It seems to me….
“The United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward, and so will space.” ~ John F. Kennedy.
The U.S. needs someone with the same scope and boldness as President Kennedy challenging us to dream and dare – the very attributes that as a nation we now seem to have lost. It is difficult to understand the foolishness and shortsightedness of the politically-motivated decisions to abandon the manned exploration of space almost a half-century ago. While there still are plans and discussions of a return to the Moon or a flight to Mars – they remain only talk with little apparent motivation or national priority. Given the experience and rapid development of the early space program in the 1960s, it is difficult to believe how everything accomplished up to then was abandoned and what by now could have been achieved: a permanent manned Lunar base by 1980, a manned Mars landing by 1990, a permanent base on Mars by 2000…. All thrown away by visionless politicians unable to dream of greater possibilities. The greatest opportunities were open to us – and they shut the door.
In a recent conversation with a neighbor, who also is a friend and usually in politically agreement, he mentioned he feels any investment in manned missions to Mars to be a waste of money. I could not more disagree. Somewhat surprised, I responded that I considered it extremely important. Not only is continued space exploration imperative, it seems easy to justify an expansion of such programs regardless of metrics used.
Most importantly, humans are an exploring species: it is a basic part of our nature. With few frontiers remaining here on Earth, only space remains. Some people travel for the sake of discovery and adventure but regardless of the reason, travel seems to be a human compulsion; a defining element of what is a distinctly human identity that will never rest at any frontier whether terrestrial or extra-terrestrial.
As humans, we are driven to explore the unknown, discover new worlds, push the boundaries of our scientific and technical limits, and then push the envelope even further. This intangible desire to explore and challenge the limitations of what we know and where we have been has proven beneficial to humanity from our very origin.
Space exploration helps to address fundamental questions about our place in the universe and the history of our solar system. Through addressing the challenges related to human space exploration we expand technology, create new industries, and help foster a peaceful connection with other nations. Curiosity and exploration are vital to the human spirit as is accepting the challenge of going deeper into space.
Mars has always been a source of inspiration for explorers and scientists. A mission to our nearest planetary neighbor provides the best opportunity to demonstrate that humans can live for extended, even permanent, stays beyond low Earth orbit. Sending scientists with proper instrumentation rather than robots would broaden the range of science and produce discoveries much more quickly. The technology and space systems required to transport and sustain explorers will drive innovation and encourage creative ways to address challenges. As previous space endeavors have demonstrated, the resulting ingenuity and technologies will have long lasting benefits and applications.
The U.S. manned space program at its very height cost each tax payer about $0.25 per person a year but the estimated return on the investment was several times that amount. It still is difficult to accept the ignorance and stupidity of the politicians responsible for those decisions.
The U.S. economy and technology allow us to accomplish anything we determine to be a priority yet we have stood with our feet firmly affixed to the ground since December 1972 rather than continuing our manned exploration of the universe. Everyone who has ever listened to the gnat-like calls of the distant stars cannot help but feel the frustration of what has been lost. Humanity, by our very nature, must become a multi-planet species.
We, as a nation, have reached a junction where we must either renew our commitment to push farther out, to build on our successes, to keep doing the increasingly difficult – or to lower our sights and compromise our goals. We, as humans, either are an exploring species or we slowly die never having realized our true destiny.
It is time for Homo sapiens to escape the earthly bonds that throughout our existence have constrained us to a single solitary rock in the vastness of the universe and to move outward realizing our destiny as an exploring species; to finally take our first steps on our way to the stars.
That’s what I think, what about you?
 John Fitzgerald “Jack” Kennedy was an American politician who served as the 35th U.S. President from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963.