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Thursday, 9 December, 1999, 13:56 GMT
Is space exploration a waste of money?

Is space exploration a waste of money? Is space exploration a waste of money?

Nasa scientists have lost contact with the latest unmanned spacecraft sent to Mars, the $165m Mars Polar Lander.

In September, the $125m Mars Climate Orbiter mission also failed, after an embarrassing mix-up over metric and imperial measurements.

The history of failed missions to Mars stretches back 40 years, so are they a waste of taxpayers' money, which would be better spent on more earthly needs?

Is the cost of space adventure unjustified while poverty exists in many parts of the world?

Or should we in fact spend more on exploring space, to ensure greater success? Is exploring our universe an inspiring endeavour well worth the money? Do we have a duty to follow our curiosity and find out as much as possible about our place in the cosmos?

Is space exploration a waste of money?

Your Reaction

I don't think it is a waste of time because it will increase our knowledge of the planet. I think more money should be given so there can be a higher success rate.
Shane, New Zealand

Learning about our world and the universe that surrounds us is crucial to understanding more about the world we live in. As for the cost, the by-products that come about due to space exploration end up paying for the continued research as well as the improvement in the quality of our lives.
Nadine, UK

The cheaper you do it, the more likely it is going to go wrong. Let's try doing it slower and better instead.
Gerard Said, Malta
The idea that scientific discoveries should be abandoned because people are starving is ludicrous and childish. What do these people think will help us to solve the world's problems? Money alone doesn't do the trick, as we all know. Science is the way to secure mankind's future and solve our problems. And the real reason for exploration of Mars is that one day, when the earth is over-populated and can no longer support us, Mars will.
Tony Jones, UK

People who knock the space program as being a waste of money are being simplistic in their world view at best. The $11 billion spent on NASA would do a great deal to save a lot of people in the short term. But diverting the money to the third world would only be a temporary solution. The third world will not get any better by throwing money at them.
Stephen Ryan, Ireland

In my opinion the Mars missions are not a waste of money. They should however have much more money and time put into them. Congress should allow Nasa a much larger budget and we should take our space programs much more seriously.
Joe B, United States

Most people will understand me, when I say we have to go to Mars. We have no choice. However, most don't understand that science advances through trials and errors. Behind every great leap is usually a history of failures that receive no publicity. I think the major change to be made in space research is in its participants. The whole world should be contributing to it. I've been wondering why they're not. Are the rest of you too stingy to contribute, or is NASA trying to keep exclusive control of the research.
Warren Abrams, California

The cost of these unmanned missions is trivial compared with the manned flights to Mars planned in the next century. NASA must be held accountable for its failures, but there is no question that missions such as the Mars Polar Lander are much more cost-effective than attempts to colonise the red planet. Leave the science to scientists and let George Lucas have the rest!
Jack Moore, USA

Keep the faith and go forward.
Chuck Barnes, USA

No, missions to Mars are not a waste of money. Although the cost of Mars missions are high, they are small relative to other social expenditure programmes. The questions that Mars missions and other space exploration endeavours are attempting to answer are the big ones: Why are we here? Why did life develop on Earth? Has it developed on other worlds? Why did Mars' climate change? Could the same thing happen to Earth?
I believe human beings should have the vision and curiosity to attempt to find answers to the big questions. To not do so is to become insular and small-minded. Mars missions are an important part of an ongoing and multifaceted pursuit of an understanding of the human condition.
Iain Ball, United Kingdom

These missions are certainly not a waste of money. What if were forced to learn these lessons during a manned mission in the future?
Peter Kriz, USA

If we don't move forward in discovery than there is no point for us to continue as a race.
Glitch, USA

I think we forget how difficult it is to pull these missions off. Money spent is not the issue here, nor should it ever be. These are important times to explore to keep our collective spirits up. It's sad that this has happened again, my heart goes out to the engineers and scientist who have put so much effort into this. Do you nay sayers really think they wanted to fail?
Justin, Canada

