Ira PilgrimIRA'S CORNERFilename:N-program

February 26, 2004 (Ira Pilgrim)

A Man on Mars

Jerry Colona: I am going to climb and climb and climb that mountain until I get to the top.

Bob Hope: And what are you going to do when get there?

Colona: Why spit, of course!

A dialogue as I remember it.

When John F. Kennedy was president, several men were landed on the moon. What did Kennedy have to do with it? About as much as a president has in winning a war; he said "Do it!!"

Now George W. Bush is saying the same thing about putting a man on Mars. Why is he saying it? He is saying it because there is an election coming up. It seems to me that that is why our president says and does just about anything. His lifetime ambition seems to be to do better than his father and be re-elected president for a second term. That is the only possible purpose for putting a man on Mars. What will that man do there? He will get his picture taken. He may also have had his life shortened by his long sojourn in space, if he survives that dangerous journey. For what? To help George W. Bush get re-elected.

One of the most magnificent accomplishments of our space program is the Hubble Space Telescope. It is a telescope that is in orbit around the earth. It sends back color pictures of unbelievably fine quality; images that are impossible to get from earth-based telescopes of any size. It has enabled astronomers to get a fine view of our solar system, as well as a view of objects in deep space, with amazing clarity. Now we have been informed that the Hubble Space Telescope will not be maintained. The money and effort to maintain it until 2010, when the Hubble is scheduled to be retired, will go toward putting men on Mars. This maintenance was to involve a space shuttle mission in 2006 to service the telescope. That mission has been canceled. This wonderful scientific tool and monument to our technical skill will be allowed to die and will not be replaced. So far, it has barely scratched the surface of what can be done to further our knowledge of what lies beyond our solar system. Instead, we will have this Man on Mars boondoggle. One word describes Bush's decision to scuttle the Hubble Space Telescope in favor of putting a man on Mars: STUPID!

One of many wonderful accomplishments of our space program is Voyager 1, which departed Earth in 1977, explored and photographed our solar system and is now headed for deep space. To read about this, ask Google for "voyager."

The Cassini unmanned space probe, that left earth 7 years ago, is due to reach Saturn early in July of this year. I am looking forward to the pictures that it will send back as well as what the probe that will land on one of Jupiter's moons (Titan) will find.

These are just a few of NASA's (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) accomplishments, and many more are in the offing. That is, if our government and president will let NASA do what it does best, which is to explore the skies and our solar system.

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