Posted Jan 15, 2004 in Science.
There has been a great deal of commentary in the media about the desire of the current US administration to return to the Moon, replace the ageing Space Shuttle, and then send a manned mission to the planet Mars. A huge number of scientists and enthusiasts have come out in support of the project, but a far greater number have come out against it.
The naysayers all say that the money would be far better spent on something else. Others point out that there isn't any money to spend in the first place, which is a fair point, and still more complain that the idea is politically motivated.
For me, however, the other side of the argument is far more attractive. A national focus, on something extraordinary, with a fairly good chance of success sounds like a good idea. It will energize the aerospace industry, cause stunning leaps forward in understanding and technology, produce numerous benefits for mankind, and push the limit of human ability to a new summit.
Perhaps the greatest argument, however, is this: it will create a tremendous sense of national pride. Once more, we can watch with awe as mighty rockets blast their way into orbit. We can witness the establishment of humanity's first extra-terrestrial base. We can puff out our chests as man takes his first steps on another world. And when all that happens, who can deny man anything?