As a youth in a rural area back in the early 80’s Mars, or for that matter any of the planets, comets, nebula’s, or any extraterrestrial phenomenon was not a typical topic of conversation. But with the local library having copies of books that could tantalize the imagination of a young boy, who could go back through the pages of 20 some years and realize that we as a people walked on the moon, and after the moon, the next great expedition of the human race would be Mars and then beyond.
As that youth with no comprehension of what kind of an undertaking that is, I thought to myself in the library that day: “In 20 years I could walk to Mars.” Ridiculous statement indeed.
So that boy in the eighties grew up with no manned mission to Mars; a story from my generation that would have defined us. Instead, we had pictures of nebula’s and Saturn’s rings and breakthroughs with particle accelerators and problems with telescopes and other non-exciting events. Basically, nothing that would capture the attention of the masses or instill a new found desire in space exploration.
The Challenger disaster and resultant loss of life was viewed by many as the reason why the space program faltered. The public losing faith and interest, and also questioning the cost in sending people to circle the globe drop a satellite and then return at the risk of their lives. I agree; there is no reason to risk peoples lives for such a small reason as to provide satellite radio for example. But, if you ask those astronauts why they want to go, your answer will be in the eye’s as they maybe brave men and women but the wonder and excitement of the child still glistens.
Who better to understand and decide to take the risk of such a voyage than the people we have trusted to give us such things as the Hubble, and the ISS. Who have given their lives to advance the cause of humanity and it’s body of knowledge. I say let the Men and Women who have been to the final frontier and returned make the decision to go, and we as the public get them there, and in doing that, get us there.
We like to say that we have come far in science and technology since the moon landing; and that the technology is there now to get us to Mars (it was there then). So as a man that still has the child in him, that looks up at the stars from time to time and wonders what maybe. He also wonders why as the human race, we are walking there.