Eventually, we will run out of resources on earth. Space exploration is the best way to teach us how to live on meagre supplies. Space exploration is not a novelty, it is a necessity. I would gladly give $20 to Nasa a year to put towards space exploration, imagine what we could do if everyone did that!
Josh Boutwell, United States

One day, these efforts and money spent will be of huge benefit to our descendants. To stop would be selfish, as well as denying our drive for knowledge.
A Legge, UK

Faster, better, cheaper - forced upon NASA by Congress, do we learn once again that cutting corners disqualifies us from the race?
Iago Cornelius-Jones, Singapore

Why do we have to spend this amount of money on something that has no interest to the ordinary man. We have huge problems on earth with disease, hunger, and poverty. If this money was spent on improving our own kind would this not make more sense?? $165m would bring so much comfort to so many people.
David Wilsher, United Kingdom

Too cheap? Remember we lost a $1bn Mars spacecraft just a few years ago. Apparently 6 times more expensive is no guarantee for success. At least Neal Armstrong would be able to overcome landing in a particularly rocky place. Keep moving forward with manned probes.
Tom van Stiphout, USA

The cost of these missions is trivial when compared with, say, the costs of mounting an operation like the Kosovo intervention. We have to find out if there is, or has been, life on Mars.
Adam, UK

Nasa has wasted billions upon projects that tell us very little, if they invested this kind of money on a manned project it would cost more but it would be far more productive and give us a far better understanding of the red planet.
Paul Kewn, England

What if most of the surface of Mars is made up of some kind of quicksand or a substance that would sink, disintegrate, burn up whatever alloy our spacecraft is made of? Would a hoverplane stay above the surface and provide us with more knowledge about the surface before we try to land?
Leona, USA

Dr Whitehouse is absolutely correct in pointing out that the Mars series of experiments fire people's imaginations and build the popular framework for other types of space exploration, such as the SST and the ISS. I am fully in favour of continuing the planetary explorations, the funding of the Next Generation Space Telescope, and the development of related science platforms.
Robert Brown, USA

Surely the batteries used should have been the one used by the well known pink bunny which goes on and on.
Anil, Watford, UK
I am amazed that the batteries only lasted a few days, Yet NASA spent millions, surely the batteries used should have been the one used by the well known pink bunny which goes on and on. Now that NASA has lost the probe, the idiots who mixed their feet with inches when the last probe was lost should be sent to mars find the probe!
Anil, Watford, UK

When you think that you could send 4 probes to Mars for the price of the Dome.....
Ernie Stephenson, Britain

If people wonder why they never see real UFOs, and that the only people who do see them appear to have a few screws loose, then NASA's current problems are the reason why. It's too difficult, and too costly, to leave your own planet. There are probably thousands of planets in the universe inhabitated by intelligent life forms. And, those that are more advanced than ourselves have probably given up on space exploration, accepted the inevitable demise of their own solar systems and make the best of things whilst waiting for that day to come. What's the point of travelling around a universe that will one day be extinguished anyway. As Douglas Adams wrote in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: God is probably saying "sorry for the inconvenience."
James Butler, UK

The human race needs to explore. Just remember how many ships are wrecked around the world of people exploring our own planet. If cost is an issue, we need to think of the cost of arms, which are used not for defence, but offence and the huge cost in human suffering. To fail to explore at all, because we fail in some of our explorations, would mean the human race has reached a dead end.
Lord Wodehouse - FBIS, Marlow, Bucks, UK

$165 million is cheap - there are lots of crummy Hollywood movies that cost more to make! That money gets recycled into the economy anyway, and these missions help answer primal questions about our origins. Why is the Earth the only planet that has a liveable climate? Did life develop elsewhere in the Solar system? Why did Mar's climate deteriorate, and where did all the water go?
Dave Strickland, UK citizen in US

Columbus had immense trouble getting money to go exploring and look what he found!
Steve Adams, UK

This may sound idealistic, but I think it's tragic that man's efforts to explore the universe are limited by the abstract concepts of money and economics. To me, the search to discover the worlds around us is far more important than following the relatively petty rules of finance we've imposed upon ourselves.
Barney Bruce, UK

