Sir Edmund Burke once penned, "The first and simplest emotion, which we discover in the human mind, is curiosity." Evidently so; however, curiosity seemed to peak at NASA. The shuttle program was closed. We were done with those small steps for mankind. And the space station? Meh. Little did we know there was some curiosity blossoming at NASA for the past decade...and it landed on Mars this week!
Moreover, NASA wanted to capitalize on America's inner dork, so it called upon James Tiberius Kirk and Wil Wheaton to narrate the riveting "Seven Minutes of Terror" landing video for us all to enjoy. And probably to bemuse its investors in the $2.5 billion price tag. Think about it: 10 years, $2.5 billion, Star Trek. You think someone wants to bring some sexy back to the space PR department? Indeed.
Question: Will it work? Only if you are "curious" about the Red Planet. Of course, "Total Recall" is back in theaters and...oh, spoiler alert, they screwed up the movie. Moving on...does this move create a public-relations solid for NASA? It seems this move has reinvigorated interest in space. #Curiosity was trending worldwide on Twitter. NASA was blowing up on Google. And there's even a nice little handle if you care to tweet the little space program that could. According to the L.A. Times story:
It's not a gamble for public buy-in if the space probe doesn't find much, at least according to the guys with four-inch glasses. It seems that since 1976, Mars probes have only explored a few square miles of the planet. Perhaps the best quote about Curiosity is from a national space writer and author of "Martian Summer," Andrew Kessler.
The real goal of the mission — a hunt for the building blocks of life and signs that Earth's creatures may not be alone in the universe — is just beginning. Curiosity is expected to revolutionize the understanding of Mars, gathering evidence of whether the planet is or was capable of fostering life, probably in microbial form.
I would concur with that, Mr. Kessler. The "bigger and better" things in question these scientists of outer space are hoping to construct are "headlines." And with them comes "jobs," "salaries," and "retirement benefits."
If we don't ponder these things, then we're not asking ourselves the right questions and we're not looking to build bigger and better futures for ourselves.
And in this economy — "onward and upward," I always say.