Wednesday, January 07, 2004


My good friend David Carr points to some of the wonderful photos coming back from the NASA Spirit rover on Mars, and expresses the sentiment that "That is the vista that will greet the first humans to set foot on that planet. I do not expect to be around to share in that experience but I still tingle with excitement at the prospect". I don't share his pessimism on this. I don't think that sending humans to Mars with our present level of technology is all that hard - it is certainly much easier than it was to send people to the moon with the level of technology we had in the 1960s. The trouble is that the resolve is not there, and the nationalised American space program has been sent off on useless projects with principal aims of political pork-barelling such as the space shuttle and (even worse) the International Space Station. If the amount of money spent on these two items had been spent sensibly on manned Mars missions, we would be there by now. The trouble is that NASA (particularly the parts that deal with manned space travel) is a bureaucratic monstrosity that is not capable of spending money sensibly on anything, and the political resolve is simply not there.

This is a different thing from saying that public desire and public interest is not there. The main Nasa website aplogises that some of the images are low resolution because "By early Tuesday, visitors downloaded nearly 15 terabytes of information from NASA/Mars Websites" and they are suffering bandwidth issues due to all the high resolution images. There is an awful lot of public interest in this.

No comments:

Blog Archive