It was just like the old days at NASA early this morning. Mission control updates. Blow by blow operation of critical systems. The tension was palpable as the Curiosity approached the surface of the Red Planet, Mars. In reality the results of the landing were already accomplished, good or bad, because it takes almost fourteen minutes for radio signals to reach earth from Mars at its current relative location.
As each major stage was successfully accomplished, mission control employees would applaud, and then continue their tasks as the landing progressed. Mission Control was at the JPL facilities at Cal Tech.
When it became known that the lander had arrived safely, it was party time. People jumped up, clapping their hands, showing their total enthusiasm. It was after one-thirty in the morning in Atlanta at my house, and I was happy, but not quite so jubilant.
I am probably wrong, but I got the distinct feeling that NASA wants us to feel like we still have the NASA of the last century. My feelings were a bit different.
This is the nineteenth Mars program in NASA history. The project cost $2.5 Billion, and was $1 Billion over budget, taking two years longer than projected.
What were the NASA folks cheering about? They had broken no new ground getting to Mars because they had done that eighteen times in the past. The only thing new was finding a way to land an automobile size rover without destroying it. They had been doing that bit of arithmetic for decades.
This is not your Daddy’s NASA. This is a bureaucracy of technocrats who feel they are entitled to unlimited sums of money, and deserve accolades when they come in over budget and late.
In my opinion they are barely doing their jobs.