NASA Proves Aiming High Pays Off
After traveling 300 million miles to Mars, the NASA Spirit proved that giant efforts can yield amazing rewards.There is nothing like a big, complicated, high-profile mission to shine the light of public attention on technology. No, Im not talking about Microsoft once again trying to get Windows to be the centerpiece of the home network. And Im not speaking of the latest anti-spam software, either. Im referring to NASAs Mars mission. Not only is it a vast, complex project, it is successfulso faras well. After traveling 300 million miles, going through a difficult descent, landing and sending photos back from Mars, the NASA Spirit proved that giant efforts can yield amazing rewards. Within a week, the photos of the surface of Mars went from grainy black and white to vivid color, and the story proved even more popular on the Web than Britney Spears walk (and retreat) down the wedding aisle in Las Vegas. By Tuesday of last week, Web visitors to the Nasa.gov site had downloaded nearly 15 terabytes of information related to the Mars mission. The two great drivers of technology in the mid-20th centuryWorld War II and the space racelaid the foundation for many of the technological developments we enjoy today. During the last few years, companies have been reluctant to embark on big projects, but as the Mars mission demonstrates, it is those big leaps that produce the biggest results.
The second big government-backed project in the news was the start of an ID system for many foreigners entering the United States. While much of the public focus was on the fingerprint scanners and digital cameras that are due to become part of every U.S. port of entry, the database back end that will match entry and exit data for an estimated 24 million visitors per year is the bigger achievement.