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NASA's mission to Pluto is the best PR money can buy

$700 million plus a bunch of committed scientists is all it took to revive our fascination with space

The New Horizons space probe that's currently beaming back images of Pluto and its moons has made its way to the outer reaches of our solar system on a budget of just $700 million. Spread over the course of 15 years, the cost of this NASA mission is less than it takes to run most professional sports teams these days, but it's delivered so much more joy, pride, and awesome science. The United States has earned the unqualified admiration of the international community by pushing back the boundaries of human knowledge and rekindling our passion for new discoveries. For once, the flag-waving and "USA!" chants are justified (even if they remain pretty irksome for outsiders).

Just to put NASA's cost efficiency into context: $700 million is less than a tenth of the amount Microsoft wrote off after its takeover of Nokia. Apple could fund fifteen New Horizons missions with just the profit from its last three months. And AT&T's proposed takeover of DirecTV is close to 70 times more expensive than the humble Pluto probe.

Of course, anyone that's been paying attention to celebrated astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson will know that NASA has a history of delivering outstanding return on investment. Check out his impassioned testimony above, provided to a US Senate hearing, for a sense of the inadequate support that the US space agency has been receiving over the years. And if you share Tyson's sense that NASA can and should receive greater funding, now is a fine time to get in touch with your own democratic representative and urge him or her to help support the next US excursion into space.

Verge Video: The biggest discoveries from Pluto's flyby