I watched the NASA livestream of the Curiosity rover landing on Mars last night and made some connections to an episode of Space Brothers I had seen earlier that day.
The collective excitement among those I follow on Twitter felt similar to the happiness Mutta experienced when he realized he had found fellow space-interested people in his locked box group and was able to talk about really specific space-related things. (Personally, I’ve always had an interest in space and science fiction, though recalling star positions has been a weak point.)
After the landing, some numbers were thrown about online about how comparatively small the Curiosity mission’s cost (US$2.5 billion) was to putting on the London Olympics ($14 billion), US annual sales of potato chips ($7 billion) or even the American defense budget with the implication that money could be better spent on space exploration.
These comparison arguments for more NASA funding reminded me of another moment from Space Brothers. In episode 13, the three teams of potential astronauts are given the task of writing a rebuttal to a journalist who has criticized the amount of money put toward Japan’s space program and argued that money could be put toward societal problems.
In trying to compose a response letter, Mutta remembers hearing astronaut Soichi Noguchi explain why humans should travel into space – to gain a new view on the problems we have on Earth and a chance to find solutions to them – using a metaphor involving ants and a growing awareness of dimensions. Expanding our understanding of the universe can (hopefully) help us reconsider what we’re doing here on this pale blue dot.
I would certainly love to see manned space travel to Mars happen within the next couple of decades. Any sort of advances would inspire generations of future scientists and other people just looking up at the skies in wonder. “Let’s dare mighty things together!”
P.S. Here is a space-themed AMV based on Symphony of Science’s “A Glorious Dawn” with the late Carl Sagan on vocals.