Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mars? Are we sure?

I just finished watching an amazing set of programs on NASA's early days through the Shuttle programs. What we accomplished as a nation was truly extraordinary. As a kid watching the early astronauts blasting off while I sat in the school auditorium, the fascination was truly there. And as a kid who didn't understand things like cost and risk, I whole-heartedly endorsed anything NASA tried.

Now, NASA's focus has shifted from the moon all the way out to Mars, a cold, red, sandy place as inhospitable as Parkland's ER waiting room. We've already plunked down some expensive unmanned machinery on the surface of Mars, and just last week, one of these gizmos found ice just beneath the sandy surface. The ice might as well have been Pez dispensers given the way the scientists exploded with glee. This milestone only feeds the dream of one day putting human footprints in the red sand.

Is it time, perhaps, to finally show some restraint in the realm of space travel? Of course, those involved in pushing the envelope say that man's curiosity must always be kow-towed to. And that man's drive to explore the unknown will always have merit. But for the life of me, I can't see the benefit of making the red planet just another way-stop on our way to "progress". I've been to West Texas and I know we're not short of red sand. Of course, the scientists are falling all over themselves proclaiming that Mars will unlock the Gordian knot of the origin of life. Mercy. Deliver me.

I pity the poor astronauts selected for the initial trip. It takes a whopping nine months to get there. And you thought it was boring to drive to Abilene. How long will it take before the pilot has to roll up a magazine and pop the guys in the back seat who are making faces at each other?

So let's be satisfied with our historic trips to the moon and shut down NASA. Certainly, the Martians would want it that way.


Brooke said...

I disagree. I have recorded all and have seen some of those NASA shows. I became curious about the space station. They are conducting hundreds, if not thousands of tests that can only be done in space for long periods of time. One of those tests is trying to cure cancer. Another test is for learning about human tissue. Other tests include getting to know Earth better. Getting rid of NASA would mean getting rid of the Hubble Telescope. The Hubble Telescope already has disproven theories on how the universe began. I know God created the universe, but I like the idea of having a glimpse on just how it occured. We have many things because of NASA. The Doppler Radar, MRI, home security systems, and MANY more.
That site says that 0.8% of the nation's budget goes to the space system. The space shuttle is an international place. I like the idea of working with other countries instead of fighting them. I think space is a great way to get someone to think about God and get away for the "ordinary" on Earth. When Apollo 3 (?) looked back on Earth, they quoted Genesis. I wonder what may be stirred in an individual that visits Mars. Even C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters says that science can bring many people to God. In my opinion, it would be far more costly to get rid of NASA than to stop exploring God's grand universe.

Tim Perkins said...

Those are wonderful points. Thanks for making me pause and possibly re-think things. Kiss Audrey for me!