Can you imagine sending a car to Mars? Can you imagine carefully landing it on the Martian sufrace even though there is a 14 minute delay between the time you send a signal on Earth until the time it is received on Mars? Can you imagine using your carefully-landed car to perform years of science in an inhospitable environment and then send all the data back to earth?
It’s a pretty challenging endeavor:
Can you imagine the government doing this? I can.
Mission controllers burst into applause and cheers as they received signals confirming that the car-sized rover had survived a perilous seven-minute descent NASA called the most elaborate and difficult feat in the annals of robotic spaceflight.
No big deal.
Usually these types of success stories are ignored by conservatives that like to blanket apply the Government-Bad, Private-Good Theory to every possible scenario. I’m sure this will not be any different.
I’ve had a few arguments with these types of people regarding the value of government funded space exploration. Typically the answer is that NASA doesn’t do anything worthwhile. And if it does provide some benefit, then if NASA hadn’t done it, the market would have stepped up and given us a moon landing anyway… or something. I could go on a long rant about the value of exploration in general, market failures under high-risk/long-horizon investment conditions, stimulated educational desires and incentives, and even make a ROI argument based on past government R&D investments and their outcomes. Instead, I’ll just let Elon Musk, the actual creator/engineer/investor of a private space passenger and cargo company tell you what he thinks:
What I really want to do is acknowledge the critical role of NASA. I could not have started SpaceX without the great work done by NASA. We would not have come this far — we would not be where we are today without the help of NASA, all the people of NASA, particularly the engineers.
So there’s that. And now I’ll just toss this in here because you should watch it, even if you’ve seen it already.
Go Curiosity! The vehicle and the emotion.