Excellent commentary on NASA’s manned space activities from Maciej Ceglowski: Rocket to Nowhere. This was recommended as a must-read article by Jason Kottke and he’s quite right. I hope every member of Congress reads this.
Personally, I would like to see the United States reallocate the manned space “exploration” funding to an even split between direct funding for more primary school science & math teachers & classroom materials and an increase to the budget of our highly successful unmanned activities. Maybe in 10 or 20 years it’ll be time to think about sending humans off-planet again, but the decision must be driven by scientific reasons not national propaganda goals.
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Manned space exploration was always a propaganda ploy from day 1. The Apollo missions were an overt attempt to one-up Russia & Sputnik – but with the cold war over, what have we got left to prove?
Yes, Apollo was definitely that, but I think it turned out to be a very good thing for humanity. The last 25 years of manned space activities have been less, er, result-laden.
There’s no denying that the ends justified the means for the Apollo missions – and lest we forget that many of the technologies developed for the various missions over the last 30 years have found their way into the consumer marketplace – but whenever I hear about a shuttle launch now, I think of that episode of The Simpsons in which Homer gets selected (by default) to go into space to find out how ants handle tiny objects in zero gravity.