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I completely agree with you, 3ven. May I add my voice to yours here?

In 1961, as the U.S. embarked on the effort to beat the Soviets to the Moon, it was well known that major technological advances would be necessary; such as in the fields of computing and material science (with their expected — and thereafter realized — attendant, myriad of beneficial, commercial applications) and in increasing rocket thrust capability (with its then-deemed beneficial application of building bigger and better intercontinental ballistic missile weapons during the “Cold War”). We also knew there were major holes in our knowledge of the universe which could be (partly) improved by succeeding in going to the Moon, such as learning about cosmic radiation and magnetic fields among and beyond the Van Allen Belts, and learning what the Moon is made of.

I have been waiting for advocates of human-in-the-payload exploration of space to delineate expected benefits and/or improved knowledge of the universe to be derived now by having humans accompany our machines back onto the Moon and onto Mars. As you correctly indicated, the cost (and risk) per mission grows beyond reason the moment one decides to place a human on top of a rocket.

Is an astronaut going to spot which rocks on the surface of Mars would be most interesting to investigate by looking through the visor of a spacesuit or by pointing a hyper-spectral camera at the surface which needs a human to hold and point it as much as a car now needs a crank protruding from its grill in order to start its engine? Is an astronaut going to determine the chemical composition of a Mars rock by feel or via a mass spectrometer for which the only involvement of the human would be the superfluous function of pressing the “On” button?

You debunked the unconvincing arguments in favor of human space exploration, one of which is that our nation and the world needs another inspiration like that which Apollo 11 provided. I, like you, am highly skeptical that humans standing on Mars would provide an inspiration anywhere near what Apollo 11 did fifty years ago.

What if a human returned to the deepest point in the ocean for the first time in fifty years? — a truly phenomenal accomplishment exploring where countless life forms reside totally outside of our awareness. Wouldn’t that provide a profound inspiration? Well, no, it didn’t. (http://www.planet-science.com/categories/over-11s/natural-world/2012/03/voyage-to-the-bottom-of-the-sea.aspx) That accomplishment -- and waste of money compared with robotic exploration (https://www.livescience.com/5493-explores-ocean-deepest-trench.html) -- was barely noticed.

For better or worse, we are no longer the starry-eyed, space-exploring neophytes of the 1960’s. We are jaded and rarely look up from our screens. I suspect it would take something as traumatic as discovering incontrovertible evidence of intelligent life elsewhere in our galaxy to affect humans today on a scale comparable to what Apollo 11 did. Although, if that were to occur, the effect would not likely be strictly positively inspirational, I’m sure.


well put Shel


I do not understand the fascination with big rockets that some billionaires have as there are more pressing problems. Perhaps it’s sexual inadequacy.

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