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Roving Curiosity: Why NASA's Jaw Dropping Mars Mission Is Worth Every Penny

NASA's role—"to reveal the unknown for the benefit of all humanity"—could never be fulfilled by the profit-oriented, risk-averse private sector.


At 9:44pm last Sunday evening, I walked into Griffith Observatory, perched high above Los Angeles, to witness an event. It wouldn’t involve a telescope—the city’s glow drowns the stars out so effectively that during the power outage following the Northridge earthquake, police received calls from concerned citizens about how strange the sky looked. The event I'd come to see was to take place far beyond the reach of the Observatory's telescopes.

Eight months ago, NASA and Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory strapped a car-sized rover worth $2.5 billion to the top of an Atlas V rocket and sent it on a one-way ride to the red planet. Now, on the evening of August 5th of the following year, the Curiosity Rover was landing. In 40 minutes, it would begin to enter the thin atmosphere, the first step in the most audacious, batshit crazy, there-is-no-way-that’ll-work landing sequence ever devised. Because it takes 14 minutes for signals traveling at the speed of light to traverse the 156 million miles to Earth, Curiosity would have to do everything on its own: fully automated, without human observation. If all went according to plan, the confirmation of a successful touchdown would arrive 7 minutes after it all began: 10:31pm.

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Be a "Budget Hero" with this Cool Game to Balance the Nation's Books

Think you have the answers? Go ahead and try to balance the budget with this game, we dare you.

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Infographic: Proposed House Cuts Are Tiny Slice of the Budget Pie

Think Republicans want to cut a lot of spending? Think again. Just look how tiny that speck of savings is compared to the whole federal budget.



The White House released their own box chart infographic to explain where they want to spend the whopping $3.7 trillion in President Obama's proposed budget. But here's another, slightly more focused, and certainly more pointed, infographic from Elefint Designs. This one is focused on what is needed to balance our gargantuan national check book.

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