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May 23, 2008

Your Turn to Blog: Is the Mars trip worth the Money?

Posted: 12:12 PM ET

Okay, I'm going to try and channel Jack Cafferty to ask this question:

We're spending $420 million US tax dollars on the Phoenix Mars Lander mission. (and another $37 million or so from Canada).

Is it worth it?  Where does Mars and space exploration fit in on your priority list?

Is learning more about space a key to our future?

Or do you think we're better off spending the money here?

Blog away, just be polite to each other.

Peter Dykstra   Executive Producer   CNN Science & Tech

Filed under: Uncategorized


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spacewriter   May 23rd, 2008 3:06 pm ET

Peter,

I've just blogged about this mission, but didn't delve into the questions you ask here. Why ask those questions? Why not ask what it is that people understand about the science that will be done. And how that same science relates to us on Earth?

Science missions aren't just about the money - they'll always be about the money. You have to ask the same questions about them that you do about what we we expect to learn from medical research or geology here on Earth or any of the other science projects that humans do. How do they help us know more about the universe? What do you (as a viewer) know about the science? Are you (as a viewer) interested in it?

Casting it as a money question simply pre-sorts the answers you're going to get - and as a journalist myself, I find that to be setting yourself up to have a "foregone conclusion" in your story. Not very journalistic - or scientific - for that matter.

People don't always have enough information to formulate an answer to the question "is it worth it?" Or the other questions you've asked. It's not fair to them or CNN to ask such a question without context. Leave that kind of pre-digested pap up to Fox News or the Moonie networks... I expect better from CNN.


Bill   May 23rd, 2008 3:20 pm ET

Spending on science and research has always raied a question mark with the general public who cannot always perceive an immediate worth or justification since they are accustomed to a quick mental sum – a cost-benefit analysis.

Is it justified, perhaps not, at least not immediately, but should we do it? YES, of course.

Here's a true story – sometime in the mid 19th century, the Prince of Wales visited the laboratory of Michael Faraday, who is today considered the 'father of electricity'. After a guided tour of impressive looking gadgets and experiments, the Price asked Faraday, "Well, Michael, its all quite fine & dandy, but what's the use of all these things?" To which Faraday replied : "Whats the use of a new born baby? Your highness, I'm sure you'll be earning taxes on these one day." Sure enough, 30 years later, electric equipment started being taxed & goes on to this day.

Here's the last thought: $420 million sounds a lot? Thats just 2 days in Iraq war spending. Or half a day of US defence spending. Worthwhile?


DaveFrehley   May 23rd, 2008 4:00 pm ET

Two words:

Total Recall


pc   May 23rd, 2008 5:04 pm ET

If we were not spending so much more than this on other things like the iraq war, or the $$ we blow on many other useless things (pork barell projects, over the many years) and many other waste...I would say its not worth it.

But untill we cut back on taxes (we are taxed too much already) and no, Im not wealthly by any view other than liberals who think having any $$ makes one wealthy. Untill then I will say we should continue all robotic exploration.

Now if u talk Manned, I might debate value.
But till we get a real spaceship that can really travel to other planets and stars I might not really care about true exploration.


pt   May 23rd, 2008 5:07 pm ET

Gov is always looking at ways to tax... or to double tax the same thing...

Even divident cap gains...etc...

If not for the cap gains I would be very poor.
But the cap gains helps me survive.
It is in fact, 65% of my income and without it I am actually legally poor.

I am forced to use part of the gains to surive, while middle class & better might wait till retirement to use their gains.

Fortunately the other part of my gains are inside IRA's so I am partially protected on taxes.


pdykstra   May 23rd, 2008 5:46 pm ET

Spacewriter,

Thanks for an articulate defense of the Mars mission, and space exploration.

But you'll get no apologies from me for asking what I think is a valid question. If you take a look at the "comments" area of just about any of the other posts on this blog, you'll see that our readers are all over the map on just about every issue, and all of them are welcome to be heard.

If you cover space, you know well that there is both great enthusiasm and great ambivalence toward space exploration in general, and NASA specifically. If you blog on space, you've surely blogged on the various efforts, often successful, to cut NASA's budget. I'd take that as a pretty good clue that some people - including some that we've elected - don't share your convictions.

And if you're a journalist, you shouldn't be offended by asking a question just because you may not like some of the answers.

