NASA stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
In an earlier blog I suggested that NASA actually stands for “Needless And Stupid Assignments.”
The NASA budget for fiscal year 2019 is $19.9 billion, give or take a few million.
That’s a whole lot of Needless and Stupid Assignments.
Case in point when, in late November, the folks at NASA were doing the Happy Dance:
InSight Lander had successfully landed on Mars.
It was, in my opinion, needless and stupid.
It was also expensive:
Insight Lander cost $828.8 million.
InSight – which, because our government can’t resist acronyms – stands for “Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport,” a NASA Discovery Program mission that has now placed “a single geophysical lander on Mars to study its deep interior.”
Which got me wondering, “Why is our government spending my tax dollars to ‘study’ the ‘deep interior’ of Mars, or any other aspect of Mars?”
Simple answer: Our government wants to colonize Mars with Americans before anyone else, especially the Russians, get there. That way, we get first dibs on the choicest living locations, which might look like this:
Then I started wondering, “How many tax dollars is the government spending to ‘study’ Mars?”
A million here, a million there…
As for what we’ve spent on just our Mars missions, according to my guesstimate, it’s in the neighborhood of $10 billion+. Here’s the what, when and cost:
|Insight Lander||2018||$828.8 million|
|Mars Phoenix||2007||$386 million|
|Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter||2005||$720 million|
|2001 Mars Odyssey||2001||$297 million|
|Deep Space 2||1999||$29.2 million|
|Mars Polar Lander||1999||$110 million|
|Mars Climate Orbiter||1998||$193.1 million|
|Mars Pathfinder||1996||$175 million|
|Mars Global Pathfinder||1996||$154 million|
|Mars Observer||1992||$813 million|
|Viking 1 & 2||1975||$1 billion|
|Mariner 9||1971||$5.5 million (estimate)|
|Mariner 8||1971||$5.5 million (estimate)|
|Mariner 7||1969||$5.5 million (estimate)|
|Mariner 6||1969||$5.5 million (estimate)|
|Mariner 4||1964||$5.5 million (estimate)|
|Mariner 3||1964||$83.2 million|
Keep in mind that the dollar figures are from that year. So, for example, the $83.2 million in 1964 is actually $662 million today.
Further math is your option.
And all of the above is just for study purposes. When we start talking about putting Americans on Mars, according to SpaceNews:
“Transportation costs alone could total over $100 billion before the first Mars mission in 2035. A ballpark cost of the first Mars mission in 2035 would total $230 billion. Second and subsequent missions, occurring at three-year intervals, would cost about $142 billion each.”
A billion here, a billion there…
I think that’s a lot of money to spend to go someplace that doesn’t even have a decent moon. Unlike the lovely orb that lights up our nighttime sky, Mars has a couple of puny little rocks called Phobos and Deimos, and I don’t think you’ll ever hear Creedence Clearwater Survival singing, “Bad Phobos Rising,” do you?
But to fair – and clearly I’m committed to that – let’s compare and contrast Mars and Earth:
|Average temperature?||-81 degrees Fahrenheit.||58.3 degrees Fahrenheit.|
|Cost to get there?||$10 billion+ so far.||$0 – we’re already here.|
|Great place for a destination wedding?||Takes a year to get there – a long time to wait for gifts.||We’re already here.|
|Has tallest mountain in solar system?||Yes, Olympus Mons.||Who cares?|
|Has a TV show named after it?||Mars on the National Geographic Channel.||Never watched it.|
|Has the largest dust storms in the solar system?||Yes – on Mars they can last for months and cover the entire planet.||They’re inside my house, but I’m going to do something about that – seriously.|
|Fun fact?||A 100-pound person on Earth would weigh around 38 pounds on Mars.||Now that I could get into.|
|Have pieces of Mars been found on Earth?||Yes, from meteorites ejected from Mars.||If Mars is coming to us, why are we going to it?|
|Atmosphere?||It’s mostly CO2 – carbon dioxide – the stuff that spews out of car tailpipes.||If we don’t do something pretty soon, Earth will be, too.|
So where were we? Oh, yeah – on Mars.
In a day-after-the-landing article CBS News announced:
And here it is: The InSight Lander selfie:
A selfie. Now, that makes it all worthwhile:
The most expensive selfie in the universe.
So there’s our $10 billion just to “study” Mars.
And soon, that billion here and billion there will turn into…