by Val Germann
This writer is old enough to remember Sputnik and the galvanizing effect it had on the United States. The Cold War with the Russians had suddenly been extended into space and the Evil Empire had a little beeping spheroid overflying our nation every day! The resulting media panic helped create NASA and then wrap it in the flag, elevating space exploration to the highest priority. The apogee of this whole extravagnaza was reached in 1969, with the first moon landing, and has gone downhill ever since. Today, more than a generation after Apollo, NASA is spinning its wheels in low earth orbit, flying an aging and even dangerous vehicle finally headed for the glue factory.
It’s a simple fact that manned space flight has been a dead end, both technologically and scientifically. It’s just too expensive and dangerous to put humans into space, where they immediately begin to die, and would die if we dared to keep them up there long enough (about 700 days) before bringing them back to Earth. In this writer’s view many space proponents know this, and also know that “man in space” is soon to be extinct. This knowledge is leading to what can only be called desperation among some space proponents.
This desperation has helped generate some fairly far out proposals lately, as is illustrated by a quote from an article in the latest SPACE REVIEW. You are not going to believe what author James C. McLane III is advocating.
To put a human on Mars within the lifetime of America’s current generation, only one scheme is feasible, and this feasible concept challenges our traditional thinking about risk and the value of life. The mission must be a one-way trip.
That’s right, Mr. McLane is seriously proposing that NASA send a crew to Mars on a suicide mission, like Japanese Kamikaze pilots at the end of the Second World War. Can there be any surer sign that it’s all over for manned space flight? This writer does not think so. And anytime you read balderdash such at the quote below, also from Mr. McLane, you know the author is reaching WAY out there:
We are at a point in history where we ought to demonstrate, by an audacious and unselfish national space policy, that exploration of the cosmos is a cooperative and universal human destiny. A manned Mars landing should admit contributions from all the world’s peoples and represent a milestone for the whole human race.
Yes, indeed, a milestone it would be, a milestone in stupidity that would make the U.S. the laughingstock of the entire planet! But so desperate is the situation vis-a-vis manned space flight that we may one day actually see such proposals floated by NASA itself. And then it WILL be time to pull the plug, once and for all.
Read the entire SPACE REVIEW article here.