Some folks have no desire to pay taxes to fund a war. Others have no desire to pay taxes to fund public schools and hospitals. Inside that framework, I think asking a question about taxes funding a Mars mission is pretty tame. I certainly can't see how that's bad journalism.

Two final things: I'm as interested in space exploration as you are - and not just because covering it is part of my job.
and: I'm kind of surprised that there are so few responses - but the ones that are out there mostly agree with you.

Thanks
PD


Seth   May 23rd, 2008 6:44 pm ET

Most of the modern day inventions that we use, computers, velcro, diapers, solar power, hydrogen, communications, medicine.......All of these things are a result of the space program.

To assume that these projects are completely worthless would be a wrong assessment.

The question that everyone should ask is: Do these projects make sense, and is the price correct?

It took 10 other NON-moon landings before we landed on the moon. There were also un-manned probes that surveyed the moon. Many of these mission have piggy back missions that no one hears about unless there is a break through. Also keep that in mind........


Mike   May 23rd, 2008 7:20 pm ET

If we're going to ask if space exploration is worth while, and it is, we should also ask how many U.S. tax dollars do we spend on the military and many of its projects and endeavours?

With that question said, you better believe a mission to Mars is worth the meager sums that pale in comparison to our military budget. In many ways the past and current missions to Mars are long-term investments. They are the first scouts that will pave the way for further exploration, and eventually colonization, of our red neighbor. The earth only has a limited supply of resources, and our descendants will no doubt have to look beyond Earth's dim horizon for a new wealth of natural resources and habitable zones (assuming Mars will eventually be terraformed via technology and human innovation).

I personally believe there should be more taxes, especially on the top one percent of earners in this country (to 70% of their income), as well as on foreign imports that do not adhere to our environmental and labor standards, and a considerable amount more should be spent on space exploration; not less...even more should be spent on educating our children to be the next generation of engineers and scientists that will take us beyond Mars to a future in which asteroids are mined for their precious metals, space tourism becomes an American, and extremely profitable, industry and the United States dominates the space industry, as we have, and hopefully always will.


Lyle Johnson   May 23rd, 2008 7:47 pm ET

Space exploration is one of the areas in which we can peacefully compete, as well as cooperate, internationally. It is an area in which there is little immediate monetary gain to be realized, yet the dollars spent by the government remain, for the most part, in the domestic economy. As one of my friends observed about the Apollo program, "We don't have a cash flow problem with the Moon. The money is staying right here."

By challenging ourselves to do difficult things, we learn how to do things better and more efficiently. If the technology, knowledge and experience we gain by exploration does not trickle back into the economy, it's not necessarily the fault of the team exploring. It might just be related to policy problems.

At a time when we have huge deficits and staggering debt, everything the government spends money on must be questioned. Exploration of space is one of those things that can't be done by private enterprise; the dollars go straight into our economy, it generates positive attitudes toward our nation. Some of these benefits may be intangible, but that doesn't make them without value.


Bruce Treffinger   May 23rd, 2008 9:25 pm ET

The only the question the future would ask us about interplanetary travel is:

What took you so long?

not

Why did you spend the money?


sciteacher   May 23rd, 2008 11:20 pm ET

Worth it?? I always have a few students in every class that won't pay attention no matter the topic.....until we get to space. They have a hundred questions a day about every space topic. These are 7th and 8th graders we are talking about so anything that all of them are intereted in is more than worth exploring!!

sciteacher


Spectator   May 23rd, 2008 11:50 pm ET

To me the question is not if it's worth it, but if it is the right time. The truth of the matter is we are in a expensive war and in the middle of an economic downfall. I feel the the first thing our goverment shold be focusing on is the lives of every person in the country. When we are a little more stable again, then i feel we should continue exploration into space. Do not take me wrong though, I am a avid supporter of space exploration just i feel this country comes first.


Romaro   May 24th, 2008 3:50 am ET

Spending money to go to Mars is worth every penny. This exploration mission is a small step to further our steps into creating technology to take us further into space travel and as we learn more about space travel we might find our next energy source, new medical break throughs, innovative technology, more scientific discoveries,who knows all our answers could be aimed toward the stars.


Andy Freedman   May 24th, 2008 4:35 am ET

With all of the displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina who need jobs and housing and with all the other social problems here at home I think it's a collosal waster of money to try and explore Mars.We can't find the money to create jobs and housing for Katrina Victims who were displaced from their homes by a private mercenary Army BlackWater Security but we can find the money for this.

