At 4:00PM eastern earthtime on August 28, American taxpayers’ $2.5 billion investment in interplanetary exploration will be retasked from searching for clues about the possibility of life on Mars to become the most expensive music box ever.
Curiosity, the rover that landed on the red planet in early August, will essentially become a marketing tool for singer and rapper will.i.am (more popularly known as a member of the Black-Eyed Peas pop music group). His new solo single, “Reach for the Stars,” will debut on Mars as the multi-billion-dollar rover transmits the song for the first time as part of an educational event being held at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
According to Space.com, the song is about will.i.am’s “passion for science, technology and space exploration.” The rapper is said to be a big science geek, and his celebrity apparently gained him previous access to NASA events such as being at NASA’s Cape Canaveral facility in Florida for the earlier landing of the Curiosity rover.
With all of the cuts in NASA funding — to the degree that America cannot now even put a man into space — it seems dubious that such an expensive piece of technology is seemingly freely given to a member of the entertainment elite as a plaything… and that NASA appears to consider this event a “milestone.”
Project 21 member Derryck Green, a resident of Pasadena and a neighbor of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is critical of the new missions of NASA under the guidance of the Obama Administration. Derryck said:
The passing of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, seems representative of the fading glory of NASA.
A once-great program — responsible for groundbreaking advances in aeronautics, aerospace travel and overall scientific research — has been cut deeply by the Obama Administration (particularly the budget for interplanetary missions such as the Curiosity rover). As a result of program cuts, American astronauts now lack the ability to return to space in American vehicles, which means America must depend on the good graces and generosity of the Russians — which is perhaps not the best choice of words considering that they increased the cost of a rocket ride.
A further example of NASA’s decline was NASA administrator Charles Bolden’s 2010 claim in an interview with Al-Jazeera that President Obama insisted that one of NASA’s “foremost” goals was Muslim ecumenism. According to Bolden in the interview, this President wants NASA to create opportunities to reach out to the Muslim world and “help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering.”
I find it curious and disturbing that President Obama’s priority of Muslim outreach takes precedent over space travel and exploration.
Speaking of curiosity, we are right now seeing NASA essentially mocking its past greatness with what they’ve planned in recognition for its most recent accomplishment — the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars. On August 28, singer, songwriter and producer will.i.am will premiere his most recent song, “Reach for the Stars,” from Mars via the Curiosity rover. The expensive piece of taxpayer-funded equipment will transmit the song to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California in conjunction with an event co-sponsored by Discovery Education.
Apparently, sending astronauts into space is no longer considered important — but the debut of a song by one of President Obama’s political supporters is worth the cost.
I am all for encouraging students’ interest in aerospace research and technology, especially if it sets the foundation for continued American space exploration. But it would seem much more pertinent and practical to promote this goal by promoting and finding the work of actual astronauts and rocket scientists who have a tangible knowledge, understanding and experience rather than just cross-promoting with a celebrity who simply composed a song about his passion for science.
Though the intentions of this NASA event may be pure, it appears that a genuine opportunity was missed for a chance to restore broad-based interest and appreciation for a program that has captivated several generations of Americans since long before a man landed on the moon.
A friend of mine brought this NASA-will.i.am collaboration to my attention as “the answer to the greatest trivia question of all time.” Maybe, like everyday byproducts of the American space program such as shoe insoles and cordless tools, this retasking of the expensive Curiosity rover will have succeeded on multiple levels by also revitalizing pub trivia contests and family games of Trivial Pursuit. So we’ve got that going for us.