From Henry Spencer:
In its early years, the only form of manned space exploration it favoured was an (international) Mars expedition. All other ideas that involved humans in space were counterproductive and undesirable, to hear the Planetary Society tell it.
This obsession with Mars was a bad idea then, and it’s a bad idea now. However, some of the reasons advanced against it strike me as poor – sufficiently poor that they weaken attempts to argue for a more systematic and balanced space effort.
An exclusive focus on Mars does have one thing going for it. If you believe that any resumption of manned space exploration will inevitably end the way Apollo did, with follow-on programmes cancelled and flight-ready hardware consigned to museums as soon as the programme’s first objective is met, then choosing the most interesting single destination makes sense.
However . . . haven’t we learned anything from doing that once? To me, it makes far more sense to try to build a programme that won’t crash and burn as soon as it scores its first goal. That means systematically building capabilities and infrastructure, and doing first things first even if they aren’t the most exciting parts.
Unfortunately, we don’t seem to have the societal patience necessary to do the unexciting parts, at least if the government is paying for it. Which is why we have to get private industry going ASAP.
[Early afternoon update]
[Another update a few minutes later]
Jeff Plescia has been leaving this message in comments at various places (I’ve seen it at NASA Watch and Space Politics]
As a participant in the workshop sponsored by the Planetary Society at Stanford University in February, 2008, I feel obliged to make some comments with respect to what is said in portions of the Planetary Society document “Beyond the Moon A New Roadmap for Human Space Exploration.”
Page 5 contains the statement:
“Among the conclusions of this group is that ‘the purpose of sustained human exploration is to go to Mars and beyond,’ and that a series of intermediate destinations, each with its own intrinsic value, should be established as steps toward that goal. The consensus statements and viewpoints expressed by this group of experts form the basis for the principles and recommendations contained in this document.”
This statement is a blatant and intentionally dishonest misrepresentation of the recommendations and sentiments of the group.
We had extensive discussions about what the conclusion of the workshop might be. While the conclusion reported in the Roadmap was clearly the predisposition of several members of the group, particularly the organizers, it was definitively and clearly not the consensus of the group as a whole. In fact, when these words (or words to the same effect) were suggested, the group clearly indicated to the organizers that they should not be used because they were inaccurate. However, the organizers chose to ignore the group’s wishes at the end of the workshop, at the International Astronautical Congress and in the Roadmap in portraying the results of the workshop. This has occurred despite the fact that members of the group pointed out after the workshop press release that such statements were inappropriate and incorrect.
For what it’s worth. Thanks, Lou.
Maybe it’s like the climate change “consensus,” from which many scientists are now running.