Mars Mission Boondoggle

In January 2004, U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans sought to justify the Bush Administration's planned multi-billion-dollar mission to Mars. "America," he declared, "has always needed a challenge of a big and bold idea."

Not everyone was fooled by the rhetoric. "It would seem," New Yorker financial columnist James Surowiecki drily observed, "that we face a few challenges already. Chief among them, of course, is the war on terrorism... The Apollo program was expensive, but at least it was an integral, if outlandish, part of the Cold War. It is not yet clear how the Mars mission will help us vanquish Al Qaeda. Then, there's that little matter of rebuilding Iraq. At a time when we're struggling to provide Basra with fresh water, should we really be devoting our resources to irrigating Mars?"

["NASA," Surowiecki noted, "claims that the lunar expeditions gave us the cordless drill; what a lot of trouble to go through to improve upon the handyman special."]

["The bottled water alone that crews use aboard the space station costs taxpayers almost half a million dollars a day."]

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