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Lee Tje
They also managed to reach Mars while half their population has close to nothing to eat, or no roof over their heads. Priorities?
+Lee Tje Science and technology must be part of any country's priorities for several reasons, such as collective intelligence, not to mention technological breakthroughs that benefit the nation and generations to come. If more money was put into sciences than say sport, America would be a much more intelligent society that may even be able to work out better solutions for poverty issues etc. I absolutely take my hat off to this country for their commitment to space exploration. They have shown time and time again that they can produce the goods and it is not just their country that benefits.

I only wish that more money was put into it and that it was done on a truly global scale rather than any sort of competition. Not that there is much of a competition going on at the moment.
Lee Tje
That may very well be true, but so soon after financial collapse I believe money is better spent on the people than a space expedition to see if there was ever life on Mars. 
People on Earth are trying to live now.
+Lee Tje However, there is every possibility that what these nerds are doing is for the future of the human race also. What if for example they discover that Mars could sustain life? This would make the concept of populating Mars a potential reality and maybe even resolve part of the issues we have here on Earth related to overcrowding etc. What if the discoveries they make paves the way for new industries, technologies and jobs in the future? They need to be doing this work now, not when it becomes too late to make any difference.

They could be laying the ground work for a future that we cannot even imagine now. What if this single mission encourages a handful of kids to decide to start learning about space etc.

Having a global meltdown is obviously a significant issue for the world's population, but part of that meltdown is due to the way the world's industries are changing from being a largely manufacturing base to more about services and other types of products that require skilled workers rather than manual labourers. The world will likely never get its manufacturing base back again because it is consolidating based on the way humanity and technology is evolving. The idea that space exploration could provide some answers to this issue is an awesome concept and needs to be encouraged more now than ever.
+Travis Koger - Sorry but I strongly disagree - While it is good that science attempts to progress, the economy should also be balanced. Right now it's just a right out mess.
+Remy Nimja What is there that could provide any balance? I don't expect that you have the answers, but seriously most industries are screwed by falling demand for their products. Other industries that will never go away, such as money etc, produce not but obscene wealth to a small bunch of people. Almost every current industry that has traditionally been an employer of large masses of people is suffering a downturn in relevancy. A huge percentage of the unemployed people in the world will never be employed in the industry they were dumped from again and mostly because those industries are become unnecessary.

New industries need to be invented to provide a future for the world. Space exploration is one path to come up with these.
I am not saying that science is the only option to progress the world, but it is one that exists today and is pretty well the only one that can bring about a new future.
I agree with the fact that we should consider other more... "Earthly" priorities before going off exploring worlds we might never be able to even inhabit and that we also should consider that some of this research could be placed on to more local areas. However, with the state of science these days, if you have enough budget to make a discovery, whatever that would be then you should go for it, you never know how long Nasa will actually have budget to be able to do these kinds of things. Any progress is better than no progress at all...
+Raul Marengo Lopez I think ultimately that these types of missions are absolutely about more earthly priorities.

I would say that no one would be able to come up with an answer to solving world hunger or poverty. I would say that without new industries, the unemployed will only ever increase. Let's look at what is keeping some of the failing industries afloat at the moment... it is not consumer spending. What if the government just didn't have the money to keep some of these industries going through subsidies and loans? The money for doing this comes from tax payers, even if the money is borrowed from other nations, they get their money from tax payers, whether corporate or personal. If you are losing your industries due to evolving economies, where will the tax payers come from?

