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NASA's Next Frontier

Left: Buzz Aldrin on the moon. Right: An artist's rendition of humans on Mars. (Photos courtesy of NASA.)

Forty years ago today, July 16th, 1969, mankind blasted off for the Moon, on its way to “The Eagle has landed” and “one small step.” Ticker tape parades and the American flag planted proudly on the lunar surface.

Forty years later, we have problems closer to home. But space still beckons. The US has competitors on the high frontier. And American space enthusiasts are debating where the next big push should be. Back to the Moon – maybe to build a giant solar energy station? Or straight on to Mars – maybe to create a second Earth.

This hour, On Point: Moon versus Mars, and what comes next in space.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.


Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Astronautics, an aerospace research and design company. He previously worked as an engineer at Lockheed Martin. He is the author of “The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must” and “How to Live on Mars: A Trusty Guidebook to Surviving and Thriving on the Red Planet.”

David Kring is Senior Staff Scientist at Universities Space Research Association’s Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, TX. He is the former director of the NASA Space Imagery Center at the University of Arizona.

Harrison Schmitt is a crewmember from the 1975 Apollo 17 lunar mission, and a former New Mexico Senator.

Refubished photo of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin plant the U.S. flag on the Moon. (NASA)

Refurbished photo of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planting the U.S. flag on the Moon. (NASA)

Listen to NPR’s report on the missing Apollo 11 tapes and watch restored videos of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon and planting the U.S. flag.

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  • http://www.tgswebdesign.com/ New Mexico Site Design Company

    Hey thnx for pasting a very memorable and a very few collection of pictures …a very good designing is used in this blog….

  • Spaceman

    My question is, if there is a legitimate chance that at some point we will have to deal with a sizeable meteorite impact, why are we directing precious resources to go back to the Moon or Mars? The logic of self preservation dictates that we should focus on landing people on an Asteroid. Landing on a passing Asteroid is arguably just as feasible as travelling all the way to Mars. Why would we not direct our resources to address the very real threat posed by Asteroids?

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Mars and would love to see NASA astronauts find fossils there but discovering life elsewhere in the Solar System is only worthwhile if we’re around to ponder the significance of it. Life on Earth has been wiped out by modest sized meteorites at least once in the recent past (65 million years ago is recent given that the Earth is 4 billion years old) and there is evidence of other more recent extinction events due to much smaller meteorite impacts as recently at 10,000 years ago in N. America.

  • Bob Johnson

    We MUST reach out to the planets and other objects. The advancements enabled by space exploration are untold. We also MUST keep the space station in orbit.

  • Joanna Eleftheriou

    Thanks for opening up the discussion — as I understand it, the funding for space missions comes from taxes, just like the proposed health care subsidies will.

    I work 40-50 hours a week at a university, but my position does not offer health care benefits. For that reason, I feel very strongly that the United States owes its citizens health care first and space adventures second.

    I feel that space adventures are a luxury we cannot afford. The talk about space exploration reminds me of the way men talk when they discuss their video games and spectator sports — it’s excitement added to their day. But these people don’t have to worry about dying from a wound they can’t afford to get stitched up.

    Thank you for giving us the opportunity to voice our opinions.

  • Mari

    It’s very exciting to have big dreams and ambitions focused on space exploration. However, regarding the sloppy mess humans have made here on earth, I’d admonish the space dreamers to “clean up your room, first, before you go out to play.”

    Responsibility for one’s own domain comes before grand adventures into the unknown.

  • John McNamara

    Two points: 1.We went to the moon in Kennedy’s day to one-up the Russians, exploration was secondary
    2. The question not being asked is: should we be spending vast amounts of money on this at all?

  • http://HAMMERNEWS.com Michael Hammerschlag

    Think Apollo 17 was in 1972, folks.

