No question, the color photos from NASA’s Spirit Rover on Mars are exciting, and the potential for discovering more about the Red Planet is downright exhilarating. Scientists and technicians from NASA deserve hearty congratulations.
The landing has even uncovered an unexpected and “strangely cohesive” (as science investigator Steve Squyres put it) subsurface material that scientists would like to investigate further. When the rover starts moving around, the pictures should be great.
This is the kind of thing NASA should be doing — exploration and relatively pure science. Unfortunately, NASA does a lot of other things, whose net result has been to deter progress in the human exploration and use of space.
“It’s tragic how little we’ve progressed beyond the Apollo moon landings as NASA has become a fossilized bureaucracy that has used taxpayer money to venture into blind alleys and precluded the commercial development of space,” Robert A. Poole said. Poole is director of transportation studies at the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation and a longtime space enthusiast.
Poole believes the shuttle and the space station have wasted resources and pre-empted private-sector activities that could have yielded exciting advances. He notes that even so, suborbital technologies are moving ahead, and he is excited that aviator Burt Rutan’s Spaceship One last month broke the sound barrier and could win the X Prize, sponsored by a foundation in St. Louis.
NASA should do research and let the voluntary and commercial sectors do the rest.
That’s the lesson of the Spirit rover.