This blog has already said most of what it wanted to say about the moon landing long before the 40th anniversary. So let us discuss Mars instead.
Here are ten reasons why we should support a manned mission to Mars as soon as possible.
1. Because it is there.
2. Because setting ourselves this task would prove that we humans have not lost our fundamental urge to explore the world around us. The Times today argues that curing cancer is the modern equivalent of the moon landing. Keeping people alive longer is a laudable mission, but space travel speaks to a different set of human ambitions. It does not have to be one or the other.
3. Because it would require an enormous amount of courage on the part of those taking part which would inspire the whole world. As Buzz Aldrin, one of the moon walkers in 1969 said recently
I believe that a mission to Mars would need a commitment to a permanent settlement of people who have signed up to spend the whole of their career on the planet…we are talking about pilgrims, the sort of people who left (England)on the Mayflower.
4. Because it would require international cooperation on a vast scale.
5. Because in the course of solving the numerous scientific, human and technological problems that currently stand in the way of such a trip we would discover many new things about our world and about ourselves.
6. Because a colony on Mars would be a stepping stone for the exploration of the rest of the Universe.
7. Because we would be taking a calculated risk at a time when risk taking has a bad name. A Mars mission would challenge the safety first culture which dominates many cultures today.
8. Because if any natural disaster affected the earth we would need somewhere to escape to.
9. Because if we do not do it the Chinese will anyway. Not being involved would prove that we in Britain had abandoned any pretence to being of any significance in the modern world. As Buzz Aldrin says, ‘a vibrant nation explores or expires’.
10. Because a colony on Mars would change our perception of ourselves in the Universe.