Life on Mars

So NASA has successfully landed the Phoenix robot on Mars. At a reported cost of around $300 million. That figure is almost certainly low. Does it include the salaries of the ground team who will be operating the robot? The cost of the rocket? The cost of the R&D required to build the rocket? Or is that just the price tag for the robot itself?

I don’t know, and it would take more than a few minutes of web crawling to find out, so let’s just accept the figure at face value.

I guess I was as excited as anybody to learn the results of the first couple of Mars expeditions. But those results seem pretty conclusive: Ain’t nothin’ up there but a great big ball of red rock.

Continuing to send spacecraft Marsward is surely a huge waste of money, even if it’s “only” $300 million. Mars will still be there in a hundred years. It won’t have changed a bit. In the meantime, that money could be put to far, far better use here on Earth.

Here’s an idea: Identify the 300 inner-city schools that are in the worst shape, and give each of them a million bucks.

Of course, there would have to be some guidelines. Not a cent could be spent on administrator salaries. All of it would have to go to raising the salaries of teachers, hiring more teachers, providing basic supplies for students, and/or repairing the building.

A million bucks doesn’t go very far these days. But having a million extra in your school’s budget would let you do a lot of very worthwhile things.

How about it, NASA? Is there intelligent life on Earth?

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