Next stop Mars? Is that what the world needs now?

America’s aging astronauts didn’t get all choked up with nostalgia on the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11’s landing on the moon. They talked about walking on Mars, instead.
It figures. Men like Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Christopher Kraft, Jr. are hard-wired to be adventurers; to focus on the future; to urge themselves and other Americans to take risks to do the next impossible thing.
Their urgings will be turned aside. Can’t afford it, what with the recession, the deficit, and all. Besides, what’s on Mars to see? Do we really want to put lives at stake and spend billions to explore what the robots show us to be a barren, featureless desert? Let’s do our daring explorations at home: Discover how to provide affordable health care to all Americans. Find ways to make our schools the best in the world. Devise formulas to put a lid on crime so that America no longer sets records for the numbers of men, women and almost-adults it sends to prison to spend what should be their most productive years. Stop global warming.
In a word, America will tell those old dreamers, we must be practical.
In reply, Armstrong, Collins, Aldrin, et al, should say, “wake up and smell the coffee, you scaredy cats. Nothing America has done since the last bomb fell in World War II has created more jobs, generated more wealth or raised our country’s standing in the world higher than winning the space race with Russia.”
Maybe they’d be right; maybe not.
There is no denying that our country benefited beyond all hopes or expectations from the riches created by the national effort to land on the moon first. That triumph, coming on the heels of our leadership in World War II, the far-sighted generosity of the Marshall Plan and the wise investments made through the GI Bill of Rights, secured our place as number one in the world.
Does it therefore follow that reviving the space program with Mars and beyond as the goal would do the same?
Probably not. Doing so might be a cop-out, in-stead.
There is little doubt that American scientists could develop the technology to land people on Mars and bring them back again. But it is much more difficult to argue that that’s what the world needs now.
Making the world better for its 6 billion (and counting) people is a much more challenging, much more urgent, assignment. Not as glamorous as going to Mars. Wouldn’t make big headlines. Would generate bitter political fights. Failures could be expected. Solving people problems is almost always harder than unraveling technical ones.
But when one looks around the globe in the year 2009, the needs that stand out in bold relief can’t be solved by a new NASA. No matter how much excitement going to Mars could generate, it would be far more remarkable if the next grand crusade focused on uniting humankind to meet human needs. And, who knows, attacking those needs might produce a wave of prosperity wider, deeper and longer-lasting than going to the moon did for the last generation of Americans determined to dream the impossible dream.
— Emerson Lynn, jr.America’s aging astronauts didn’t get all choked up with nostalgia on the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11’s landing on the moon. They talked about walking on Mars, instead.
It figures. Men like Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Christopher Kraft, Jr. are hard-wired to be adventurers; to focus on the future; to urge themselves and other Americans to take risks to do the next impossible thing.
Their urgings will be turned aside. Can’t afford it, what with the recession, the deficit, and all. Besides, what’s on Mars to see? Do we really want to put lives at stake and spend billions to explore what the robots show us to be a barren, featureless desert? Let’s do our daring explorations at home: Discover how to provide affordable health care to all Americans. Find ways to make our schools the best in the world. Devise formulas to put a lid on crime so that America no longer sets records for the numbers of men, women and almost-adults it sends to prison to spend what should be their most productive years. Stop global warming.
In a word, America will tell those old dreamers, we must be practical.
In reply, Armstrong, Collins, Aldrin, et al, should say, “wake up and smell the coffee, you scaredy cats. Nothing America has done since the last bomb fell in World War II has created more jobs, generated more wealth or raised our country’s standing in the world higher than winning the space race with Russia.”
Maybe they’d be right; maybe not.
There is no denying that our country benefited beyond all hopes or expectations from the riches created by the national effort to land on the moon first. That triumph, coming on the heels of our leadership in World War II, the far-sighted generosity of the Marshall Plan and the wise investments made through the GI Bill of Rights, secured our place as number one in the world.
Does it therefore follow that reviving the space program with Mars and beyond as the goal would do the same?
Probably not. Doing so might be a cop-out, in-stead.
There is little doubt that American scientists could develop the technology to land people on Mars and bring them back again. But it is much more difficult to argue that that’s what the world needs now.
Making the world better for its 6 billion (and counting) people is a much more challenging, much more urgent, assignment. Not as glamorous as going to Mars. Wouldn’t make big headlines. Would generate bitter political fights. Failures could be expected. Solving people problems is almost always harder than unraveling technical ones.
But when one looks around the globe in the year 2009, the needs that stand out in bold relief can’t be solved by a new NASA. No matter how much excitement going to Mars could generate, it would be far more remarkable if the next grand crusade focused on uniting humankind to meet human needs. And, who knows, attacking those needs might produce a wave of prosperity wider, deeper and longer-lasting than going to the moon did for the last generation of Americans determined to dream the impossible dream.
— Emerson Lynn, jr.America’s aging astronauts didn’t get all choked up with nostalgia on the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11’s landing on the moon. They talked about walking on Mars, instead.
It figures. Men like Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Christopher Kraft, Jr. are hard-wired to be adventurers; to focus on the future; to urge themselves and other Americans to take risks to do the next impossible thing.
Their urgings will be turned aside. Can’t afford it, what with the recession, the deficit, and all. Besides, what’s on Mars to see? Do we really want to put lives at stake and spend billions to explore what the robots show us to be a barren, featureless desert? Let’s do our daring explorations at home: Discover how to provide affordable health care to all Americans. Find ways to make our schools the best in the world. Devise formulas to put a lid on crime so that America no longer sets records for the numbers of men, women and almost-adults it sends to prison to spend what should be their most productive years. Stop global warming.
In a word, America will tell those old dreamers, we must be practical.
In reply, Armstrong, Collins, Aldrin, et al, should say, “wake up and smell the coffee, you scaredy cats. Nothing America has done since the last bomb fell in World War II has created more jobs, generated more wealth or raised our country’s standing in the world higher than winning the space race with Russia.”
Maybe they’d be right; maybe not.
There is no denying that our country benefited beyond all hopes or expectations from the riches created by the national effort to land on the moon first. That triumph, coming on the heels of our leadership in World War II, the far-sighted generosity of the Marshall Plan and the wise investments made through the GI Bill of Rights, secured our place as number one in the world.
Does it therefore follow that reviving the space program with Mars and beyond as the goal would do the same?
Probably not. Doing so might be a cop-out, in-stead.
There is little doubt that American scientists could develop the technology to land people on Mars and bring them back again. But it is much more difficult to argue that that’s what the world needs now.
Making the world better for its 6 billion (and counting) people is a much more challenging, much more urgent, assignment. Not as glamorous as going to Mars. Wouldn’t make big headlines. Would generate bitter political fights. Failures could be expected. Solving people problems is almost always harder than unraveling technical ones.
But when one looks around the globe in the year 2009, the needs that stand out in bold relief can’t be solved by a new NASA. No matter how much excitement going to Mars could generate, it would be far more remarkable if the next grand crusade focused on uniting humankind to meet human needs. And, who knows, attacking those needs might produce a wave of prosperity wider, deeper and longer-lasting than going to the moon did for the last generation of Americans determined to dream the impossible dream.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.