GOOD

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.

Keep Reading Show less
Articles

What the 2.4-Cent Penny Says About America's Budget Problem

The controversy around the humble penny illustrates the challenges of getting public spending under control.


It turns out that the humble penny is a pricey coin. Specifically, each new penny coined by the government costs 2.4 cents.

My point here is not to remind you that pennies are anachronisms that ought to be dispensed with entirely—though that is true. This is actually a story about the federal budget, and why it’s so tough to manage.

Keep Reading Show less
Articles

Republican Hero: Kansas State Senator Fighting for the Arts

Kansas loves art too. Even if the governor doesn't. Meet the republican state senator who is standing up for public funding for the arts.



The public radio show Studio 360 took a local look at the budget battles over arts funding in this week's show. Host Kurt Andersen interviewed an unlikely hero in a tooth and nail fight to save state-funded arts in Kansas. Listen to how, and why Senator Roger Reitz is rallying support to saving arts in his state.

Keep Reading Show less
Articles