Julie Spector (04/28/04)
I felt that Captain Young provided a very interesting perspective on Mars exploration. I say this simply because his view was extremely different from the other guest speakers'; instead of seeing [scientific] exploration of Mars as something we are excited to do (something that would be “neat”, to quote Captain Young), he saw it as a matter vital to global security. And the man does have a point. Spreading out Earthly life across the solar system is sensible if the “big one” comes—whether the big one is in the form of a meteor impact, a supervolcano, or an alien attack. In fact, it directly relates to the discussion of exploration as a genetic feature. If the big one comes and wipes out all life forms on this planet save some monera, only those beings that happen to be outside Earth's atmosphere can reproduce and continue the species' existence.
I also enjoyed his politics (I say that a bit sarcastically). As an employee of NASA and subsequently the US Government, he cannot insult the President's Initiative; however, I was pleased with his question in response to Dan's question concerning the plausibility of the Initiative. I utterly disdain politics and politicians; the people who tend to want to spend their lives scheming the public whom they claim to serve are the sort of people who you don't want making the executive decisions concerning the country. I really can't help but feel that the Mars Initiative is Bush's way of winning over the scientists for the next election. But there is no way this Initiative will ever go through. It's not even real. It exists only in “politician-space”. Want to colonize Mars or the Moon? Either have every billionaire in the world to privately donate the money, or else read some good sci-fi. Substance: it's a good thing to have. I applaud Captain Young for having some.
I think he made a very excellent point concerning any potential human mission to Mars as all or nothing. There is no motivation, patriotic or otherwise, appealing to the public, urging them to support human Mars exploration. The majority seem apathetic, and seem to want to stay that way. So I definitely agree with Captain Young: there won't be any parallels to the Gemini or Mercury missions that prepared NASA for the Apollo missions. There is going to be only one chance, one foolish mission that relies on an extreme amount of luck (and money). If that mission doesn't succeed, then I say the zeitgeist won't permit manned exploration of Mars.Note: maybe when I'm older my opinions about politicians will change. In which case it's extremely ironic that I'm writing Captain Young all over the write up.