Dollars to Doughnuts
In August of 2012. NASA landed a highly advanced rover the size of an automobile on Mars using an innovative, one of a kind, rocket-propelled sky-crane. Hitting Mars orbit with anything is not easy and
NASA is the best in the world at doing it. This effort was historic, highly successful, employed (and continues to employ) large numbers of high-paid engineers and support staff, and raised the technology level for such landings significantly not only for Mars but for other targets all over the solar system. The science being performed by the rover is unprecedented both in quality and quantity and has redefined our view of Mars. The effort is so successful that they are planning to land another just like it and some talk about using the sky-crane for a different mission as well. As usual, there are also a bunch of benefits in direct and indirect spin-off technologies, as well as increased interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields among the rising generation as a result of Curiosity.
The total cost of that project, spread out over 8 years, has been around 2.5 Billion U.S. dollars (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Science_Laboratory). About 20% of that was the cost of the launch. It works out to about a dollar per year per citizen.
By contrast, in 2012, the same year that the rover landed, the average DAILY interest payments on the U.S. national debt were just under 1 Billion U.S. dollars. (http://www.treasurydirect.gov/govt/reports/ir/ir_expense.htm)
Which pays more?
- India, US preparing satellites to probe Martian atmosphere (ndtv.com)
- NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover Approaches ‘Cooperstown’ (spacefellowship.com)
- NASA paywalls first papers arising from Curiosity rover, I am setting them free (michaeleisen.org)
- Methane On Mars? NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finds No Sign Of Key Compound – Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com)
- Minute errors can lead to failure of Mars mission: ISRO chief (rediff.com)
- NASA Wants Investigations for a Mars 2020 Rover (marsdaily.com)
- MAVEN Mars orbiter to make launch window to study Martian atmosphere (gizmag.com)