The memorial to the World Trade Center–two beams of light shining into space–points the way. We need to undertake another great adventure.
I began my career in mechanical engineering in the early 1970's at the Marshall Space Flight Center as a cooperative education student. At NASA, I worked in the Preliminary Design Group for the space shuttle. In my mind, there is no better way to show the world what America is really made of than to send a mission to Mars. We need a mission that will tell the world that we're still here and greater than ever. In fact, our vision should not be limited to Mars, but rather the encompass the entire Universe.
Our World has never truly understood NASA's benefits to our daily lives. NASA should promote their accomplishments and take a well-deserved slap on the back. Our space shuttle fleet has served with distinction for many years. It is, however, time to build a next generation shuttle. Finally, NASA needs to focus on larger scale problems like global warming and space based warning systems for Earth-bound asteroids.
James K. Killett
Baton Rouge, LA
While I agree that the space program needs a new goal, it is not the time to send a man to Mars. When we embark on a manned Mars mission, it should be when we are prepared to establish a manned base. As such, it makes sense to set a near term goal to construct a base on the moon. The practical side of this mission would include: (1) An opportunity to develop the technology of sustainable underground living; (2) safe low gravity research facilities; (3) mining and manufacturing techniques to support the settlement of Mars; (4) health care facilities for patients who could benefit from low gravity environments; (5) tourism. All of these goals make good economic sense as man expands into the solar system. Plus, America needs to be there first.
In "Go Somewhere" it was suggested that NASA turn over the oldest of the space shuttles, Columbia, to a quasi-governmental agency. The problem with this suggestion is that Columbia has just received two years' worth of upgrades, rendering it the safest, most advanced, most capable shuttle in the fleet. The only other shuttle to receive such improvements is Atlantis. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate to suggest turning Endeavor or Discovery over to a quasi-governmental agency, as these shuttles still use obsolete technology.
Spring Arbor, MI
I was a young man when Neil Armstrong took that "one small step for man." Now I am 81 and marking time. I want to see more NASA activity before I pass their rocket on my way to heaven. I suggest the IRS put a contribution block on our Income Tax forms, like they have for political campaigns, so those who are interested can contribute to NASA.
To answer the question posed in "Go Somewhere," all you have to do is look at history. At the end of Alan Shepard's sub orbital flight in 1961, John F. Kennedy said "we will land a man on the moon by the end of the decade." Kennedy didn't have the backing of anyone in the scientific world when he made that statement, but it nevertheless led the country for the next ten years. He had the public's support, and congress seemed to have no limit to how much they spent on the "race for the moon."
Not since the Apollo projects has NASA had the support of the general public. And after seeing the budget NASA worked with to accomplish their Mars landings, I have to ask "How the hell do they ever get anything off the ground?" I don't think a manned Mars landing can be started unless NASA somehow motivates the public to commit their pocketbooks. We still have a troublesome economy, 9-11 and cancer to worry about.
Mankind is roughly divided into two kind of people: "astronomers" who watch things happen and "astronauts" who make things happen. In the dictionary the separation between these words is quite small, but in reality the separation is enormous. It is time for NASA to once again catch the "vision" that made it great agency.
Stanley L. Klemetson
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.