Thursday, 24 January, 2019

Former NASA astronaut says sending people to Mars "almost ridiculous"

From left Astronauts Jim Lovell Bill Anders and Frank Borman on the steps of the Apollo simulator five weeks before launch in 1968 Modal Trigger Astronauts Jim Lovell Bill Anders and Frank Borman on the steps of the Apollo simulator five weeks before launch in 1968. NASA
Cary Marshall | 29 December, 2018, 03:27

Sending an astronaut to Mars would dominate the news cycle, but wouldn't push the frontier of practical scientific knowledge, Anders argued - a mismatch, essentially, between the priorities of NASA and those of the public.

According to one of the astronauts aboard NASA's 1968 Apollo 8 mission, it would be "stupid" and "almost ridiculous" to pursue a crewed mission to Mars.

NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsNASA has always been exploring other worlds with the goal of eventually sending astronauts back to the moon and even to Mars for the first time.

Anders, now 85 years old, says that there's not much reason to send humans to Mars, especially when unmanned missions seem to be doing great work on their own and for much less investment.

"I do think there's a lot of hype about Mars that is nonsense", Borman said. Presently there are two USA based probes in Mars one of which is the InSight Lander that has successfully landed on Elysium Planitia in Mars which will sample the planet's interior.

"Now we finally will explore inside Mars and deepen our understanding of our terrestrial neighbor as NASA prepares to send human explorers deeper into the solar system", NASA said in a press release.

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"That also includes commercial and worldwide partners to expand human presence in space and bring back new knowledge and opportunities", the statement said.

"NASA couldn't get to the moon today", Anders told BBC Radio 5 Live. "NASA has turned into a jobs program... numerous centers are mainly interested in keeping busy and you don't see the public support other than they get the workers their pay and their congressmen get re-elected".

On the other hand, Bill Anders thinks that the current administration of NASA is engaged in promoting such human-crewed Mars missions just because these are that kind of missions which boost a space agency's funds and image once it launches highly-publicized missions.

"I'm not as critical of NASA as Bill is", Borman told 5 Live. Musk and Bezos, they're talking about putting colonies on Mars.

The two former astronauts spoke to BBC Radio 5 Live as part of a special documentary on the 50th anniversary of their historic lunar mission. "I firmly believe that we need robust exploration of our Solar System and I think man is part of that".

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