I have written, more than a few times, about the U.S. manned space program. It’s a good idea on paper, or maybe it was thirty years ago. There’s little reason anymore to send men into space as explorers in the 21st Century.
Advances in remote sensing and robotics in general (and for these purposes I consider vehicles like the Mars rovers to be robotic) now allow machines to do more than humans, in harsh environments, without the life support costs and without the devastating downside of failure that humans bring.
More than once, on the news set, after a story about the space program has run, my colleagues have turned to me and said, “I bet you’d really like to do that.” It would make sense. I’m a science kind of guy. My answer is always, no. It always has been.
I just finished an article from the New York Review of Books by Dr. Steven Weinberg, the University of Texas/Austin Nobel Prize winning physicist and am amazed that he and I agree so fully about sending men to space. We both say, “no.”
His well documented essay goes point by point to show that we send men into space because of our emotion – not for the sake of science. He points out, as I did earlier, that the tragic Columbia disaster was a mission with minimal science, in a program with little purpose or hope of ever fulfilling its original reason for existing.
I found Dr. Weinberg’s email address and sent him a note – as if a Nobel laureate needs my reassurance that his ideas are sound. Maybe the note really wasn’t meant to benefit him. Looking back, it was reassurance to me that I’m not a Luddite… at least as far as space is concerned.
Blogger’s addendum – After writing to Dr. Weinberg and telling him “It is good to see I’m not some lone Luddite fruitcake sniping at the manned space program (or, if I am, that there are two Luddite fruitcakes out there),” he responded “One good thing about fruitcakes – they stick together. SW.”
He deserves another Nobel for that line alone!.