The Corpus Callosum

Just Say No! to Mars

When I was 11 or so, I read Heinlein’s novel, href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podkayne_of_Mars">Podkayne
of Mars
.  I wanted to go to Mars after
that.  The thought never really left me.  But in June
of this year, I began to have my doubts.  Scientists reported
that the soil on Mars is href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7477310.stm">suitable
for growing ASPARAGUS.  Forget Mars.  Keep
your asparagus.

But as the months passed by, I begin to thing I could learn to like
asparagus.  My sisters used to collect wild asparagus near our
home.  They enjoyed collecting it, and everyone — except me

enjoyed eating it.

But this latest discovery from the href="http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/phoenix/main/index.html">Phoenix
Mars Lander clinches it.  No Mars for me.

i-e70ff8198904c7d4a6e4a96c364c1e45-_44701372_phoenix_lander466.gif

href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/09/080929-mars-snow.html">Phoenix
Mars Lander “Sees” Falling Snow

Anne Minard
for National Geographic News
September 29, 2008

NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander has dug up new clues to
the red planet’s wet
past and has witnessed what could be a current water cycle in the form
of falling snow, scientists announced today…

…”In the second half of the mission we saw frost, ground fog, and
clouds. This is now occurring every night,” Whiteway said.

Asparagus.  Snow.  Forget it.  

href="http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/phoenix/images/press/Lidar_Fall_Streaks_SD_001.html"> alt="Lidar image of falling snow (click)"
title="Lidar image of falling snow (click)"
src="http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/279897main_Lidar_Fall_Streaks_SD_001_516-387.jpg"
border="0" height="387" width="516">

Although href="http://www.cleveland.com/news/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/opinion/1222590769279050.xml&coll=2&thispage=1">Obama
and McCain both support a return to the Moon and a trip to
Mars ( href="http://spaceports.blogspot.com/2008/09/obama-mccain-promise-moon-really.html">HT),
it appears doubtful that this will happen anytime soon.

But President Obama or President McCain may have
trouble delivering on those campaign promises. The space program is
facing big technical and political challenges, and NASA, perennially
underfunded by Bush even after he launched his ambitious exploration
plan in 2004, will have to compete for additional money during a time
of war and recession.

I know that China is href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/29/world/asia/29china.html?partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&pagewanted=all">getting
into the space travel business.  

href="http://spaceports.blogspot.com/2007/11/china-to-launch-three-taikonauts.html"> title="Shen Zhou patch" alt="Shen Zhou patch"
src="http://www.spacefacts.de/mission/patches/shenzhou-5.gif"
border="0" height="330" width="268">

i-61235a66545ba0367821b88b0ecc058a-Chinese taikonauts.jpg
taikonauts return

China’s program is more modest: they href="http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2008-09/29/content_7069550.htm">hope
to have a space station up by 2020.  That seems more
realistic than a trip to Mars.  Plus, I’d be willing to go to
a space station.  Assuming they don’t take American asparagus.

Martian sunrise title="Martian sunrise"
src="http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/279776main_sunrise_sol101-330.gif"
height="165" width="330">
Martian landscape

It is too early to say that the sun is setting on the US space program.
 NASA has href="http://www.nasa.gov/missions/future/index.html">several
exciting missions planned for the near future.  But
increased tension between the US and Russia are said to href="http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5gFs-KdAHqfcOLpWZWcf5hjzXPYow">threaten
our access to the Space Station.  

For the sake of the future of the space program, it may be that
diplomacy and economic savvy turn out to be just as important as
technological development.

Comments

  1. #1 Becca
    September 30, 2008

    Wow! I haven’t thought of Podkayne of Mars in ages. It was one of the first science fictiony books I read. I remember it very fondly, but I suspect I should not go back and read Heinlein again.

    If foreign policy, by defintion, includes the financial crisis, then rocket science, by definition, includes the financial crisis. And diplomacy. And any number of other squishy things.
    Although even from a solely technological perspective, we could have the rockets for Mars relatively easily. It’s the DNA-damage treatment/cancer-cures we need.

  2. #2 Romeo Vitelli
    September 30, 2008

    Compared to the other planets in the solar system, Mars is a tourist paradise. All you need is a little fixing up and you could call it home.

  3. #3 KAS
    October 2, 2008

    LOL – funny!

    ~KAS

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