It’s probably a good thing that we’re actually having debates over manned missions again since it says that after the longest time when the only manned missions involved the space shuttle releasing another satellite or pointless experiment on whether ants can assemble screws in space, we’re actually having the debate, propelled in part by Russian jingoism as usual “The moon, she belong to Russia!”
And this is how the AFP spins it.
The United States has pledged to colonize the Moon by 2020 and send astronauts to Mars, but many scientists say dangerous and costly manned space missions should be a thing of the past, not the future.
Most of those scientists by no coincidence love grants and have no interest in actually going into space. They’d much rather aimlessly send out 500 million dollar probes and spend the next decade of their career trying to prove some ambiguous theory based on the even more ambiguous readings taken by said probe, which is where the planetary science of the last few decades has been.
Intelligent robots and satellites such as those already exploring the Red Planet, they say, do a good job and are a lot less fragile than human organisms too easily stranded millions of miles from home.
Yes their good job consists of traveling a few miles in a year’s time without breaking down too much and returning some readings which after a few years still leave scientists debating the question of water on Mars. Absolutely smashing, also absolutely useless. We could send out another hundred probes and the debates will only keep going without ever being settled by scientific orthodoxy.
Delving deeper into the final frontier, however, is coming back into vogue.
NASA’s renewed commitment to lunar and Mars missions, entrepreneurial ventures ranging from space tourism to moon mining, and emerging “space powers” China and India are all promising to launch a new generation of flesh-and-blood explorers beyond the reassuring grip of near-Earth gravity.
“We are looking at the moon and Mars to build a civilisation for tomorrow and after that,” the head of NASA, Michael Griffin, told an international astronautical congress in India last week.
NASA has targeted the Moon’s south pole for a lunar base as a jumping off point for further exploration of our solar system. Mars is the primary target, with the Phoenix spacecraft set to land on its northern plains next year to see if the Red Planet can support human life.
Yes which is what we should have been doing all along. Instead we wasted decades on the Space Shuttle which is now a junkheap that’s falling apart and is truly dangerous. We had the lead in space for decades and we blew it. Now we’re playing catch up with the Russians and Free enterprise and that isn’t looking good.