While I was taking Marta to the station earlier today, I heard on the radio that NASA has successfully sent Curiosity, a mobile laboratory, to Mars. Apparently, this is a £1.6 billion 98-week mission (the length of one Martian year), whose aim is to explore a crater that billions of years ago may have been filled with water.
I have to say I'm a bit torn on this one: on the one hand, I think it's an incredible achievement and there is the possibility of gathering evidence to substantiate the possibility of "compatibility with life" on the red planet. I can see the scientific importance of this question and I kind of understand the excitement of the space community (I know: put it this way, it sounds more like an after school activity, but you know what I mean...).
On the other hand, I wonder whether at this precise moment in human history, this is the best way of investing £1.6 billion of (sort of, or at least, partially) public money. But then again: is this the best time to invest (sort of, or at least, partially) public money to organise and run the Olympics? (By the way, I did have a lot of fun on Saturday watching the games in Hyde Park and then at Earl's Court).
I suppose you might argue that, from the very practical point of view, finding out right now whether we could actually migrate and live on Mars is a grand exercise in forward planning. So, when we'll have finally filled up planet Earth with too many replicas (or should I say replicae?) of us, we could branch out to Mars (which is only 9 months away $-$ and to think we bitch about our 1 hour commute into central London!).