NASA Lands Rover On Mars, Achieves Time Travel

Ok, so, it seems an unmanned spaceship has landed on Mars.

And yet, to hear NASA administrator Charles Bolden and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy John P. Holdren describe the landing of the Curiosity Rover, it seems another, MUCH greater accomplishment has been achieved.

Time travel!!!

From TPM:

“Everybody should be sticking their chests out and saying ‘that’s my rover on Mars,’” said NASA administrator Charles Bolden in a livestream of the scene at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasenda, California.

“Even long odds are no match for America’s combination of technical acumen and gutsy determination,” said John P. Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, in a news conference in Pasadena following the launch. “If anyone has doubts about U.S. leadership in space, there’s a one-ton piece of American ingenuity and it’s sitting on the surface of Mars and it should put any doubts to rest.”

These pronouncements so uncannily resemble the kind of rhetoric from the Space Race of the 1950s and 1960s, when I read them I truly could not believe that they weren’t from that period. It seemed to me that Bolden and Holdren had either traveled through time, or they’d been locked up for years in some secret NASA lab, with no access to the outside world.

Seriously, it’s as if they were put in front of microphones and told, at the last minute, to substitute “Mars” for “the moon” in prepared remarks they’d planned to make in 1969.

Charles Bolden’s quote, reminded me of something I wrote back May, my response to news of the first spaceship made by a private company to have successfully docked to the International Space Station:

…JFK challenged the American people to come together in support of his lofty goal, and it truly did require the entire country’s participation, from taxpayer dollars to votes that kept legislators and executives in office who supported a national space program.

And, as I was growing up, like millions of other Americans, I was captivated by the media coverage of the Apollo missions, and later the earliest space shuttle missions. I watched the coverage with a sense of ownership — “Mom, Dad, WE put a man on the moon!”

But, all of the warm and fuzzy nostalgia evoked by Bolden is utterly spoiled by Holdren’s ridiculous American chauvinism, ridiculousness very quickly revealed by TPM‘s Carl Franzen, as he follows up the remarks about “America’s combination of technical acumen and gutsy determination” and “U.S. leadership in space” with this:

Although led by NASA, the mission was also an international scientific collaboration involving 400 scientists from seven different countries.

Listen, I admit I’m cynical about space exploration, but my cynicism has developed over many years, gradually taking the place of fond childhood memories of the Apollo missions, as I wrote back in May.

I don’t like being cynical, but the bombastic public statements REALLY turned me off, for the reasons I state above, not to mention the fact that, not only is this not the first mission to Mars, it’s not even the first unmanned rover mission!

From Wikipedia:

In the past, dozens of spacecraft, including orbiters, landers, and rovers, have been sent to Mars by the Soviet Union, the United States, Europe, and Japan to study the planet’s surface, climate, and geology…

  • The first successful fly-by of Mars was on July 14–15, 1965, by NASA’s Mariner 4.
  • On November 14, 1971 Mariner 9 became the first space probe to orbit another planet when it entered into orbit around Mars.
  • In January 2004, the NASA twin Mars Exploration Rovers named Spirit (MER-A) and Opportunity (MER-B) landed on the surface of Mars.

It’s one thing to try to keep the public interested and excited about publicly-funded space exploration, but to go to such lengths to manufacture excitement is at once embarrassing and insulting.

8 thoughts on “NASA Lands Rover On Mars, Achieves Time Travel

    1. Well, Helen, while I agree with you that we need to do a LOT more to protect the planet we have, I’m not really saying that I don’t support space exploration…which is a perfect segue to respond to Flash’s comment below.

  1. While I am not all about the RA RA America comments, I do feel a great deal of pride for humanity in space exploration accomplishments. When our government, according to a 2011 Huffington Post article ( ) spends $1B LESS on NASA than is spends on airconditioning our troops in Afganistan and Iraq. When NASA has resorted to hiring three private companies for a shuttle replacement solution for $1.1B, roughly the cost Disney just spend to re-condition California Adventure. When the budget for NASA has gone from 4.4% in 1966 at the height of Apollo to mostly less than 1% and now less than 1/2% of our Federal budget… They need to create excitement in the public simply for PR and funding! So, sure we have been to Mars and we have had Rovers on Mars.

    I remember being an kid in the 70’s that had an Uncle that worked at JPL, I remember a visit he made with pictures of mars from a fly bye and a picture of the moon and earth together in the same picture. I remember the tragedy of the shuttle explosions and the excitement of seeing the shuttles first launches.

    I’m just saying of all the things we do and all the resources that we spend as humans, space exploration and the understanding of our place in the univers is certainly a worthy endeavor in my mind.

    1. I hereby take back all the nice things I’ve said about you! 😉

      Kidding aside, as I told Helen above, I’m not saying that I’m against publicly-funded space exploration, and if you read my post from May you’ll see that I share your early, deeply impressionable memories of the Apollo era, memories filled with pride, not just for human achievement, but for the success of our national commitment.

      Additionally, the point of my post from May goes beyond NASA, it speaks to an erosion in the U.S. of the social compact, erosion of what used to be a healthy all-for-one-and-one-for-all national mindset, where, via taxes and other means, we all pitch in for the good of each other and for the country, so that our country can set a shining example for the world to admire and emulate.

      So, yes, in these days of warped priorities, where billions and billions are misspent on unnecessary wars or to keep the grotesquely greedy 1% grotesquely wealthy, it might be more important than ever for NASA to drum up excitement, even for small incremental progress.

      I guess it really is just the totally unfounded American superiority complex in Holdren’s comments that I take exception with.

      1. I appreciate that space exploration is interesting and can be useful if the kowledge gained is used for good in the world and some of it is. Satellite technology has been used to show the extent of deforestation in the Amazon basin for example and I’m sure this is helping to slow down this.. but I’m sure it’s also being used to produce more and more “advanced weapons”
        I’m not talking about space exxploration here because I know the 18 odd Billion Nasa spent in 2011 is only a tiny amount compared to what is spent on defense ( or rather offense) but I am a social worker and I see the poverty that still exists in the UK and how older people are sooo neglected by the state and I support charities like Wateraid and Plan so accutely aware of how wrong the priorities are in this world.. Greed kills and causes wars.. but wars are big business and if you consider America produces nearly 1/3rd of all weapons produced in the world it is in their interest to keep wars going… sorry I digress. rant over 🙂

        1. and I should also add that the UK are something like 4th in the arms league behind Russia and Germany with France close behind us… shame on all of them I say!

          1. You know, I’m not sure how much publicly-funded space exploration contributes to the military, actually.

            The military, on its own, sadly, has plenty of money for research and development of new weapons, and if you’ve noticed, for reasons I’m not clear on, there hasn’t been a proliferation of space-based weapons.

            I’m as disgusted by the military industrial complex as anyone, Helen, but I just don’t think that space exploration is contributing all that much to the problem.

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