Saturday, November 17, 2007

Mars Rover better than man in space

Look up at the moon, and think that mankind has landed there, jumped around, driven several cars, and returned home a few days later. An incredible achievement.

Look up at Mars, and know that right now as I type mankind has a presence there, is driving around in two cars, performing experiments, sending back data. And we've been up there for almost four years!

The Mars Exploration Rover Missions' achievement is so complete and ongoing it blows my mind. This interview with one of the Rover "drivers" is the latest reminder of how great this project is (sorry for the ads and the best stuff is on page 2). But because there's no astronaut sitting in a tin can / Far across the world involved, I think politicians and NASA ignore it. The initial Mars Rover mission cost less than a billion dollars, compared with $130 billion to put astronauts in the International Space Station near earth to little purpose. So the manned mission bureaucracy is 100× the unmanned exploration, even though the unmanned are going further and longer for much cheaper.

I think politicians and NASA are out of touch with popular sentiment. Astronauts are so last century. Flyboys are first Gulf War. The idea of my presence being miles away while I'm sitting at the controls in a dark room is completely natural to everyone under 40. I want NASA and politicians to say "We're abandoning manned exploration to focus on landing autonomous craft on every planet in the solar system. Let commercial ventures and other countries fight for 300th person in Earth orbit and second place on the moon."

Go go Spirit and Opportunity!

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