free debate

July 20, 2009

Apollo's Fortieth Anniversary: What Does the Future Hold?

It was forty years ago today that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Today, many people within NASA and elsewhere are looking back at this historic moment, and forward at what the future holds. In recent years, NASA has received a lot of criticism for not maintaining the amazing spirit of adventure that defined the 1960's. In the 60's there was the political drive to get into space and quickly. The boom in science funding influenced an entire generation. It was that generation that was responsible for the tech boom of the 1990's.
I don't necessarily think we need manned missions to reignite enthusiasm in the space program and science, but we need to push the limits. I think that NASA has become more conservative about what missions they will launch. Let's really work on a sample return mission from Mars, a rover to Venus or Titan, a submarine to Europa. Yes, all of these missions would be extremely challenging. To me, that makes it exciting; that's how we draw in the public. If we get more ambitious, we would lose more missions to failure. When we succeed, we would get amazing new looks into the amazing places around us.

What happened forty years ago changed what we thought was possible. I think that today we all need to admire what we able to accomplish, and look for the next accomplishment to inspire a generation.