Shot by the rover on its highly choreographed descent to the surface of the Red Planet, and synced with ground audio that in reality lagged the actual events by several minutes, the video embedded here may raise goose bumps.
Give it a watch.
In contrast to the many stories about the landing that focused on the astrobiology mission and sheer technical success of putting such a large vehicle on the surface of another planet, shortly after the landing GOOD went a different direction. What does the public get for its $1.5b? You might be surprised.
The - ahem - money graph:
Those who say NASA is an economic leech have no idea how tiny a share NASA has, so here’s a quick visual. Turn a tax dollar into one hundred pennies. Pick up one penny. Now, take a pair of shears and cut off a sliver of that penny, something slightly less than half. That sliver is NASA. And the Curiosity rover? Per capita, it cost each American seven dollars. The war in Iraq, by comparison, will cost each of us around $12,000. The $850 billion Wall Street bailout cost more than NASA's entire 54-year existence.
Over those 54 years though, NASA has paid dividends. Any long distance communication--voice, television, data, GPS--has NASA to thank. They developed the first satellites, accomplishing that would’ve been far too risky and expensive for any private company to pioneer. The list of aviation safety and medical technologies NASA developed or helped develop is too long for this screen. Cordless appliances, LEDs, water filters, memory foam mattresses? All NASA. One out of every thousand US patents belongs to NASA. Economic studies have found that NASA generates between 3 and 7 dollars return for every 1 dollar invested.
After an extensive two-week check out, the plutonium powered six-wheeled spider has raised its mast and begun to move, leaving tracks behind.