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Space Log: Back to the moon, with machines

George Leopold
9/17/2010 01:02 AM EDT

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Bob Lacovara
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re: Space Log: Back to the moon, with machines
Bob Lacovara   9/20/2010 9:06:49 PM
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Curiously, you wouldn't think the price tag of somewhat under $600 million was a bargain. But these missions have several purposes: accession of knowledge of the moon, earth and solar system; the occasional surprising "find"; and keeping the engineering engines for planetary exploration warm. If you like, it's a sort of engineering and science welfare, except that taxpayers get something for their money. So, how's it a bargain? That price tag is pretty low for any sort of space mission. The Mars Pathfinder came in around $280 million. (Numbers from Wikipedia, buyer beware) These are both cheap compared to a Shuttle launch: $450 million according to NASA. Now, having worked manned space, I will freely admit that comparing unmanned exploration probes to manned rides to low earth orbit is a comparison of apples and oranges, but two points: we can probably use and afford both, and for the money, we should probably launch 3 to 5 times as many unmanned probes as we do now.

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