The amount spent on space exploration is born from the cold war atmosphere of boys intent on who has the biggest gun.
Steve, UK
The amount spent on space exploration is ridiculous and likely, I think, born from the cold war atmosphere of boys intent on who has the biggest gun. It is stimulating to think about what exists beyond, but with the nearest stars X million light years away what is the possibility we can make something useful out of it? Don't stop it altogether but be a bit more practical. People develop specialisms and interests and then can't see the bigger picture, pushing instead their own agendas be it academic, engineering or whatever.
Steve, UK

The mistakes might be costly but the cost of not exploring is far greater. Space is the stuff imaginations are made of and to stop exploring it would be to deprive millions of kids in the future with the feeling of wonder that the kids of the sixties thrived on.
Vicki August, United Kingdom

Space exploration has gone as far as it needs to go. It's about time science turned it's eye back to this planet and set about doing something about poverty, disease and pollution. Once we have sorted our own problems, let the exploration continue.
Ian Gilmer, Panamá

Well, the loss of Mars Polar Lander is a big disappointment! What is especially frustrating, is that we will never know what went wrong, therefore we don't know what to correct for the next flight. Nevertheless, the Mars exploration must go on. There is no question about that.
Raoul Lannoy, Belgium

Absolutely not! Can you imagine the U.S.A., Australia or New Zealand undiscovered and uncolonised? That is the equivalent of what will happen to "outer-space" if we give up at this first small step. The "lost" cost of this mission is about one tenth the of the Viking Lander costs, so we have 8 or 9 more "cheap" trips to go before we reach their costs, and those trips, I am sure, will produce much more than even those fabulous Vikings.
Barry Livesey, New Zealand

Very often we learn more by our mistakes than our successes. When you consider the hunger that is reduced by satellite weather and IR crop health imaging space exploration has done much to help alleviate the problem. Who knows what the long-term benefits might be from the technology derived from the two failed Mars probes. How will the B2 bomber benefit world hunger compared from what technology might spin off from the Mars missions, especially when you consider the cost of the two failed missions combined cost less than a fifth of one B2 aircraft.
Tom Fisher, USA

I believe the large sums of money spent on space exploration are well worth the time and money when it works. When it doesn't work the money spent is lost and could have done so much if spent on other areas. However you don't know when a project will be successful or not until you have taken action. I always wonder about space exploration because NASA spends so much money and time and the improvements as far as physical proof of achievement is few and far between. When space exploration works the world watches in excitement and when it doesn't it's just another failed mission. I guess there is a lot of patience and research that goes into a field that deals with facets of life that are not tangible.
Brian Gates, USA

The exploration of space is possibly the greatest human adventure in history. The loss of the Mars Polar Lander is highly regrettable, but it need not be fatal to the overall project. Perhaps a little more needs to be spent on difficult missions like this, although the present situation is a huge improvement on the one which existed when billions were spent on probes. Let all the world's nations pool their resources in exploring and colonising space, and in eliminating the problems of our homeworld. Both can be achieved with money left over - if the will is there.
Bernard Quinn, Ireland

The recent failures are mostly due to trying to do space travel on the cheap.
David Rose, USA
We should be investing more in space and mars exploration. The recent failures are mostly due to trying to do space travel on the cheap. It is also a false argument to suggest that we take care of poverty here on earth first. If we were to increase the funds spent on space travel it would not reduce the monies spent on poverty reduction. That is not the trade off. We should send people to Mars first and foremost because it would be exciting and an adventure. The whole world would be excited. Children throughout the world would be energised and inspired. A new generation of potential unleashed.
David Rose, USA

Why does everyone always complain about how much the space program costs? The U.S. spends vastly more on social programs than it does on space. Do you want to tell your grandchildren that you were part of the generation that threw away humanity's chance to explore the heavens? We need dreams as well as jobs.
Michael Stone, US

It's a big universe and it's full of wonders and mysteries. It's in our nature to want to know more, to see more and, if only this last experiment had gone well, to hear more. While we mustn't forget that the biggest wonder of the universe so far, as far as we have seen, is our own planet, we must keep looking out in search of understanding how it all works. Even the Bible says, "It's for the glory of God to conceal a matter but the glory of kings to seek out a matter".
Richard Hodges, Wales, UK

Space exploration is vital to the long-term survival of mankind and should continue, although maybe in an adapted form. To those people who say that this money should be spent on world poverty and hunger, do they really think throwing a couple of million dollars at that problem will cure it, most starving nations are ruled by dictators and in the middle of civil wars so sending money or even food here is pretty much a waste of time as it will never reach the intended destination. Also why should even more of the US taxpayers money go overseas, when at least the money spent on space remains in country? If people are so keen to see money spent of humanitarian projects why don't they donate more of their own money to charity, after all Christmas is just round the corner.
James Jeffrey, USA

Without a doubt, we should continue to explore space for a variety of reasons. This does involve spending large sums of money but as history has shown, the technology does benefit mankind in many ways, as does the knowledge gained.
Ian Welham, United Kingdom

It is a ridiculous question. Of course space exploration should continue. For those who feel it's too expensive given the poor and starving in the world, they should compare military expenditure with the cost of the space programs. Our future lies off world and the faster the better, because we're messing the world up at a great rate of knots.
Stephen Sharp, Australia

I think that Mars missions are certainly not a waste of money and it is vital that we continue to explore our Galaxy and Beyond. With such a difficult task as landing a craft on Mars it is inevitable that things will go wrong, but this should not stop us from trying again. If we don't try, we can never succeed and it is in the interest of our planet to succeed.
Paul Urwin, UK

There is no use in exploring the space and trying to find new habitable space and resources unless we do not try to maintain the balance of nature. Look at our own Earth. We are squandering the natural resources in many areas. Air, Water, Oil, Coal, Minerals ... It is a long list. Everything is getting depleted or polluted. We should learn how to use the gifts of nature and maintain ecological balance of nature before we try to tap them. We should formulate a global policy for treating the nature and tapping her resources. We should spend money to learn and find out ways for this. If we do not do this, our Doomsday shall be not so far away. If mankind is trying to find new places in space to live and get new resources, it is fine. But remember that is not the lasting solution for existence of life rather mankind. We have still lot to do at our home, Earth. Our little brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents are dying out of hunger and diseases in dungeons. We still have many things to do to maintain our home, Earth, before jumping to peep in to someone else's house.
Sreekumar. N, South Korea

They are not a waste of money. Man has the ability to go to the stars in the future. Think of this has a business plan. Loads of investment before the final product. The final product could well be colonisation of other planets. That will be to the benefit of mankind. Space travel is expensive at the moment because it is being pioneered. In time probes will be common place. It all counts towards the learning experience of mankind. A greater goal is in sight, and it is worth a lot more than $100million.
Scott Mills, England

As an inquisitive breed we need something to focus on and Mars is giving us all a challenge that we can't resist. From science to science fiction, the Red Planet attracts our imaginative, creative, thinkers. At a time when it feels like we do everything but work well with each other this form of exploration proves that we can share a common dream and that we can work toward a common goal (with a little friendly competition on the side). I commend the human endeavours undertaken, to date, and hope that we continue to learn lessons from these voyages. There's a lot of constructive criticism being generated by those observing and partaking in the work; I know that its expensive but is it really when you weigh up the worth of co-operation and shared vision?
Russell King, USA

If you're looking for a waste of money, look at the $800 billion spent each year on the military! There's enough money on the planet to abolish all poverty, AND set up a decent space exploration programme. The Earth doesn't exist on it's own, it's part of an environment. You have to study space to have a proper understanding of the Earth!
Kevin Elliott, Oxford, UK

History has continually shown us that any society that stops or shuns innovation stagnates and risks collapse. The exploration of space may seem to be a waste of money on the surface but just consider the next time that you watch a weather forecast, make an international phone call, watch a live news satellite feed from anywhere in the world or indeed use a computer where the technology and ideas for these inventions came from. These things have greatly improved ALL our lives in the last 50years and all are attributable at least in part to the space race. The cost of this exploration is very low in comparison to the benefits it has given us. Finally, one of the most powerful images of this millennium is of Buzz Aldrin standing on the surface of the Moon with the Earth visible in the sky behind him. This has shown us our ingenuity and vision but also how small and fragile both we and our planet really are. Could anyone put a price on this level of revelation?
Guy , UK

