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Archive for May 13th, 2005

To the moon? Mars?

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President Bush, you’ll recall, wants Americans to return to the moon and head for Mars after that. (See CNN story.)

That would take billions and billions of dollars and a few decades, of course (and we know how accurate government guesstimation is).

Today, I lunched with an astronaut (name drop alert!), Dr. Kathryn Sullivan. She’ll deliver my university’s commencement address Sunday. An oceanographer, she has been at least 8,500 feet deep in the ocean in the submersible Alvin as well as being the first American woman to walk in space.

In speaking about space as well as undersea exploration since the Trieste dove to the bottom of the Marianas Trench (35,800 feet below sea level) in 1960, she made an interesting observation:

“There is no nation on earth today that can place a person on the moon or at the bottom of the deepest ocean,” she said. The technology isn’t there anymore, she said.

That took me aback. But consider:

Energy and treasure have been directed at the construction of an international space station, which has its own political, technological and economic problems.

Undersea exploration has been concentrated on commercial enterprise as much as basic scientific curiosity.

As a kid who watched every shuttle mission liftoff and watched every Jacques Cousteau underwater special on TV, I’m somewhat aghast.

Dr. Sullivan’s observation left me saddened. Just as science these days seems to focus more on applications than pure scientific desire to know how the world works and why it works that way, it troubles me that exploration writ large appears to have fallen out of our cultural makeup.

What say you?


Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 13, 2005 at 3:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized