Starting a new thread. I searched the archives and the threads that slightly-related to the topic of "space exploration" were narrowly-focused. I believe that a broader view would be informative, so I rocket over to PLUTO & BEYOND.
NASA.....Is NASA necessary? At the beginning of President Kennedy's term in office he challenged America to place men on the moon before the decade was over. In July, 1969, human beings walked on the surface of the moon. It was an exciting giant step.
But moon exploration fizzled after a few years as NASA focused more on space exploration "in-close", using the Shuttle system. For thirty (30) years, NASA has gobbled taxpayer money, with returns that some call negligible. (Perhaps those complainers can't visualize incredible technical advancements made possible with NASA).
Mars.....The Red Planet has haunted us for centuries. Probably because it is so close in size, it could have harbored life forms.....and it has been smashed into our culture (canals, "angry" Red Planet, Martians attacking as heard on the radio, etc.).
Do we need to continue our slow but steady development of an eventual manned landing on Mars? Are the returns with this program worth it? Should we send robots instead?
Pluto.....This tiny planet is ten (10) years away from Earth, as the spacecraft flies. That is one (1) long way away! The other day we sent a spacecraft on its' way to Pluto. The New Horizons craft will fly past Pluto in about ten (10) years.
After it passes Pluto it will continue toward the newest "planet", still with no name. It has been called "UB313" by the team that discovered it this past year. No official name has been given to this chunk of rock (double the distance to Pluto, and then some!) because the scientific community is still debating as to whether or not it is really a "planet".
BTW.....David Letterman said we should call it "Goofy".
Summary Questions.....AIB the UFO thread by Maister, the recent space shot to Pluto, our duties as questioning citizens, and a sly comment on another thread about "intelligent life".....here are some questions.....
Should we continue to fund space exploration? If we do, at the present level? At what level?
Do we continue with our plans to explore the planet Mars?
If we send a craft to a very distant place (such as Pluto) and the information stream that is radioed back (in the year 2016) tells us "Yep, made of rocks. No air. Daxx cold.", should we forget this type of exploration?
Is mankind destined to explore those places that are unknown? Would those funds be better off used to improve water quality in Africa, crop hybrid projects in arrid areas, imrpove infrastructure in the world's older cities?
And finally, are we being "watched"? Are there really intelligent beings who are watching us? Is there life in other parts of the universe? Or are we "alone"?