The great excitement of the 1960's space program is just a fond memory now. Recently, the fortieth anniversary of the moon landing came and went, and what have we accomplished since? Sure, robotic missions are great scientific tools, and traveling beyond our solar system is no longer science fiction. But somehow the intense excitement is missing when these NASA missions aren't manned.
Disagree if you wish, but when human beings are involved in exploring space, the interest goes off the charts. That means going to other planets. This is the goal of NASA in the future. Sending men and women to Mars. The goal of the Obama administration is to send Man to a nearby asteroid, sort of like a shake-down mission first, then on to Mars sometime by 2030. It's an exciting goal, but it is going to take an awful lot of work to achieve.
With the global financial meltdown in play it is going to be tough for NASA to meet it's annual goal for the projects in the chute now, let alone thinking about sending men to Mars. But NASA has to move forward. The amount of science gleaned from these mission will keep researchers busy for years. But we are talking about space exploration that the public will involve itself in wholeheartedly, like manned missions. Like it or not, the public becomes more involved with the missions when human life is at stake.
America is sending astronauts to an asteroid within a few decades! This will ignite the interest in space missions again. This is a prep for the granddaddy of missions, the Mars landing. Imagine watching on TV the first men setting foot on Mars? Talk about excitement. This will blow the TV ratings to the stratosphere. Imagine when the astronauts point the camera back at Earth? We will look just like a star, a point of light in the Martian sky...the wellspring of humanity. How fascinating is that! We will watch with interest as the astronauts traverse the Martian terrain in their rovers and on foot. Some of the canyons on Mars make the Grand Canyon look like a small slit in the soil. Mars has unbelievable geographic anomalies that need to be explored, and we at home on Earth will be along for the ride. It's as if all of us here on Earth will be landing on Mars. You can't top that with a robot explorer.
That is an example of the exciting future for space exploration. New methods of rocket propulsion should cut down the time spent in space. We have already used ion power for one of the robot missions with success. Ion power has the capability of achieving very high speed, but it takes some time to build up. Scientists are looking into ways to cut down on radiation exposure the astronauts will face in space. Space is a very dangerous place with a host of problems of which radiation is one of them. By building a thick shield within the center of the spacecraft where astronauts can hide in during a radiation storm, they will protect themselves from harmful exposure. This is not science fiction anymore, this is science fact.
Space exploration in the future promises unknown treasures for the human race, but we have to be bold enough to take advantage of it. Enough of sitting on our hands thinking about it, it's time to move forward, and move forward fast. There is too much at stake for all of us. Exploration is part of the human psyche, and if we don't explore, we wither and die. No, we must move ahead for our own good.