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August 12, 2010

Round Trip

There has been a lot of media about human missions to Mars due to the recent publication of Mary Roach's book Packing for Mars.  When I think back to all of the explorers, colonists and adventurers  of the last 500 years that I learned about in school, many of them took one way trips.  Some of these one way trips were intentional due to political or religious persecution, others were cut down by conflict or disease, but all of pushed forward the amount of knowledge about the world around us at that time.  As a society, have we become so risk averse that we cannot deal with any form of mortality to further the knowledge of our species?  There is a middle point between a one way suicide mission to Mars and a robotic exploration, of which I don't think we have found yet. 

 MARS - NASA JPL Image - Viking 1 Orbiter

(Photo Source: NASA JPL)

If Steven Hawking is telling us that the only hope for our success as a species is the longterm colonization of space, I'm going to listen!