There's nothing like a successful space mission to set off the smugly ignorant. “Think about the children!” they cry. They wring their moist hands over the millions and billions of dollars that they assume were wastefully blasted into space instead of used for charitable works. This morning's San Francisco Chronicle provided a perfect case in point:
But what about the hungry?Damn! The stupid is strong in this one. Did you catch the “hundreds of children”? The ignorant letter-writer doesn't even appreciate the scope of the problem she is decrying. There are millions of children in the United States alone who lack adequate supplies of food, without even taking into account the more severe problems elsewhere in the world. Totally clueless people should not be giving others advice.
The land rover Curiosity arrives on Mars safely. What a feat!
But $2 billion to find water on a planet when hundreds of children go to bed hungry, when teachers, police and firefighters are dismissed? Where are our priorities?
People might say, “But look what we get from our space travel.” When a child says, “Mommy, I'm hungry,” does her mother say, “I know honey, but isn't it wonderful we have Teflon”? What a country.
RMS-O, San Francisco
That, however, is not my main point. I want to underscore the stupidity of blaming NASA's budget for our failure to ameliorate social ills. As Isaac Asimov pointed out decades ago, it makes no sense to take money from one worthy cause to fund a different worthy cause when so many unworthy money-pits are right under our noses. The cost of the Curiosity mission was reported at approximately $2.5 billion (which the Associated Press foolishly cited as “budget-busting”). That total amount would barely have covered three days of the misbegotten war in Iraq. And you may recall that war did last a little over three days.
That sheds a slender ray of perspective-giving light on the subject, doesn't it?
Let's take up a contribution to shoot the San Francisco letter-writer into space. She'll be right at home in the vacuum.