For those of you using Google today, you'll notice a bunch of odd little pictures making up the logo. I do wish they had a larger version (or at least someplace I could find it easily). It took me by surprise when I got on the innertubes this morning- my homepage is iGoogle, so their friendly logo is nearly the first thing I see when I turn on the 'puter each day. I clicked on it to see if I could figure out what the event was: turns out today is NASA's 50th birthday. With that in mind, today's logo makes better sense.
I may disagree with some of NASA's spending decisions (for example, I think the International space station is an enormous boondoggle), but overall, the various space programs represent what seem to me some of humanities greatest achievements. Just a few (of many) examples: the Hubble imagery, which gives us pictures of awesome beauty, the Mars Rovers and their ongoing exploration of a planet stunningly similar and stunningly different from our own, the Cassini probe, sending data from a gorgeous world nearly ten times farther from the sun than Earth (with a tip of the hat to ESA's lander, which sent the single most stunning astronomical image I have ever seen- for a later post) and the MESSENGER probe, which I've written about here and here, and to which I need to return eventually. I know some argue about the "enormous" cost of funding NASA, but if you look at the cost compared to other expenditures, NASA's cost is trivial.
Happy 50th Birthday! May your next 50 be even more productive, and give us more to be amazed about and proud of.