25 August 2012

Bye, Neil

Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, has died at the age of 82, from complications after a heart bypass operation. By all accounts he was a great guy, a good engineering professor, and family man. His family asks that when you see the moon on a clear night, give him a wink.

Nothing NASA has done since the moon missions has had the same worldwide appeal. So now we have a push to return to the moon and then send people to Mars. I'm opposed, because there is nothing out there worth the cost and risk of manned exploration. We should send robots. That way we will at least continue to learn how to build better robots, whether we find anything interesting out there or not.

The other two missions of NASA should be exoatmospheric astronomy and astrophysics (the Hubble space telescope, the Wilson Microwave Astronomy Probe, the Chandra x-ray telescope, etc.) and figuring out how to get a person from the ground to low earth orbit (LEO) and back for the same price as a transpacific plane ticket.

Once that last objective is achieved, it will make sense to bring back the Neil Armstrong types and go exploring. Global society needs a frontier, don't you think?