What are you good at? I mean, really, REALLY good at?
Are you an amazing pianist? An incredible computer programmer? An awesome athlete? Are you a gifted chef, a brilliant architect, or a whiz at accounting?
Is there any question in anyone’s mind that to be genuinely exceptional at something you also have to love doing it?
You know what we, as a nation, are exceptionally good at? Something nobody else does as well as we do?
Aerospace. We do Aerospace better than anyone. Why? Because we love it. It’s in our blood.
We flew the first working airplanes. We invented the airline industry. We were the first people to fly an aircraft faster than Mach 1, the speed of sound, and then past Mach 2, and Mach 3, and 4, and 5 and 6…
We invented the satellite telecommunications industry. We put 12 sets of footprints on the Moon. We built and successfully flew the reusable Space Shuttle – for 30 years.
Yes, we did some of those things with varying levels of international cooperation, but the point is we were always leading the effort.
This past weekend, we launched a one-ton robot the size of a car and sent it on its way to Mars. This rover, aptly named “Curiosity,” is a huge, powerful, all-wheel-drive rolling science laboratory with a mission to study Mars and look for signs of life. It will arrive on the red planet next August and then spend at least the next two years exploring Mars.
Watch this video:
Is there any doubt in your mind that this, the Mars Science Laboratory Mission, is the work of people who are passionate about their jobs and are the best in the world at it?
Now then, what’s the value, (I don’t mean cost, I mean the value, as in “How important is this to us?”) of a program like that?
What is it worth to us as a nation to roll-back the frontiers of scientific discovery, to answer important questions about the abundance and nature of life in the universe, to develop significant new technologies in propulsion, guidance, communication, robotics, miniaturization, materials science, biochemistry, computing, etc.?
What is it worth to us to invest in the last sector of the economy that we’re still best-in-the-world at doing?
Moreover, what is it worth to give the 10 year-olds among us something powerfully inspirational and real to fill their imaginations with? What are they supposed to get excited about?
Where does the passion and focus come from to create the next generations of great American scientists and engineers? What is that worth to us?
The total cost of this multi-year project $2.5 billion. To me, when I compare that figure to everything else we as a nation fund, this is a tiny amount of money with an absolutely huge return on investment.
But that’s just me. I know there are people who have other ideas about our investments in space exploration.
All I ask is that when you think about the Curiosity rover now en route to Mars, you think about it not in terms of its cost – but in terms of its value to us and to our future.
If you want to be the best at something, then do what you love, love what you do, and always practice, practice, practice!
The Mars Science Laboratory mission is a spectacular example of America doing what we do best, and it shows us the way to even greater frontiers in science. It gives the 10 year-olds of today something amazing to get starry-eyed about that will propel them through school and into an adulthood of good-paying jobs doing work that we do better than anyone else because we love doing it more than anyone else.
What is that worth to us?