ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON 11/19/09
While I'm no fan of Senator William Proxmire's constant kvetching about NASA's budget, I do have to admit I find it disheartening that our nation's space agency can't seem to design a roll of toilet paper without it weighing 40,000 pounds and costing a cool billion. It's not so much that I object to the money - I really don't, space is an expensive business, after all, which is why only 13 countries have ever even attempted it - but how little ambition they seem to have with the money.
If NASA wanted a billion dollars for some cool project, I'd say "Sure, go for it," but inevitably what they want the money for is more R/C cars on Mars, or paper studies suggesting why Global Warming is real this week and not the next, or a lengthy white paper on what DVDs on the ISS most affect crew readiness. I wouldn't have any problem with even this tripe, were they doing anything *real* in space - I mean, the Bomber needs its Nose Art - but when there's no real mission, and the detritus takes the place of a mission, you're in problemville.
"Yeah, well you don't know!" NASA says, "You've never done anything! Who are you to complain that we've been deliberately wasting your time and killing people for thirty years in our insanely expensive efforts to push back the frontiers of perfume research?"
And they have a point: I've never actually *done* anything like that, I've never put anything in space.
But Justin Lee and Oliver Yeh have. They're a couple students at MIT who decided one day, "Hey, let's put a camera in space!" And then - unlike most of us, who went back to our bongs and Pink Floyd CDs, THEY ACTUALLY WENT OUT AND DID IT! FOR $150 bucks!
Ok, ok, ok, admittedly it wasn't *exactly* space, but I think given their total expenditures of cash, I can cut them a little bit of slack in that regard, particularly when we're comparing them to an increasingly-useless government agency that has spent 30 years insisting that the space shuttle - which costs 6 times as much as a Saturn V to put cargo in orbit - somehow costs less.
Read the whole story here: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/09/the-150-space-camera-mit-students...