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Morning Brief: NASA’s Curiosity Reaches Mars

by Renewing America Staff
August 6, 2012

NASA engineers celebrate the successful landing and first images from the Curiosity rover at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California (NASA Handout/Courtesy Reuters). NASA engineers celebrate the successful landing and first images from the Curiosity rover at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California (NASA Handout/Courtesy Reuters).

Early this morning, the Curiosity rover successfully touched down on the Martian surface (LATimes). The $2.5 billion mission was launched on November 26, and its primary task will last almost two years. Curiosity will search for signs of past life and delve into Mars’ geologic history. Its primary destination is Mount Sharp, a three-mile high mountain inside Gale Crater that may once have been submerged in a lake. The successful landing in a relatively small window was considered a major technical accomplishment. NASA’s chief scientist commented: “Curiosity will set us up for the day when men and women will land on the surface of Mars, and it might not be that far away.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson, noted astrophysicist and director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium, discussed the economic importance of pushing scientific frontiers through efforts such as space exploration in an essay and interview with Foreign Affairs.

Google Lays Fiber in Kansas City

Google is laying fiber optic cables in Kansas City to offer high-speed internet and TV; the rapid service is already exciting the region’s entrepreneurs (WSJ). Google Fiber is substantially faster and cheaper than existing broadband services. Google is focused on providing access to households as part of the government’s National Broadband Plan, but entrepreneurs trying to create everything from highway pavement monitoring systems to telepresence for elderly patients see an opportunity to get great access at low overhead costs.

Innovation. Read more on how the U.S. capacity to innovate could play a chief role in economic growth.

International Trade and Investment

Bringing Manufacturing to the United States

A recent piece in the New York Times compares the creation of U.S. car factories by Japanese automakers with efforts to encourage technology firms like Apple to move production from China to the United States. In the 1980s, a blend of public and congressional pressure, “voluntary” quotas on Japanese exports, and tax incentives led to new American factories and jobs. While some policymakers argue that encouraging domestic production will lead to better jobs, others counter that economic growth may suffer as costs rise and competition is impeded.

Success stories of rebounding local economies often provide practical, realistic lessons. Senior economist at the Center for Science, Technology and Economic Development at SRI International Roland Stephen offered important insights in the recent Renewing America Working Paper, “After Manufacturing: Lessons for a New Reality from North Carolina.”

International trade and investment. Read more from leading analysts on the debate over next steps in U.S. trade policy.

Infrastructure

Maine Considers a Private Highway

A large Maine-based engineering and construction firm is planning a $2 billion private toll road (NYT). The proposed road would run east to west across the state and could link deep water ports to a major highway, making Maine an important trade gateway. Opponents argue the highway would disrupt the rural nature of the state.

Scott Thomasson, the president of NewBuild Strategies and an expert on infrastructure funding, recently authored “Encouraging U.S. Infrastructure Investment,” a Policy Innovation Memorandum released by Renewing America. Thomasson proposes new initiatives to address crumbling U.S. infrastructure.

Infrastructure. Read more on how upgrading the nation’s aging network of roads, bridges, airports, railways, and water systems is essential to maintaining U.S. competitiveness.

Debt and Deficits

Social Security Becomes a Losing Investment for Many

Some recent retirees are likely to be the first to receive less in Social Security benefits than they paid in payroll taxes (AP). Middle and high income two-earner households are the most likely ones to lose out; Social Security benefits are progressive, and unemployed spouses of workers can receive benefits even if they themselves do not work. Today 56 million receive Social Security benefits; by 2035 91 million are expected to benefit, and payroll taxes are expected to provide less than three-quarters of funding for these recipients.

Debt and deficits. Read more from experts on the challenges in reducing U.S. debt.

The Morning Brief is compiled by Renewing America contributor Steven J. Markovich.

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