. Why bother? What is the point? Now thousands of people fly across the earth every day.

And as stated, the question whether life exists (or existed) on Mars is one of the most important in science today. It may shed light on where we come from, and if there might be life on other planets.
people said that humans cannot survive train speed because it's faster than human running...

And yes, if we can prove that there was life on Mars, then we can say that Space is full of it. 1 planet in Solar system could be a cosmic accident, but two planets? Next to each other? Yes, there will always be a theory that life was brought to Earth from Mars, or vice-versa.
 

Retreater

Legend
I guess my practical side is saying if you don't find the evidence of life on Mars, will you stop looking on Mars? Likely not. It will be another rover checking again and again until, well, forever. It's like sending a satellite into space to try to find God.
Contrasting it to the manned flight on earth scientific advancement - we knew it was possible to fly. We had been doing it for years with balloons and gliders and saw birds doing it. We just had to develop the technology to do it ourselves. So if Mars had some evidence of life that we could observe from earth, and then we sent a rover in an attempt to make contact or study it, that would be a comparison to manned flight. We have been observing Mars for 40+ years (20+ years with other rovers) and have found nothing. Time to move on.
Sending rovers to Mars is the equivalent of rednecks throwing different things on a fire to see what will happen.
 

ART!

Hero
Not wanting to stray too far into politics, but I will note that it seems to me there has been a marked dismissal of science, math, learning, knowledge, and experts in general in a portion of American society over the last few decades. That attitude has consequences that we are seeing today.

Though I am heartened by the efforts to focus on STEM over the last few years, and I am also buoyed by projects like Perseverance.

More than the past few decades. One can see anti-intellectual sentiment going back to the early days of the nation. Its root isn't strictly political, but is more broadly present in the culture.
There are strains of conservative (note the small "c") thinking that actively disdain knowledge.

(I had this pointed out to me years ago by a fairly conservative, very intelligent, devoutly religious relative - whom I really like and respect despite disagreeing with them on myriad issues. That observation changed how I see a lot of things.)
 

I guess my practical side is saying if you don't find the evidence of life on Mars, will you stop looking on Mars? Likely not. It will be another rover checking again and again until, well, forever. It's like sending a satellite into space to try to find God.

Not really. We know for a fact that life exists, and that our effort to look for it is there for not pointless. And even if we didn't find it on Mars, there are plenty of other things to study about Mars that will broaden our understanding of our galaxy. These missions are very directed and precise. It is not even in the same ballpark, or the same continent, as sending a satellite into space to find god.

So if Mars had some evidence of life that we could observe from earth, and then we sent a rover in an attempt to make contact or study it, that would be a comparison to manned flight.

That kind of defeats the point of going there doesn't it? If we knew there was life already, we didn't need to go looking for it. And it's not like we don't have reasons to believe there 'could be' (or could have been) life on Mars, at some point in time. Mars has ice. Mars had water. Therefor the Rover is investigating a delta we spotted.

We have been observing Mars for 40+ years (20+ years with other rovers) and have found nothing. Time to move on.

No, we have observed Mars from very far away for a long while. But we have only started investigating the surface of Mars for a couple of years. Only now is the technology far enough to enable us to do that. Plus we've only investigated a very small area of Mars.

Would you investigate one part of a desert on earth, and conclude there is no life on earth because you didn't find it there? Thats how silly that sounds.

Sending rovers to Mars is the equivalent of rednecks throwing different things on a fire to see what will happen.

That quote just betrays an embarassing lack of understanding of NASA's work, and how science explores the galaxy. When you explore another planet, you don't know what you'll find ahead of time. But it takes years of planning, testing, preparations and research. Previous missions have given us tons of valuable data, and this one will yield much much more. Especially once the samples are returned to earth, and we can study them in our own labs. You think we are just tossing random rovers at random planets?

I'm sorry if studying space rocks isn't as interesting as finding a giant crashed alien spaceship to you. But in science we study to learn. And if you care about learning new things, space rocks are plenty exciting.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
(I had this pointed out to me years ago by a fairly conservative, very intelligent, devoutly religious relative - whom I really like and respect despite disagreeing with them on myriad issues. That observation changed how I see a lot of things.)

I'm going to step this away from politics and religion, and cast it in a different light. It can be seen as an upshot of our persistent ideal of rugged individualism and exceptionalism.

Our iconic hero is the cowboy - a man of no particular learning or understanding of the world, with some animal handling skill which is largely irrelevant to our story, who comes into town and, knowing little to nothing about the situation, and through not being willing to take crap from anyone and a few well-placed bullets, solves problems the locals haven't been able to deal with for years. He then gets the girl as a prize, and rides off to the next town, presumably to solve its problems as well.

Our persistent myth is that you (for every particular "you" - for ART! and Horwath and me and Imaculata and every other of the 300+ million people in the nation) can be/do whatever you want to be/do. You can do this by dint of persistence and can-do spirit - actually understanding anything is a tertiary consideration, behind grit and personal attractiveness. This is very convenient, because learning things is hard, and everyone imagines they have grit.

These kind of myths set us up for failure, because they are untrue, and they characterize failure as a lack of the few valued virtues - and since nobody wants to admit they lack the valued virtues, they find scapegoats - typically folks who succeeded by actually knowing what they are doing, or people in out-groups.
 

Retreater

Legend
You think we are just tossing random rovers at random planets?
No, but we are doing the most convenient one, and have been stuck on Mars for decades.
We are (hopefully) learning how to do this on more promising locations.
Mars is like one of those Star Wars planets. It's uniform because of the environment there. It's all rock and desert. And at the rate we're exploring the cosmos, I'll be long dead before anything interesting happens.
 

These kind of myths set us up for failure, because they are untrue, and they characterize failure as a lack of the few valued virtues - and since nobody wants to admit they lack the valued virtues, they find scapegoats - typically folks who succeeded by actually knowing what they are doing, or people in out-groups.

That was beautiful.
 

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