Spirit is willing, but NASA’s wallet is weak

Looks as though budget cuts are forcing NASA to put one of the Mars rovers, Spirit, to sleep — possibly permanently — while the other, Opportunity, may have to go to half-duty. Sadly, both rovers are still very capable of operating and are still exploring and sending data, having far outlived their predicted three-month mission and beginning what would be their fifth year now on the red planet.

An AP article on this can be read here: “Cut Forces NASA to Park a Mars Rover”

I know there is much legitimate debate about just how much of the money going to NASA is well spent (“There are so many other more worthy/important/pressing priorities,” “Why are we looking for life up there when we are busy messing it up down here,” etc.), and I do not plan to weigh in on that debate here. If you wish to weigh in yourself in the comments section, please feel free — just be nice.

However, I must say that I was very enamored with the rover missions from the start and followed them fairly closely during the first year. My kids were very interested, too, and we built Lego models of the rovers and viewed many an animation and photograph on the Internet. I remember after hearing that one of the rovers (I don’t recall which) had traveled some particular distance (I don’t recall how far), I took a stroll outside our house that was roughly the same distance just to get a feel for it. The idea of walking along such a distant shore, if you will, was just fascinating to me.

Wasteful or profitable, harmful or beneficial, missions such as theirs — in my opinion — are products, at least in part, of the truth expressed by the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 3:11 when he says, “He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.”

In fact, I think the rovers’ mission expresses both truths of that statement… There is a longing in man for something greater for himself, and a craving to find that something. And, yet, the fullness of the beauty of that “something” we can only know and find in part, until the day when the whole of it is revealed to us:

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”

1 Corinthians 13:12

I look forward to that day when I shall know just as I also am known.

4 thoughts on “Spirit is willing, but NASA’s wallet is weak

  1. Thomas

    It is endeavours such as the Mars rover missions and others like it that have the ability to lift us up out of ourselves by making us ponder the larger questions. While a case can be made that the money could be better spent elsewhere the question that springs to mind is would the money actually be re-allocated to boost truly worthwhile endeavours? Would it be used for the betterment of mankind? What does the track record of those who hold the purse strings suggest their real priorities are?
    Having said that I also acknowledge that it also requires peace and prosperity to channel the required resources into this type of exploration where there may not be any kind of immediate payoff. Still, I for one would be sorry to see the U.S space programme severely scaled back or even shut down. Being able to explore for the sake of exploration really is a blessing from God. I agree entirely with the sentiments you expressed. It makes our spirits soar.

  2. Compared to the overall budgets of the nations involved, space exploration by robot probes is an inexpensive thing, and reaps rewards in both knowledge and spinoff technologies. I understand that it’s the emphasis on the ISS and especially on a manned return to the Moon and the manned exploration of Mars that’s crippling NASA’s budget — no doubt among other things, such as overall congressional approval or disapproval.

    We’ve already proven many times over that the human body simply isn’t all that well adapted to space exploration. (I guess it’s hard for modern humans to take Psalms 115:16 seriously.) The use of increasingly clever machines to do space exploration sounds like a sensible idea to me. Our bodies can follow when our minds are made ready and our bodies are transformed accordingly.

  3. Craig

    Just watched the IMAX/Disney DVD “Roving Mars” this week. Fantastic! And awe inspiring what the creative mind of man can achieve. How sad…

    Designed for 90 days exploration at a cost of $820 million, they are now still functioning well into their fourth year. Since operating costs are $20 million a year, it is a bargain carrying on science on Mars compared to new missions.

    Compare this to the Iraq war at a cost of $12 Billion a month ($16B including Afghanistan) and total estimated bill at $3 Trillion! And over four thousand Americans dead—none one of which was lost roving Mars! Each dead soldier’s family gets a government check for $500,000.

    Did I say inspiring what man can achieve? I take that back. Budget cuts and the Iraq war show that perhaps the artificial intelligence on Mars is more inspiring than human intelligence back on Earth.

  4. Pingback: Phoenix almost on Mars « Thoughts En Route

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