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Home > World

Lost in space

In space no one can hear you... losing the war in Iraq, not finding weapons of mass destruction, torturing Reuters journalists, taking away 'homeland' civil liberties...

16 January 2004

"The vision I outline today is a journey, not a race, and I call on other nations to join us on this journey in the spirit of cooperation and friendship." - George W. Bush

Eyes to the skies, everybody. The Americans are going to Mars. Such a success was the Spirit mission that President Bush has announced a major US-led assault on space. The final frontier. (After all, when you've breached all the frontiers on earth, it's the only logical place to go).

There is nothing more exciting than space exploration. The news media love it. People love it. It's exciting and raw and bold, it epitomises the questing spirit of humankind, and wasn't Tom Hanks great in Apollo 13? Edge of the seat stuff.

Really, there are no downsides to space exploration. Even if people die trying to get up there, they become heroes: NASA bows its head for a couple of years and moves on. But what of the cost...?

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer...

"A NASA document distributed after Bush's speech showed three general categories involving the moon-Mars mission and a few other smaller programs, which would cost a total of about $170 billion by 2020. More than 80 percent of that spending would occur after Bush leaves office, even if he is elected to a second term."

$170 billion might sound a lot, but to put it into perspective, the war on Iraq alone has so far cost (and this is a reasonably conservative estimate) $100 billion.

And that's since 2003. The $170 billion for the space programme is spread over 16 years.

But more to the point: why suddenly this interest in space? Why are the Americans suddenly pulling on their moon socks? A cynic might think it had something to do with timing...

March 21st, 2003 - US led forces launch a full-scale military attack on Iraq.

June 10th, 2003 - NASA launches the Mars rover Spirit.

January 11th, 2004 - President Bush announces plans to send a manned mission to Mars.

November 2nd, 2004 - American Presidential elections.

America is setting out on its 'journey' into space at exactly the time when its 'war against terror' operations are getting into full swing. It needs success, it needs American heroes, and it needs the good people of America to focus their brains on something other than what the government of America is up to.

So they've decided to throw a $170 billion fireworks display.

Never mind what good $170 billion could do on earth. Lets put on a show.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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