Absolutely not! Just because something proves to be more difficult than anticipated, it is not a reason to give up. As technology is pushed to its limits, you will expect some failure. It could be argued that failure helps to push the research program further. There will certainly be "lessons learnt" and in some way the next mission will benefit from the failures of past missions. I can appreciate that it may seem a vast sum of money, but this is money spent in the pursuit of knowledge. The technological high ground that the U.S. occupies will only be maintained in this pursuit. I'm just pleased that this new information is made available to all. Unfortunately, there will always be alternatives to spending money on high quality research, so it may as well be spent now, as the arguments against will be exactly the same later. I'd think the same if I was an American taxpayer. I wish the British had a healthy (or healthier) Space Program!
John Holbrook, UK

Apart from satisfying human curiosity, there is no real tangible value for the further exploration of Mars. The search for the origins of the universe can be continued using other means such as Hubble or Gamma Ray Burst analysis. In the meantime, funds should be used for more humane ends. The question should be posed: What is more beneficial to mankind? Knowledge of the planets, or winning the fight against poverty and disease.
Leigh Cottier, UK

Any failed experiment is a waste of time, effort and money and it is easy to point fingers when things go wrong. I would far prefer to see considerably more research in this arena, but forget about putting men on Mars. Let's look at a really constructive long term goal. Let's work out how to ship all of our nuclear waste into deep space, or drop it into the sun - where it will trouble no-one. It's completely impossible today, but then again the what about in a few hundred year's time. With a half-life measured in thousands of years, the waste will certainly still be here.
Ian Pulham, Germany

Without a sense of adventure, there is nothing to live for. You cannot put a price on the advancement of human knowledge.
Brendan Fernandes, UK

Where would we be today if we all took the attitude that science was a waste of time and money?
Kristian Petterson, UK
Surely such sums of money are insignificant compared with the amount of money which is being squandered by more earthly projects. £850m on the Dome, £240m on consultancy for the new Wembley stadium. People should perhaps be a bit more worried about how this money a has been wasted before commenting on relatively cost-effective Space exploration, even if there are the occasional mistakes. Where would we be today if we all took the attitude that science was a waste of time and money?
Kristian Petterson, UK

I can't understand why the world is such an unjust place. Why should NASA be wasting millions of dollars on the Mars issue why millions are also dying around the world because of hunger, Aids, homelessness etc. What is it that they are looking for in Mars that is not on this earth? Why can't you guys first make this world a better place before looking for somewhere else to go and live?
Nwokorie Gaanihu, Netherlands

Both space and military research spending have yielded a number of innovations most of which would have never been developed had it not been for the fact that capital from the public purse is not measured by conventional business rates of return. Alleviating poverty will never be won if we hope only to spread what we have now amongst all. Beating back poverty will be won when we are able to generate even more wealth from shrinking resources. And for that we'll need technology of the kind that is being created both directly and indirectly through the space programmes.
James Eedes, South Africa

It is not like shooting a bag of millions of pounds/dollars into space.
Mette Mogstad, UK
Even if the Mars Polar Lander may has disappeared, $165m has been poured into the economy - and not only in America. It is certainly a disappointment for the NASA team and also a negative figure on NASA's account, but imagine what this project has created in employment, supply and new know-how. Non of these factors can be looked upon as losses. It is not like shooting a bag of millions of pounds/dollars into space.
Mette Mogstad, UK

It is the long term "goal" of Humankind to strive and to seek out new worlds. Also it must be remembered that there have been considerable failures in the past, the Russian probes to mars in the 60's, the Apollo 204(1) fire, Apollo 13, Challenger disaster to name but a few. But have all these previous set backs stopped the Shuttle program or the building of the international space station? I personally feel that we must continue to strive to discover new worlds and I for one believe that this must be achieved no matter how much this cost both in terms of money and human life.
Peter William Dempers, England

