Where are the accolades?

Posted by Anonymous
on Sunday, October 29, 2006

It seems like some members of the media and disinterested public love it when NASA stumbles more so than when the agency succeeds. I suppose this is the case whenever big bucks are involved. There is a direct correlation between the dollar amount and expectations.

Just like America’s sports fanatics. If a popular free agent doesn’t respond accordingly after a signing a multi-million deal in the off-season, talk radio, blogs, and water coolers erupt, demanding the team’s coach or general manager be run out of town. If the same free agent improves the team’s record, well, the athlete was just doing his/her job.

I remember when the Genesis return capsule smashed into the Utah desert in 2004. The video of the flailing capsule and impact made nightly news. Stills of the embedded carrier were front-page news. Critics of space research were ready to pounce with claims of wasted money and questionable value. Guess what? Despite the chute malfunction, the mission still successfully returned “pieces of the Sun.”

This week, the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit celebrated its 1,000th martian day on the Red Planet’s surface. Rover scientists released a 360° panorama to commemorate this feat. The robotic explorer is still operational and has greatly exceeded the original goal of 90 days.

However, this tremendous success went by without much fanfare from the media or public. I’m sure it would have been different if Spirit had fizzled after a few weeks. I suppose Sprit was just doing its job.

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