New industries need to be invented for our future and science and exploration has one of the best chances at doing that in the current time.
I get that +Travis Koger and I think the achievement in itself will fuel our imaginations and our drive for more. I still can't shake the feeling that all that money could have gone to figuring out how to irrigate areas of poor water reach or figure out better ways to grow crops and which would in turn help come up with a way to terraform planets for inhabitation. Experimentation on our soil that needs so much attention. We almost need a "Nasa" that works on shorter term wins with tangible application to daily Earth issues.
Also +Raul Marengo Lopez with regards to earthly priorities, the 2012 US budget for Defense is currently $1.4trillion dollars. The budget for +NASA is $17billion and the budget for education is $60billion. according to my limited research The mandatory spending budget for the US for last year, which covers social security, unemployment benefits, medicare etc was $2.3trillion. I doubt that the $2.5ish billion that this particular mission cost the US tax payer would have made little difference to poverty etc in the US compared to the potential benefits it can create for the future.
Well, we'll never know what 2.5 billion would do and I don't think this is about taking away budget from NASA but about the government(s) showing more accountability for their efforts here on Earth. If 2.5 billion couldn't make a difference then we wouldn't have charities. ;)
Basically, as long as healthcare, schooling and basic needs are not taken care of, no money should be spent on the space-program and the army.

It's no use finding a way to visit Mars if we have no intelligent people left on Earth. Thinking otherwise is pure escapism.

Take care of yourself before you take care of another.
I could counter that by saying if we had a future for industry, we might not need charities. ;)

Look at how much money has just been literally blown on the Olympics. A single function lasting a little over two weeks. Almost an entire year's budget for NASA... for two weeks. Now of course you could say that the money for it went to construction workers etc... well some of it anyhow. And that the buildings that are built will last for years to come, providing a pay off for the future. But then I might point to how the money spent on the Athens' Olympics, much of it borrowed, has created a legacy for them.

I get that we need to have things like sport etc in our lives. It creates industry and enjoyment and leisure, all of which contribute to a happy people. But without jobs, sport is irrelevant. If fans do not have the money to pay for tickets, or even to pay for cable TV, where most of sports money comes from, what good is having it... simply for the industry it creates?
+Remy Nimja I used to think things like that. Same type of statement goes for a country providing aid to poorer nations... why not spend that money helping your own community before giving the money to some other country? But it is all connected. Without international people, who would there be to buy your exported products? Without having loans with developing nations, who would you have on the hook to pay you back in the future, not to mention earn interest from.

Providing funds to other countries for aid is in effect an investment in the future. You might establish a school for the poor with your funds, thereby creating an educated society, one that may be able to earn money and buy your countries goods etc.

Without an educated population, what future do you have? Without the potential for new industries and intelligent people to come up with them, you have no future.

What if the scientific discoveries made by exploration comes up with a cure for cancer or other health issues? I mean there is a huge amount of technology that is used in healthcare that would not exist without science spending for things like space exploration etc.
For those of you concerned about our "priorities", perhaps you should take your own advice:  NASA's budget accounts for less than 1% of the total US budget.  The cost of the war in Iraq alone is more than the amount NASA has spent in it's total 50 yr lifetime.How about you start by demanding the elimination of all waste in the other 99% of the budget before we talk about going after NASA?  There are bigger fish to fry here.

And the argument that what NASA does is "wasteful" is short-sighted in any case.  But rather than argue back and forth about it, I'll just say that I'm a US taxpayer and I want part of my taxes to go to NASA.  For $50/yr, it's some of the best bang-for-buck that I get from the taxes I pay.  I'm sure there's plenty of other taxpayers who agree, whether you're among them or not.

As for you, Travis, this conversation is your just desserts for trying to take the shine off our accomplishments not even 12 hrs after it happened.  :p
+Eric Souza I personally don't think what NASA does is wasteful but wouldn't it be nice if we put the same level of effort on other issues, and I am not saying this is about America on it's own either.
Wait... I took the shine off it +Eric Souza? I was trying to big it up. <sadface>

Apart from that confusion, I enjoyed the conversation and wanted it to continue. I can think of nothing better than talking about how science is our future.
Travis, I suppose Dawkins' tweet could be read a couple of different ways but at best it's a rather (very) backhanded compliment.  He's not wrong but...give us a day, jeez!
I didn't take the tweet as a backhanded compliment for the achievement of NASA, but a back handed comment at the 50% of the US that are maybe not so intelligent. I think it is showing the irony that a nation where 50% are looking to Romney as the savour can also be capable of such highly intelligent process as getting on Mars.

But then it would be a mistake to confuse intelligence with politics. I agree though that this can be read different ways.
In any case, I was joking with you, not seriously criticizing.