HUMANS IN SPACE….The New York Times editorializes today (tomorrow, actually) that although focusing on space stations in low earth orbit is misguided, we should keep the manned space program anyway:
It is important to maintain the human spaceflight program, but it should be focused more sharply on the ultimate if distant goal: human exploration of far-off worlds.
….We don’t pretend that there are any economic or military gains to be had on distant planets, or that it is important to beat, say, the Chinese, should they become a spacefaring power. The overarching reason to venture out beyond this planet is to see what it is like out there, to satisfy our curiosity, to engage in the sheer thrill of exploration and new discoveries. The task ahead is to find a way to keep the flame of exploration alive at a time when the space program has been rocked by tragedy and when huge deficits make it hard to find financing for grand ventures whose payoff lies decades in the future.
I’m still not sure I buy this ? at least for now ? but at least it’s an honest reason. The problem is that even in 1970, with the moon landing fresh in our memories, no one was able to get the country interested in a mission to Mars, and nothing has changed in 30 years. It may be an honest argument, but I doubt that it’s a persuasive one.