13 September 2009

A One-Way Ticket to Mars

A New York Times editorial suggests that one practical way to markedly reduce the cost of manned space flights to Mars is to not bring the astronauts/scientists back to earth.
If it sounds unrealistic to suggest that astronauts would be willing to leave home never to return alive, then consider the results of several informal surveys I and several colleagues have conducted recently. One of my peers in Arizona recently accompanied a group of scientists and engineers from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on a geological field trip. During the day, he asked how many would be willing to go on a one-way mission into space. Every member of the group raised his hand. The lure of space travel remains intoxicating for a generation brought up on “Star Trek” and “Star Wars.”

...human space travel is so expensive and so dangerous that we are going to need novel, even extreme solutions if we really want to expand the range of human civilization beyond our own planet. To boldly go where no one has gone before does not require coming home again.

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