Notes on Parts 2 and 3: A New (Moderately) Bold Space Program?
So, the Mars Orbital Laboratory
in the story is a compromise mission, falling somewhere between forgoing the
challenge, and a no-holds-barred manned research station on Mars.
And remember, while this
story reads like science fiction, very little of the science is made up. It
really could happen. Granted, I assume that there are fossils of ancient life on
Mars waiting to be found. That makes the story more exciting, and that part might be fiction, but well never know
if we dont look...
In the appendix I take a closer
look at the technological hurdles facing Mars missions, but assuming Im
correct and the events in the story could happen by 2025, isnt this an
exciting project thats worth investigating further?
In order for the date to be
realistic I assume that a full-tilt fully funded program begins in 2010. This
would be along the lines of the Apollo program that got into high-gear right
after John F Kennedys famous we choose to go the moon speech in 1961.
I also assume that the project
proceeds with no major setbacks and redesigns, which is perhaps wishful
thinking, but is not science fiction. If there are major technical
difficulties, or if this administration decides human space-exploration is not
a worthwhile investment, then 2025 becomes a dream. But the mission-concept
doesnt recede into fantasy, it will just be delayed until the technology is
ready and the public wants to go.
For most people the thrill
of the Space Age is now either a distant memory, or a story told by prior
generations that sounds suspiciously like a fairy tale.
We all know how the fairy
tale ended: Shortly after Neil Armstrong
and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon in July of 1969, the cost of continuing the
Apollo program was deemed too high. Assembly of Saturn rockets was halted,
flights were cancelled, and forty-two months later we concluded this
spectacular era in human history. We had left home for the first time, and
returned safely to Earth.
But a question hung in the
80% nitrogen air: When would we next leave the protective atmosphere of our
birth and travel to other worlds? And after that question came others: should we travel to other worlds, and if
Thirty-seven years have
now passed since we left the moon, and the White House is on the cusp of making
far-reaching decisions on the future of human spaceflight. I have tried to
argue that sometime soon we will be able to plan missions beyond Earth that
could yield phenomenal scientific knowledge. Furthermore, if we are clever, we
will find ways to execute these missions in a manner that is consistent with
stewardship of constrained resources.
But this wont happen
without increased support from the public and from within the scientific
community. In recent times Christians have not been known for championing
daring scientific research projects like the one in the story. I wonder if that
will have changed by 2025.
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| Contributed by: Adrian Wyard