As a new administration comes in I’m starting to see NASA push hard for the idea of returning to the moon. My own feeling is that this is going backwards, and people should speak up about it now. Frankly my larger worry is that in view of a major economic downturn that NASA will have their budget chopped yet again — and what sad is that there hasn’t been any serious investment in the program for almost forty years now. So here are my ten reasons why we should try to land on Mars by 2018 instead of going back to 1969:
1. Chances are very strong that China will get to the moon well before we do.
2. A lunar project is just a huge distraction if you’re serious about going to Mars.
3. We know for a fact that there’s no chance that life can live on the moon, this isn’t the case with Mars.
4. The Steven Hawking argument: If humans are serious about becoming dinosaurs Mars is the first logical place for colonize, so why not take our first baby steps?
5. It may take us twenty years to get to Mars — on a purely selfish level I’d like to live to see that in my lifetime.
6. From a scientific point of view we can learn as much from Mars as we can about the moon.
7. Returning back to the moon won’t inspire a new generation of scientists the way a trip to Mars would.
8. NASA does best when it has a single strong focus, a Mars project would give them a long term sense of mission that they don’t have now.
9. We’d have to invent a great deal of new technology to go to Mars, this would have a wealth of benefits in terms of spinoffs.
10. Because it is hard! Take a look at the 1961 Kennedy speech and tell me that you don’t feel ashamed about going back to the moon: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we’re willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”