As a school kid I sat wide-eyed and excited as I watched Neil Armstrong take his first step on the moon. The excitement of the Apollo lunar landings continued for a few years, until the exorbitant monetary costs of putting a man on the moon could no longer be justified, particularly to a nation of Americans who were by now becoming critical of funding being pumped into lunar landings at the expense of social issues at home.
Nothing NASA had done since the moon landings triggered the same excitement until the recent landing on Mars by the Curiosity rover. And financially it was a steal, with the project costing ‘only’ US$2.5B. That’s $2,500,000,000.
It’s not a lot of money for a country whose defense budget this year is US$851B. That’s $851,000,000,000. As an aside, the defense budget in 2002 – after the 9/11 attacks – was a mere US$329B.
I’m not saying that the US doesn’t need a massive defense budget – far from it. They are, allegedly, guardians of the free world.
But back home who are they defending? These people:
The ranks of America’s poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net.
Census figures for 2011 will be released this fall in the critical weeks ahead of the November elections.
The Associated Press surveyed more than a dozen economists, think tanks, and academics, both nonpartisan and those with known liberal or conservative leanings, and found a broad consensus: The official poverty rate will rise from 15.1 percent in 2010, climbing as high as 15.7 percent. Several predicted a more modest gain, but even a 0.1 percentage point increase would put poverty at the highest level since 1965.
That equates to 47,100,000 people. If the Curiosity budget was given to those people they would have received $53 each. Not a lot, is it? But the poor get nothing in America.
Poverty levels are increasing as is the defense budget. And now they spend money sending a little machine to Mars.
Has anybody told them there isn’t any poverty on Mars?
Will there eventually be criticism from the American people against the cost of going to Mars, as there was to the Apollo missions four decades ago?