Mars. Mars! I mean, seriously – Mars!!!
Essentially, the above is why I haven’t written anything about the landing of the Curiosity Rover so far – every time I start to do some research for it, I see a new video of how the amazing landing was carried out. And now, they’ve started releasing actual pictures of actual Mars!
Personally, when I look at that photo, I am absolutely mind blown. To think, this is a picture of a place where I expect no human will tread in my lifetime. An absolutely, totally unobtainable goal, but one that could have all sorts of ramifications in everyday life. Sometimes, you don’t need a reason to perform experiments, they can just feel right – and this mission to Mars feels so right!
People are always sceptical when it comes to spending big money on abstract science – the LHC is a prime example on this. I did a project on this at university and the question I was constantly asked (by scientists as well!) is “What’s the point of all this?” To which I could only answer “No idea!” The fact is, so many things we take for granted nowadays come through investigating the theory first and discovering the practical applications later. Edison was once asked what the point was in all the time he spent investigating the harnessing of electricity. His response? “I know not what use it may be, but I do know that one day it may be taxable”
While the focus on the commercial aspects do not paint him in a good light, Edison was correct here in saying that there is simply nothing wrong with understanding nature better – and sometimes, what to do with that knowledge is only self-evident once you’ve committed to gaining it. Funding to NASA has been slashed, with the high cost-per-launch rates often cited. Commercial rivals are already claiming that they can improve on the costs of recent NASA launches.
I have to wonder, with commercial research being carried out, is there room for knowledge for knowledge’s sake? Obviously there is a time and a place for product-orientated investigations, but when it comes to the BIG projects, I don’t believe we can afford to ignore the need for the really base understanding that the “abstract” science focuses on. Government funding, both here, in the USA and elsewhere is essential and these images of Mars – and the dream of one day reaching that surface – is to my mind, all the inspiration any country will ever need.
The first images of full, laser-based chemical analysis or Martian rocks. Again, MARS!!!!