Unmanned NASA Successes

Whooo! Whooo! Rover rolls onto Mars! I’ve been watching the daily updates from NASA and JPL, and it’s unbelievable how well this mission is going. Right now I’m listening to NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe talk about their proposed new direction to various NASA personnel, and he’s clearly working hard to sell the advantages of having a unified direction. He talked a lot about debating over the best way to achieve a specific goal rather than continuing to debate over what goal to try to achieve. It’s also the first place I’ve heard a good account of how the decision to set a goal of returning people to the moon and beyond, as compared to all the other goals, was decided upon. And, having been in on the decision-making process, it’s not surprising he’s working hard to sell it.
I personally think it’s a little odd to be returning to a focus on putting people in space just as our robotic missions are having such fabulous successes. But then again, maybe that’s exactly the time to do it – before the fears of risking lives raised after the latest shuttle accident coupled with the realistic ability to use robots instead of people to explore makes us retreat from allowing people to do the exploring. My gut reaction is still that the proposed timetable is too fast, and I’m more enthusiastic about focusing on the current Mars missions and wouldn’t want to see work on a new manned exploration vehicle displacing this mission. And I haven’t heard much discussion of the exploitation of moon resources and why we feel justified in doing so and how we could do so in a responsible manner.

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