Today Americans celebrate the events of July 20, 1969, when Man walked on the Moon, declared Victory in Space, and went home. Forty years later, the U.S. space effort means car GPS, XM Radio, and satellite TV.
Tom Wolfe wants to celebrate the moon landing anniversary with a mission to Mars, a goal he shares with George W. Bush. Why Mars? Because it’s there. A good rationale for reality television, perhaps, but not for a dangerous and costly engineering program.
Mr. Wolfe thinks that if philosophers ran NASA we would have more challenging manned space stunts. He finds the unmanned missions that merely provide profound scientific knowledge just too boring. Perhaps he should discover computer games.
Even sending creaking old space shuttles into Earth orbit has sucked funding from real space science. Manned interplanetary projects would further choke real scientific efforts. Failure of public attention to space flights which do not endanger human life is hardly a question of philosphy.
If it takes humans in peril on other planets to inspire Americans, our nation needs a massive imagination overhaul much more than a Mars shot. Perhaps we can dispense with philosopher-bureaucrats and devote more effort to funding scientific research and science education.
Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com
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