To live and die in space

September 12, 2009

The Augustine Commission (a.k.a. the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee) finds that for NASA to accomplish its manned spaceflight objectives, NASA’s budget needs to be increased by at least $3 billion. In a op-ed piece for the New York Times, Lawrence Krauss, director of the Origins Initiative at Arizona State University, suggests sending astronauts to Mars on one-way trips as a cost-reduction method.

If it sounds unrealistic to suggest that astronauts would be willing to leave home never to return alive, then consider the results of several informal surveys I and several colleagues have conducted recently. One of my peers in Arizona recently accompanied a group of scientists and engineers from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on a geological field trip. During the day, he asked how many would be willing to go on a one-way mission into space. Every member of the group raised his hand. The lure of space travel remains intoxicating for a generation brought up on “Star Trek” and “Star Wars.”


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