Posts Tagged nasa

Is a manned trip to Mars actually all that dangerous?

I look back to the history I know coming from a western perspective. Columbus faced immense danger when he set sail for India across the Atlantic. Edmund Hillary faced a strong possibility of death for himself and his entire team when they scaled Mt. Everest. What of Magellan when he sailed around the world, or Franklin as he lead an expedition into the Arctic. Not to mention the people who explored the Amazon, or the Nile, or the Antarctic, or even those who risked everything on those first trips to India around Africa.

Image taken by Mars Curiosity rover courtesy of NASA

Image taken by Mars Curiosity rover courtesy of NASA

All these people faced enormous risks to achieve their goals while many others succumbed to those same risks.

As alluded to above, this short list of risk takers come from my western perspective. I can guarantee that people familiar with cultures I know too little about can produce a similar list.

I will go so far as to state that there are many lay-persons who follow space exploration who know more about the risks astronauts will face on a Mars journey than most of those early explorers did regarding their own travels.

Relatively speaking, and in my opinion, a manned trip to Mars isn’t any more dangerous than any previous voyage of discovery we now celebrate as heroic.

Someone is sure to question the cost. What did it cost ancient mariners to outfit a ship? How much did it cost Marco Polo to reach China? How much did Edmond Hillary pay to scale Everest? As for NASA itself, I believe I adequately addressed that question here.

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Mars Has Not Taken The Best And The Brightest Of Us All

By NOAA [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A co-worker said some things the other day that have been bouncing around in the back of my head since then. To paraphrase, he asked why so much time, talent, and money was going to a manned Mars mission when there were so many problems here on Earth to solve.

As a supporter of manned Mars missions I didn’t do well in addressing the concerns broached. This post is my attempt to do a better job.

Though many people refused to read it because my title caused them to assume I was anti-NASA, I have already addressed the larger money issue with This Post. With regard to today’s topic I would like to add that Mars is only a small portion of NASA’s overall budget. Far more money goes toward projects that have a direct effect on problems we do face right here on Earth.

As for the assertion that too much time and talent is being directed toward Mars missions, I now wish I had countered with: Prove it. Prove that the best and brightest minds human kind has to offer are all dedicated to Mars.

In reality, the number of people dedicating their lives to Mars is a tiny subset of the intellect at work on this planet right now.

My co-worker went on to talk about the so called giant plastic island in the North Pacific. I agreed that this is a big problem. Were I differ is in his assumption that no one is working on the problem in any reasonable way. He’d seen one of those documentaries where to give you the worst case scenarios (or as I am likely to say, mockumentaries) and taken them at there word without doing any followup research. He even suggested we use giant nets to scoop up all the plastic even though the first website I visited on the subject had a big section on why this wasn’t a viable solution. A website supported by great talent dedicating their lives to solving this kind of environmental problem. Talent that had even turned to NASA and their global network of satellites monitoring environmental changes for support.

All of the above said, I guess my real rant is against the all too common practice of arguing that A must negate B in order to deflect from having to address what B means without regard to the larger context in which both should be interpreted.

The fact that a group of people are working on sending men to Mars does not mean an equally talented group of people can’t be working on the problem of a how to deal with a plastic in the North Pacific. And that’s before we address the idea that developments in one arena might actually help solve problems in the other.


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