SO WE won’t be going to Mars, not in my lifetime anyway. And not back to the moon either, not for decades. Buzz Lightyear fantasies are dashed. Don’t believe the spin – the dream is over.
OK, the Augustine panel’s review of NASA’s human space-flight plans outlines several options. Mars may be out, but the moon is still in with a shout, and plans to go to the Lagrange points and even the asteroids are mooted. Technically, all this is probably doable. But it won’t happen, and here’s why.
The problem is not money: the US can afford an extra $3 billion a year. It is psychological. NASA, the only game in town, has no idea what space is for, and no audacity.
Sooner or later, we’ll go. We’ll have to. The earth, large and varied as it is, is finite, and we will need the resources of space, just to sustain life on earth. And we’ll need to protect civilzation from space-borne catastrophe, sooner or later.
But the people who go, who first reap the benefit, who first control the high frontier (since we seem to be relinquishing it) will probably speak Chinese. Our great-great-grandchildren may vacation on a Chinese owned space platform, and get there on Chinese vehicles.
Someone is going to do it. It should be US.