A billion dollars can buy a lot of noodles - Greg Gelpi

A billion bucks is a lot of money. There is no other way of saying it.

Back in college, we monitored the economy by the price of Ramen noodles.

Living on a fixed income, even more than present days, Ramen noodles became a staple of the diet of my friends and me.

We knew the economy turned sour when the price of a pack of the noodles rocketed to 13 cents. In contrast, we knew the economy was sailing smoothly when the price plummeted to 9 cents a pack.

I regularly dug through the crevices of my couch for a nickel or a dime before buying groceries for the week.

With this background, it's no surprise at my reaction to the recent space exploration news.

I'm happy to dismiss it as a generational thing, but I'm not exactly impressed with the new pictures of Mars taken by the NASA rover.

Yeah, it's cool. I'll give it that, but I quickly return to my college economics.

My roommates and I would convert prices into Ramen, exclaiming that such and such costs eight Ramen or whatever.

I'm thinking that these pictures of a barren planet are equivalent to a lot of Ramen noodles, a lot of meals that could go to feeding the hungry.

And now with President Bush's $1 billion announcement, I can picture a pile of Ramen the size of an Egyptian pyramid.

Bush announced Wednesday that he wants to add a billion bucks to NASA funding, so that in the years to come we can return to the moon and send an astronaut to Mars.

My reaction? Kind of cool.

I'm a sci-fi fan. I've watched my share of Star Trek. I've read a countless number of Kurt Vonnegut books.

Still, I think of what a $1 billion could buy.

A few coworkers spoke in amazement of the new Mars photos, astounded that they were even in color.

Only a few years out of college and still very much in debt, my mouth dropped at the price tag, although I can't say I'm too surprised.

I'm no astrophysicist, and I'm not an economist, but the costs seem to outweigh the benefits.

But then again, maybe Bush and his political cronies are mapping out a place to hide out if things get too rough back here in reality, back here on planet Earth.

Greg Gelpi covers education for the News Daily. He can be reached at ggelpi@news-daily.com or (770) 478-5753 Ext. 247.