Has anyone from NASA considered the possibility that, as the Mars Polar Lander was coming into land, a very large creature flicked out it's tongue and ate it, similar to a frog catching a fly? If not, why not? If so, when are we going to be told the truth?
Stuart Goodacre, United Kingdom

Space exploration is not a waste of money anymore than the explorations to the new world were hundreds of years ago. As for the perception that space explorations monies could be used elsewhere: The same could be said for all sorts of programs. In the United States, the NASA budget represents less than a penny of every tax dollar. Our country wastes far more on projects that are more questionable in terms of their results. There will always be expensive problems to solve on earth. There will never be a utopia. Therefore, we shouldn't expect to give up furthering our advances in the sciences, including the space sciences because things are not perfect on Earth. If we use that sort of logic, then man should have never left his prehistoric cave or mammoth bone dwellings to venture over the next hilltop or river. Exploration, whether it be in the arts or in the sciences, seems to be a human trait even when the results are not needed for basic survival.
Shawn Brueshaber, USA

Starvation is a symptom of the economic and political system as a whole; it is childish to maintain that it such a problem could be solved simply by diverting funds from one activity. One might also say, then, that music is a waste of money; and building pianos shouldn't happen whilst people are starving. However, we have no clear idea of the possibilities that space opens to us; can we colonise the galaxy? Are there resource-rich planets out there to sustain future growth? What is for sure is that we will -never- answer these questions when we do not bother ourselves to explore, to theorise, to experiment.
Leto Atreides, UK

If Columbus had been told going west of Europe was a waste of money, how long would it have taken to move away from Europe and Asia? If Marco Polo had not gone to China out of curiosity, how many minds would not have been inspired to discover in later centuries? If I had never cycled into that field opposite my house, I would have never found a marvellous spot to relax in the summer!
Jose Texidor-Carlsson, England

The amount of money spent on the space race could pay off the third world debt several times over.
Alister McClure, Great Britain
The amount of money spent on the space race could pay off the third world debt several times over. Let us sort out the needs of our own planet before exploiting another.
Alister McClure, Great Britain

Space exploration is absolutely not a waste of money-the long term benefits will far exceed the immediate cost of these missions. This planet has only finite resources and can last only so long at the present rate of usage, the current spate of exploration will pave the way to enable us to exploit the resources in space (Asteroids have large amounts of nickel, iron and precious metals). The figures for space exploration is high, but when you consider the high cost of military hardware such as fighter planes and warships, space exploration is cheap, interesting and will pave the way for something actually useful!
Steve Donegan, UK

Of course space exploration isn't a waste of money. There are people who will say that the money would be better spent on tackling poverty, but an extremely large amount of time and effort is already expended in that area; if we always followed that line of thinking, we would still be subsistance farmers. Some of the great technological advances of this age have come about as a result of space research, both physical and scientific - such as fault tolerant software technology and a whole plethora of alloys. Without exploration and adventure, we would live in a dull world.
Paul Townend, England

What would be ideal is if all of the countries of the world pooled their resources and collectively treated extra-planetary exploration with the respect it deserves. Sadly the only time this is likely to take place is if/when a goodly portion of the earth is destroyed by an incoming piece of space material.
Andrew McKay, UK

Space exploration is necessary because we cannot afford humanity to stay on only Earth. We cant have all our eggs in one basket. If something happens to Earth, either asteroid, war or disease we need a safe place where humanity can live on and someday return to the Earth.
William Griffiths, UK

The space program isn't just about Mars probes. It covers weather satellites, sun probes and other space borne research with demonstrable payback in the fields of earthquake prediction, weather, communications amongst many others. The amount of money involved is relatively trivial compared the real big spends of national budgets and defence. If you spent the space program budget on poverty, you'd still have poverty and no space program. The wealth of knowledge that space research has given us is a prize beyond compare.
Mark Hirst, UK

Of course space exploration is necessary. Without it we'll just be stuck on this planet until i) we either choke this planet to death ii) some other event sparks a disaster. Space exploration isn't worthless, but money is, when will we realise we should help ourselves when we have the ability to? That means tackling space exploration AND fighting poverty, but not driving fancy Jaguars.
Daren, UK

