25 March 2008

Spirits sagging: The end of the rover missions?

NASA's Spirit rover, currently exploring Mars, was only designed for an operational life of three months. Four years later both Spirit and its sibling, Opportunity, are a bit worse for wear but still going strong. Now I've just learned that Spirit is about to be waylaid not by the harsh Martian environment nor by mechanical failure but by budget cuts: the damnable US government is too busy pissing away money in Iraq to maintain the rover mission's $20 million per year budget1. The new budget of $16 million means that Spirit will have to be put in hybernation for the forseeable future while Opportunity will have its work cut back.

So, you can spend billions of dollars a year for an illegal and incompetently managed war but not an additional $4 million to unlock the secrets of the universe? Way to stick your heads in your asses, GOP.

More details can be found at The Martian Chronicles.

1 To be fair, the feds aren't directly to blame on this. NASA is given a limited budget, and they decided that it would be better to cut the rover funding and divert the $4 million elsewhere. Still, the sucky NASA budget comes from somewhere, and that somewhere has their priorities screwed up tremendously2.

2 Hey, dems, don't you control congress now? Shouldn't you, you know, do something about this?

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At March 25, 2008 2:25 PM, Blogger langmann said...

Ok, You do realize that the Democrats have called for sweeping cuts to NASA? I mean I know everyone loves to blame Bush for everything, its so very fashionable, but at least have a look at the facts. Not that the Republican led houses have been friendly to NASA but certainly the Democrats have not including during their tenure under Clinton. Whatever his faults Bush loves NASA like he loves foreign aid to Africa and both programs have had his handiwork during his tenure there. Of course US Presidents are constained by the Congress and Senate, which as I recall also voted for the Iraq war including most of the Democrats... Maybe i'm wrong but that's the way its been AFAIS.

As to your previous post, yeah i agree most Christian preachers have a rather uneducated knowledge of atheist philosophy. Sometimes I can only shake my head in wonder when I hear things. AT the same time I have found the exact same to be true where prefessed athiests have said things about Christianity and Judism (religions I am familiar with) that are so out there I wonder if they are just making things up.

SO yeah I agree our laws which guanrantee freedom of expression and thought are very important aspects of enlightenment as best described by the pinnacle US constitution, but if you mean things like the recent section 13 garbage that promotes censorship then no I disagree

At March 25, 2008 2:37 PM, Blogger King Aardvark said...

Bush et al don't love NASA: they love the idea of spacecowboyism, sending people back to the moon, etc (yeehaw). When NASA has something scientific to say re: Earth's ecosystem, they're very happy to muzzle it. That said, upon further review, the Democrats suck greatly wrt NASA funding. So, no matter what, space exploration is in trouble for the future. Thanks for further dampening my spirits.

At March 25, 2008 2:47 PM, Blogger King Aardvark said...

And for the thing with the pastor, I'm refering to laws ensuring seperation of church and state (something I wish Canada would actually do) and things like that, not laws that get people in trouble for saying mean things.

I would hope that the ignorant atheists you refer to aren't in the same league as the pastor. At its core, atheism says only one thing: no god belief. And the pastor got that wrong.

So what did your atheists say about Christianity? That Christians believe Jesus was just a man? That people can get to heaven regardless of belief or acts? That God is just one of a big pantheon of gods? Actually, if these are what they're saying, they could just be getting their info from some small sects that aren't mainstream, since all of these have been believed by some professed Christians over the centuries.

At March 26, 2008 5:45 PM, Blogger Carlo said...

If you're criticizing the concept of government cuts to science spending (Dem. or Rep.) then I'll back you up. However, despite my enjoyment of astronomy, I do have to admit that there has to be some consideration of the expenses put into the space program versus the scientific returns.

I know that people always like to bring up wonderful technologies that have come out of the space program, however NASA is insanely expensive. I may be a bit naive, but most the of the projects that I hear about are 'exploration' based (i.e. let's see what we see). I'd love to read more about the logic of how this money is allocated and what the details are, but I've been reading a lot of stuff lately about how non-hypothesis driven, exploratory science, if not carefully thought out, can be extremely wasteful. This happens in Biology/Biochemistry as well - just something to think about...

At March 27, 2008 10:38 AM, Blogger King Aardvark said...

Carlo, it can be extremely wasteful, so they certainly have to be careful about not throwing good money after bad on some pipedream project. But that's not the case here. This is $4 million to continue one of the most successful projects in recent memory. That's not a whole lot considering what else money gets wasted on.

Besides, it's not like "let's see what we see" is that bad of a thing. In a lot of ways, it's exactly the kind of research a government funded scientific body should be doing. If there were obvious financial opportunities, someone in the private sector could do it better for cheaper.

At March 27, 2008 12:44 PM, Blogger King Aardvark said...

I just got word that NASA's changed their minds about shutting down the rovers. They will get their funding and remain active afterall. Of course, this means that the money will have to come from someplace else now. On unfortunate side-effect is that Alan Stern, NASA's Associate Administrator for Science, has resigned. Unfortunately, with tight budgets and conflicting ideas about what NASA should be doing, more tough decisions will have to be made in the future.


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