Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Phoenix - what's the point?

“What’s the point of sending that to Mars, it’s a waste of money. We should give that money to the poor.”

Krep. Nothing pushes my buttons like reading stuff like that. [1]

I've got nothing against charity. We all need a hand sometimes. But let's put this in perspective.

This article says there are 37 million poor in the United States. Go with that figure. [2]

Government figures are hard to nail down - Nasawatch claims $420 million for the Phoenix lander.

>> 420000000/37000000
=> 11

If we smeared the cost of the Phoenix Lander into a thin paste and divided it up even-steven we could buy all the poor people in the US a nice lunch at Applebees.

In the meantime we’ve lost whatever science data the mission will yield. We don’t know the economic benefit of this but in the past such returns have been huge - the way of life that enables me to type and you to read comes from unexpected riches derived from scientific research.

If we buy every poor schmo in America a single meal at a cheap restaurant .. jobs have been lost because we’re not paying tens of thousands of people to build the rocket, the probe, to monitor and direct the mission. They’re not all rocket scientists - no small percentage of the people involved with the mission - NASA, JPL, contractors, sub-contractors - are just people. Some of them are officially poor persons who sweep floors and clean out toilets.

Now they’re really poor because they don’t have a job.

They have lunch, so that's something. If they're canny they'll save back part of their meal for take-home so they can eat it for dinner.

[1] Outlanders disrespecting the Green Machine, will do it as well.
[2] We can ignore the snide 'holier than thou' tone of the article.
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