This is not a technology article, however. So if you detest science, just wade a little more and I'll get to the point.
The seven minutes of terror is the time between when the rover's pod hit the Martian atmosphere to the time it touched down on Mars. One of the videos focuses on the reactions of the Jet Propulsion Lab's blue-shirted technicians as they monitored the fruits of their work during the tense seven minutes. A guy is reading readouts into the microphone, most incomprehensible on the tape. Speed. Distance to surface. Checkpoints.
|Curiosity below parachute; photo from orbiter|
- Entering atmosphere.
- Popping parachute.
- Popping capsule base so instruments can read positioning.
- Dropping the crane and rover from the pod.
- Maneuvering sideways away from the parachute and toward the landing zone.
- Firing retro-rockets to stabilize the flying crane and slow its fall.
- Lowering the rover on a tether while continuing to drop.
- Touchdown and cutting the tether; wild cheering, hugging and backslapping.
- Crane rocketing off to a safe distance, splashing into the sandy dirt.
- First thumbnail photo and more cheering, hugging and backslapping.
Seven minutes of faith in a machine; faith in Man's accomplishments.
We will post appropriate photos in the gallery of the Church of Man. If you do not yet belong to our Church, please read the formation announcement in the pertinent article here.
The Mars landing was almost as dramatic as the first manned moon landing.
No, folks, it was not done in Hollywood.
Unfortunately, it is reported that China is angry and has summoned the US Ambassador to report for a lecture. Evidently China has claimed Mars because of the historical precedent that it is called "the Red Planet." They don't like the U.S. dropping one-ton off-road vehicles onto their dirt.
Well, that will play out as will nine-dash crayon drawings done by a Chinese seventh grader that authorizes Chinese warships to cruise off the coast of Luzon.
I think that whole nation is smoking dope.
The cost of the Mars venture is $2.6 billion.
At an exchange rate of 41.83 pesos per dollar that is:
- P 108,758,000,000 or 108.8 billion pesos.
That would feed a lot of Filipinos, eh? Build a lot of classrooms.
It would feed a lot of homeless Americans, too; give them a good meal, a bed and a shower. It would bail out a lot of underwater homeowners or college graduates sucking on loan payments. Or help fund Social Security.
But the U.S. chose to invest the money in Mars.
Good idea or bad? THAT is the point of this article, or the essential question at least.
I happen to think it is good, and here are the reasons why:
- The U.S. needs to stay ahead of China in the space race because space is a military place. You lose that edge and you risk everything. China is not yet a peaceful and constructive player in the World community.
- The money gets paid largely to American companies and workers, so it is not much different than a road infrastructure project aimed at righting the economy; it is just a very long road taking some eight months to traverse. It is a lightly traveled road, but so is that freeway between Clark and Subic.
- The technology advances will eventually find their way into civilian uses, like smaller cameras and computers and useful health care equipment. Or 100 pound parachutes that can withstand 65,000 tons of snap. What the hell was THAT sucker made of?
- We can have a colony on another planet when our earth implodes in about 200 years. Survival of our dysfunctional, stupid, destructive species. I'll go out on a limb and say that is a good thing.
- It is great television. Better than movies and fake stuff.
A parallel dilemma.
Our neighbors and friends are always asking for money. They are poor. But we (our family) choose to invest our money, instead, in ourselves (a car, a large house), savings for our son's college and savings for my wife (I'm older and will bite the dust while she is relatively young; she has no career or professional training).
It is the fundamental question on which all political theory rests. Take care of the poorest or take care of a few select people.
Well Marx and Engels and Adam Smith had a few things to say about this. They beat it to a pulp, socialism and capitalism. And history has played out and capitalism won. Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Barak Obama in the U.S. are beating each other about the ears regarding the single issue: invest in the people, or invest in the wealth-builders?
Socialism or capitalism?
At the core of the highly successful capitalistic American economic beast is the human drive called "motivation". Often it looks like aspiration or ambition. Sometimes it morphs to greed. But it is the fundamental drive to produce and excel. This is the beast that Ayn Rand spent several thick novels addressing. The societal advantage of egoism and productive might.
When individual effort and achievement is siphoned off to take care of non-achievers, over-all achievement slows and productivity goes stagnant. And poverty and malaise grow.
That’s why the grand ideal of communism is deader than Aunt Maude's dog that was run over by the morning milk truck.
My neighbors will never grasp the concept, but I think the Philippines is best served by a pyramid of capabilities where a pinnacle of productive might is sharpened and raised for the ultimate benefit of the base. I think when my son is 45 and sitting in the legislature or running his law practice or business, trained in American disciplines, the neighbors will be much better off for it. When he has lived a standard of living that is high and aspires to make it higher, the neighbors will benefit.
Beneath the highly productive pinnacle we will see emerge a happy-go-spending middle class.
I'll coin the term "economic elitism" for consideration for the Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary. It means an investment in a small set of wealth-builders whose success flows down to the broad population. Other economists refer to it as the "trickle down" theory, but that to me suggests it is just money moving down a pipe. No, no.
It is the BUILDING of the pipe.
It is investing in the productive enterprise that MAKES the money. It is not just taxing and passing around money like the church panhandlers do at offering time.
"Economic elitism" favors the few. It says that in a class of 400 high school graduates, 20 will contribute in a material way to making this a better, richer Philippines. Find them. Train them the way China does its athletes. Obsessively. Make sure they thrive and stay in the Philippines.
Do a good job taking care of the other graduates. But do a sterling job of finding and polishing the jewels.
That is the point of this article. Filipinos are smart but not many are trained in productivity. Most are corrupted by values of subservience, the trade of favors, and ego over humility as it hampers discovery. So train them to think differently. Don't spare the funds. Develop a set of unaffiliated, super-smart thinkers and producers. Tell them to make the nation tops in Asia. Fast track them into positions of authority. They'll know what to do.
That would be the kind of elitist program the Philippines could use. In 100 years, there might even be a Filipino on Mars.
And so, to understand what quality elitism is, I refer you here to two videos that may possibly have redefined American willingness to invest in the elitism . . . and the paybacks . . .of space travel:
- NASA's "7 Minutes of Terror" Video which lasts 5 minutes
- Jet Propulsion Laboratory Control Room during the 7 minutes of terror and through the first images. Stick with it, the lesson is at the end.