There is more than enough money in this world to deal with poverty as well as space exploration.
Scotty, UK
There is more than enough money in this world to deal with poverty as well as space exploration. The problem is how that money is used. We must explore and colonise space and learn to take better care of the only planet we've got, or else we don't have a future to worry about.
Scotty, UK

The world's problems are not caused by a lack of money; they are caused by ignorance and irrationality. Exploration of any kind puts our current situation in perspective and increases our useful knowledge. Planetary exploration in particular is vital at a time when understanding global climate change is important. The entire Mars program costs only a tiny fraction of the European common agricultural policy ($400 billion annually; a real waste of money).
Ross Henderson, Scotland

I think governments spending millions going into deep space is fine. Just so long as they spend the equivalent discovering why it takes me three hours to get the 37 miles to work each morning.
Jonathon Yuill, England

Space exploration is not a waste of money. The returns are quite considerable in terms of what we get back from it in the development of new technology. The Apollo programme alone gave us advances in micro-electronics, the freeze drying of food, advanced communications systems, even mirrored sunglasses. The only other activity that drives technology forward at such a pace, sadly, is war, the cost of which is immeasurably greater not only in terms of money, but in human life as well. Even if a space mission goes wrong, at least engineers and scientists can learn from what they did wrong and develop new methods and technologies to get it right next time.
Stuart Bunyan, UK

NASA could always make the money back - simply - by selling MARS!
Mike Aldrich, UK

With multinational corporations greedily raping the planet, it seems sensible to spend some of the ill-gotten gains finding a new place to move to when the earth no longer supports life.
Alfonse Tzeimer, UK

Whilst one of the objectives of the latest Mars mission was clearly to learn more about the Martian environment surely it would have made financial sense to ensure that the MPL at least had a stable surface to land on? If we can't even predict this much then it seems a fairly risky investment!
Dominic Greves, UK

I'm sure the majority of the worlds population on 1 dollar a day income will be all for the billions spent on the space program, but hey its not for them anyway is it?
Zafar Nadeem, England

If we want to save the poor and starving, then scrap the nuclear deterrent and spend that cash on them.
Gwyn Jones, Europe
The media loves failure and conveniently forgets every time they use space technology (communications, weather and earth resource satellites, GPS spacecraft for rescue etc.) All these come directly from the skills developed exploring space. Mars is a tiny but important part of it all. Mankind must have a dream, we surely should not all live for the "bottom line". If we want to save the poor and starving, then scrap the nuclear deterrent and spend that cash on them. NASA have always been up front about their disasters, the establishment in UK could well learn that lesson. In spite of the incredible difficulties they have always had the courage to do their space science in public.
Gwyn Jones, Europe

Space has so many future applications. Whilst it may only be research right now, the future possibilities are massive. The moon is the size of Africa and we have only sent eight expeditions.
Ian, UK

Space research teaches us engineering skills, even when it fails, so cannot be regarded as a waste of money, in my opinion. On the other hand, whenever did an opera ever further human knowledge? So maybe the arts are a bigger waste of money than space research?
David Hazel, UK

Of course it isn't a waste of money. We need to explore the solar system and beyond to ensure our future. At the moment we have all our eggs in one basket, only by exploring and one day colonising can we ensure the future of the human race. It is a shame that the UK is not involved more with space exploration. It does seem that NASA are having a bad time with their probes at the moment but they have to keep trying, and the MPL was cheap in comparison to other ventures in the past.
Neil Weller, UK

This is a stupid question to have to reply to. Was Columbus stupid for searching for the new world in 1492? And would the internet have been created without satellite communications? The world is running out of resources - we only have one long term future - in space.
Trevor Kneath, UK

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See also:
06 Dec 99 |  Sci/Tech
Little hope for Mars lander
06 Dec 99 |  Sci/Tech
Mars: Mission impossible?
11 Nov 99 |  Sci/Tech
Orbiter loss blamed on 'silly mistakes'

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