Check out this video on saving NASA’s Constellation program and Ares rocket (the program that was going to replace the Space Shuttle and take us back to the moon, and then Mars). In his proposed budget Obama wants to raise NASA funding by about 2%, but cut the Constellation program (and basically manned space flight), leaving that area open for private companies to take over.
This has been a pretty low note compared to Obama’s announcement to push for science and engineering education. Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg thinks it’s the right thing to do, arguing that “the only technology for which the manned space flight program is well suited is the technology of keeping people alive in space. And the only demand for that technology is in the manned space flight program itself.” And I’m sure robots everywhere are cheering when he says for the cost of one manned mission to Mars you could send 100 robots.
Of course if we ever want to have a future that doesn’t permanently restrict humans to remaining on Earth (which I hope is not the case) then we’ll need all that technology and knowledge that comes out of manned space travel.
I think a far more intangible benefit of manned space travel is marketing. Marketing for interest in science. Marketing for exploration. Marketing to future generations and inspiring people to explore science and technology and continue the journey into the final frontier.
There’s an inspiring article written by Calvin Turzillo (the guy who made the video above) marking the 40th anniversary of man walking on the moon. You should definitely read it.
With the Space Shuttle retirement just over a year away, now is the time to dream big, take chances, and really let our imaginations guide us. Now is the time that we as a generation need a vision. We need a vision like that of generations past, to once again return to the moon. However, we cannot stop there. We must continuing pushing that frontier, pushing forward, onward to new worlds. We must explore and learn, create and innovate, conquer tough challenges, and once again see our world as one whole instead of many pieces.
I thought of a solution that would definitely motivate private companies to invest in manned flights to Mars. Just tell them there’s oil on it.