Jeremy Hobson: We have touched down on Mars! The NASA rover Curiosity landed on the surface of the red planet late last night. And it was all hugs at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in California. That’s because it took a lot of work — and money — to make this moment possible.
Marketplace’s Eve Troeh reports.
Eve Troeh: The costs of interplanetary exploration are, indeed, astronomical. The previous Mars rovers, named Spirit and Opportunity, cost about $1 billion; the little tank-like vehicle that landed today cost $2.5 billion.
But Pamela Conrad, a key scientist on the mission at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says no one there is thinking: “Did it cost too much?” They’re only thinking:
Pamela Conrad: We’re on Mars!
And what about the public reaction?
Conrad: Well given the number of hits to our various NASA websites tonight, I would say that sentiment is well-shared.
Conrad says a high-profile mission like this one spurs interest, and spending, on science education. And encourages public investment in technology that can seem like a long-shot, at first.
Conrad: I think that any great country has to have a diversified portfolio of investments, both in terms of its intellectual pursuits and its financial investments.
No speculation on future funding — though Mars research is slated for cuts next year. For now, Conrad says, she’s glued on images of Mars.
I’m Eve Troeh for Marketplace.