Plus unlike the Moon which an Astronaut landed succsesfully on,Mars is a planet with what appears to be a unsafe atmosphere.The Ancient Romans,Bablyonians,and Victorian Englishmen had beliefs about the dangers that exist on the planet Mars.I think it is safe to continue our study and exploration of the Moon but the planet Mars should be avoided


CB_Brooklyn   May 24th, 2008 5:47 am ET

There's a very interesting collection of photos that few have seen, all compiled in a PowerPoint presentation. Take a look:

Mars Anomalies
http://www.checktheevidence.co.uk/cms/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=159&Itemid=59


art reckinger   May 24th, 2008 9:56 am ET

A mission to mars sometime in the future is quite worthwhile because it drives technology. BUT I believe that a significant portion of the near- in Mars Mission money should be diverted to developing high efficiency, very low cost solar cells, or solar media. Who better to do that than NASA. Right now on our own planet we have twin crises, energy and global warming. Imagine if the cost of solar media were reduced to the price of good roof shingles, with the efficiency improved by 1.5 to 2x, such that the media was quite productive in areas with lower solar capacity. Then imagine that every sun facing roof in America were roofed with solar collecting media and connected to the electrical grid. This approach would directly replace a major portion of our electrical energy requirements. It's even conceivable that since solar is obviously generated only during daylight hours that the excess generation could be directed towards the production of hydrogen, as opposed to attempting to store the excess. Right now and in the next few years we need to focus our NASA technology money on solving the immediate global crises.


John   May 24th, 2008 10:38 am ET

The money is more than worth it. NASA has been the most successful government-funded program since its inception in 1958. Think about it.... on a budget that was only a fraction of 1% of US tax dollars, NASA was able to put 12 men on the moon less than 8 years after getting the first man into space! If we gave some other branch of the government that much money, could they solve world hunger? End homelessness? Solve the problem behind record gas prices? We've spent roughly a trillion dollars in Iraq, almost 2400 times what NASA spent on Phoenix! The problem here isn't justifying whether or not NASA's expenditures are worth it – the problem is every other piece of our government and the horribly amounts of money that they burn through while getting nothing done. I for one am proud of the accomplishments of NASA and saddened by the rest of the government.


Adam   May 24th, 2008 1:34 pm ET

The reason the US economy is the largest in the world is because we have brought the world some of the most innovative and breakthrough technologies. Most of the the technologies that we bring foward have started in government funded programs. Spending money on science not only broadens our understanding of the world around us(and the universe around us) but also funds furture potential breakthroughs that could jumpstart the economy. Considering the relative small cost of the project, I think is definietly worth the money we spend on it.


stop spending   May 24th, 2008 2:43 pm ET

useless spending stop blowing up other countries costing billions and then rebuilding them costing billions. Mars is of no use to us it is uninhabitable, just a rock. spend our tax dollars improving our country and feeding our hungary children. Our society and our economy can't take much more of this nonsense. There are better things to use the money for. We had 2 rovers there already how much did that cost us and what did it get us. NOTHING.


Aussie Jane   May 24th, 2008 3:43 pm ET

Mars in fact is very habitable, we can build modules, and domes and live there quite a long time, recycling the water, and the air. However, my personal preference is to keep sending machines there. Humans are far too fragile and consume too many resources to send there for a while. Well-engineered robots like Spirit, Opportunity, and hopefully Phoenix can provide excellent scientific data without the enormous cost of sending a manned mission.


steve pagnozzi   May 24th, 2008 3:46 pm ET

I was 21 years old when man landed on the moon, and I've been an ardent supporter of manned missions since. We need to explore and we need to gain momentum even with all the challenges we have here on earth. Common Sense dictates, the earth isn't getting any larger but our populations are, albeit, at a slower level. But that isn't the only reason, it's mankind's quest for knowledge. We think of ourselves as advanced, but in the broad context of humanity we are very primitive. I believe there are civilizations out there and, by the way, I also believe in a Supreme Being as well. More Missions, manned and unmanned, colonization. Thanks. Steve and Nelly Pagnozzi


stop spending   May 24th, 2008 5:36 pm ET

If we go at the pace we are you will need a module to live on earth after we have destroyed it. Responsibillity has to be taken here and it obviously isn't why would you think mars would be the answer. Take a planet that is nothing and try to revive it when we can't even take care of this one. Good Luck.


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