Red Planet

Moon astronauts urge Mars mission:

At a rare public reunion of the Apollo 11 crew, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins said Mars instead of the Moon should be the focus of exploration.

Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon, said the race to get to the Moon had been the ultimate peaceful contest.

He said it was an "exceptional national investment" for the US and ex-USSR.
The trio spoke at an event at Washington's National Air and Space Museum to mark the 40th anniversary of their mission.

Mr Armstrong told the audience: "It was the ultimate peaceful competition: USA vs USSR.

Apparently 4 out of 5 people alive today were not alive when the first moon landings occurred in 1969!

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Forty years ago! I remember when the first moon landing occurred. I was in high school and I was thinking I could have my 50th birthday party on the moon. Why not? It was more than 30 years in the future and surely we would have lunar tourism by then. So, so wrong. [Link]

What would be the point of a Mars mission? What did we get out of our Apollo "investment"? The "cooperation" argument is a complete crock.

The Greeks used up a lot of the coolest poetical and philosophical ideas before yankees ever had a shot. But they didn't land on the flipping moon! To me that's the value. Bagging Mars would be extremely rad and make us the official all-time baddest civilization in history. The only thing that could be even cooler is to actually blow up the moon or another planet, rather than just visiting it.

By Eric Johnson (not verified) on 20 Jul 2009 #permalink

I'm glad you're bringing this to our attention. I think it's a very important aspect of our world that is hard for even the educated and intouch citizen to really comprehend.
I'm an avid supporter of an intelligent space program which is why I'm also somewhat critical of NASA. Acknowledging its historic role and astonishing technological achievement in getting to the moon is one thing. But the program since then has been another, sadly. Turning the next phase of space developement into the skylab, shuttle, space station, complex, which was, once it was entrenched in the national space science intiative as it was widely percieved, becomming more of a bottomless rice bowl for 40 thousand engineers who'd probably, truth be told, be rather doing something interesting and developemental instead of just thinking of expensive ideas to keep operational what was intended to be a far more robust and experimental system than it has been shown to be.
Because of my avid support I'm very critical of the suggestion of setting a goal of returning to the moon and constucting a manned station there. Robots would do just fine for that the time being. Instead, for the human component, we should begin the construction of a real sspace station, using what we've learned from the ISS, and place it into a geosychronous orbing, not the mere 200 to 300 mile altititude of low earth orbit with all its problems despite the short sightedness of budgetary restrictions and fuel efficiency of doing so. Once in "real space" we could take advantage of its stability there to engineer strutures that don't have to be squeezed into school bus sized compartment and reassembled like some Ikea project. The big incentive for this should not be just pie in the sky whiz-bang, nor the military high ground (which truth be told pervaded the culutre) but the developement of space based solar energy delivery systems. The science and engineering for this is very real, very possible and merely awaits some of our more advanced societies and cultures taking on the practical challenge and very real goal of learning how to really operate in space, finding cheaper ways to get there (and there are quite a few as long as you're not launching a shuttle filled with humans and billions of dollars worth of somewhat delicate equipment)and exploiting the incredible resource of un-filtered solar energy on a scale that will be huge by terrestrial standards here on the surface with all it confounding weather and annoying gravity, yet reasonable from the poised balance of one of choice orbits a few thousand miles out and farther still.
With that super-abundance of energy and the availability of asteroids for physical sturctures, the next space station will be able to power itself, while sending a prodigeous amount of energy by microwave to earth (paying its way) and set the stage for the next leg in human advnacement, colonizing a neighboring planet, or terraforming Venus, and at the very least alleviating the emisions of carbon based fuels here on the surface, and making energy safer and more abundant than everbefore, bringing empowerment to the developing world, and reducing conflict over thinning energy supplies and other resources in our future, and perhaps most importantly: become able to deflect potentially world changing asteroids and/or cometary bodies that we now know from the earth's geologic history have impacted the earth before and perhpas more frequently than we dared to believe.