Get with the program, gramps, the Moon is yesterday's news, Mars is where it's at now!
NEXT STOP, MARS - that was the message President Obama gave during his April 15 speech at the Kennedy Space Center, in Titusville, Florida. The President also called for private enterprise to step up to the plate, saying, "We've got to do it in a smart way, and we can't just keep on doing the same old things that we've been doing and thinking that somehow is going to get us to where we want to go."
The President's Mars plan has its detractors, but it can be hard to tell whether the objections are due to genuine concerns over untested technologies, or are politically motivated.
"The President's new plan... [pins] our hopes for success on unproven, commercial companies," said one Senator after Obama's speech.
Mars Needs Americans!
Early in the film Fight Club, the narrator, in a combination of cynicism and prescience, says,
"When deep space exploration ramps up, it'll be the corporations that name everything, the IBM Stellar Sphere, the Microsoft Galaxy, Planet Starbucks."
And why not? If there are no rules keeping corporate entities from naming the baseball stadiums they buy or build, why can't they name the spoils of their intergalactic efforts?
One of my childhood heroes, the second man on the moon, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, backs the President's plans, and wrote in USA Today, "It is important that the system we develop is capable of enabling broader commercial markets. To do this, the future plan should include the development of a reusable, space plane-like runway lander as the next generation of crew carrying space transport."
Which is great - especially if you are familiar with Tom Wolfe's excellent history of the early days of the "space race," The Right Stuff.
Wolfe wrote that what the US Air Force was working on at the time of Sputnik was exactly that: a series of super-high altitude rocket jets leading up to one that could enter the vacuum of space and glide to a return.
That program was sidetracked and eternally paused, as the US chased the brute force tactics of big rockets to get a man on the moon first.
Photos: NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Paramount Pictures