Consider. Here we have a $2.5 billion interplanetary mission that is easily the most ambitious space exploration mission since the Apollo project. And it's using a completely new and untested landing system. Only bits and pieces of the landing system have been physically tested, and not even remotely all together. Because it turns out it is rather non-trivial to simulate an atmospheric reentry from an interplanetary trajectory, in the Martian atmosphere, under Martian gravity. In the end it came down to relying on our prior understanding of the Martian environment and simulations and measurements of the landing system and trusting the software to do its job. Because the round-trip delay for a human to be able to effect some part of the landing is nearly half an hour, and the entirety of the landing would take about a quarter that much time. Indeed, by the time we on Earth would receive a signal indicating that the atmospheric entry had begun in reality the entire landing would have already occurred several minutes in the past.
If you ever thought that a lot was riding on your code, this will certainly put that in perspective.
With that argument you could argue that any loss of money is unimportant, because it could have been used better. This amount has been invested for Mars exploration, so a mission failure would be a net loss.
Now, to be clear, I think there are plenty of good arguments that spending a marginal 2.5 billion dollars to put a robot on Mars is actually the right call, in terms of its long term benefits for humanity. Wasn't taking a position on that either way. My point is just that you can measure the cost (and, by assumption, benefits if we're successful) in units of human lives, and that it's a big number. That's wiped out if the rover crashes, so a lot is riding on that code.
You might argue that the risk of failure is priced into the tradeoff society made. You might also argue that not all of the value of sending the rover is destroyed if the landing fails. Those both seem uncompelling, but I haven't thought too hard about it.
US spending on Iraq does, in fact, really tick me off. It's an enormously inefficient use of resources.
Consider that we've lost over a third of an interplanetary mission in pointless legal battles.
Beautiful I didn't know they had such high quality video I figured like it seems on all the others missions data is kept to a minimum and we'd only see black and white 640x480.
A split screen view of the computer simulation with the original MARDI images synced up.
[EDIT] And now that I stop playing the video on repeat I realize this was covered in the article and the video description...
I wonder how happy NASA is with the sky-crane solution - would they do it again as the new standard for mars rovers or is it in the "nice try" category?