On Friday, Sam and I went to a lecture on Mars Exploration, which is part of a JPL lecture series. I came to a couple of realizations:
1.) NASA/JPL have an easy sell. The speaker managed a great lecture without a single equation (or reference to an equation). The graphics and pictures were stunning. The motivation, execution and results were all perfectly explained and validated. I was also pleased that the speaker addressed the human-based mission to Mars as an endeavor based on prestige where science came second. I loathe people who make the claim that vanity science projects are for anything other than pride. So don't give me the whole spiel that a human arm is far superior to a robot arm, 'cause you don't spend that kind of money to get a better working arm. Overall, with the sales-package they have, how can NASA/JPL not have the support for their research that they need.
2.) Since they have an easy sell, but are still having problems with funding what does it mean for the rest of us? The funding for NASA/JPL is taking hits like the rest of us. They have been given a mission and a woeful amount of money to spend on achieving that mission. What does that mean for the rest of us? We have equations in our talks, our pictures aren't nearly as pretty as their pictures, even the vanity aspect doesn't have the same caliber as a human mission to Mars (and I think the whole project is ridiculous). Yes, we can probe the conditions of the universe at its early stages. Yes, we are trying to understand the most basic components of matter and how they interact. I am just a little nervous that not everyone can see how remarkable it is and, worse yet, not want to fund it.