    Man on the Moon was the great exploration of our time. Yeah, you can get 10 times the bang for the buck with unmanned trips, but how many know anything about the spectacular landing on Titan in Jan 2005- a billion miles away, with an atmosphere 1.5 times Earths pressure, oceans of liquid methane/ethane, rocks of water, and a rain of dirty organics- all at –180C. If it was a manned trip, you would know every gory detail. I covered it at the time and am still flabbergasted what an incredible achievement it was. http://hammernews.com/cloudword.htm

    CLOUD WORLD: MISSION to TITAN- Jan 14 the 11 year $3 billion Cassini mission to Saturn, successfully dropped a landing probe into the most earthlike atmosphere in the Solar System, Titan. Bigger than planets Mercury or Pluto, it has a nitrogen atmosphere 1.5 X Earth’s pressure and 4½X as dense. But it is a bitter –178ºC, leading to speculation of lakes, oceans, and volcanoes of liquid methane- photos seem to show that (inc.)

    I saw the some of first pictures of the pizza world Io, and the waterworld Europa, and the car crash worlds of Callisto and Ganymede as they came in from the Voyager spacecraft to the Brown Planetary Center before they were ever released to the public and it is one of the great thrills of my life. I worked on a telescope on the best place on the earth to look at the sky- 13,700 ft at the top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii (which is effectively in the stratosphere cause of peculiar wind currents), and watched colliding galaxies and 2 big comets- Hyakutake and the brilliant Hale-Bopp (biggest, longest, and brightest comet). I watched the awesome Leonid Meteor showers from a beach in Hawaii and a frigid field in RI (a 1966 occurrence had 40 meteors a second, spectators said it looked like you were on a space ship moving at light speed toward the origin); and saw 3 total solar eclipses , and 3 lunar eclipses.

    But nothing could compare to the wonder of seeing man ride in a little capsule 60 miles over the moon in Dec ’68 in Apollo 8 (unexpected, unplanned); and then a few months later land and walk on it. As I said in an article about Reagan cutting Voyager funds: even the most primitive African tribesman knows America had reached out and touched the moon, even brought some back with us. The worldwide celebration was spontaneous , heartfelt, wondrous.. and I’ve never seen the world so united and joyful before or since.

    If I could, I’d go one way to waterworld Europa, which they think has up to a 60 mile deep water ocean underneath the ice sheets (more than earth?), looking for all the world like Baffin Bay, because I believe in all that water… there has to be life. It’s a tragedy that pinhead bureaucrats canceled the last 3 already built Apollo missions and that there is no Lunar base on the poles, cracking the water for Hydrogen fuel, and breathing and garden and fuel Oxygen. With water you have everything. Who knows what wonders we may have found there that could have changed our life for the better- some solar power breakthrough maybe? They still don’t have the functioning air-launched rocket plane that could radically drop the ridiculous price per lb of orbit (now about $10,000); or the mass driver accelerators to throw stuff into orbit; or the Arthur Clarke dream- the space elevator to geosynchronous orbit- the Fountains of Paradise.

    But soon sadly, with the coming global warming, pop explosion, 12 Monkeys pandemic, Antarctic ice-sheet tsunamis catastrophes… the human race is going to be so decimated that the last thing people will think about or do is go into space. So this celebration is also a lament for the lost dreams of mankind.

  • Dave Ramsdell

    If travel to Mars takes 6 – 8 months, and weightlessness impacts our body’a ability to function effectively long term, then what will we do to ensure that the crew can function once they reach their desitnation, much less recoup on their return? Then, what about the psychological impact of long term confinement? Seems that the engineering of building a vehicle to get there and back is the easy part.

  • Gerry


    Let’s remember that the government space program receives far less than 1 percent of our yearly budget. These discussions about ‘cleaning up our own world first’ and ‘not taking money from health care’ are red herrings. There are other more dubious commitments (600 billion/year for ‘defense’, for instance) that deserve your scrutiny.

    I do agree that space funding, manned or unmanned, should in the future be geared toward science instead of political stunts.

  • http://www.GOstoryteller Raelinda Woad

    Response to “fix earth first” caller.
    I totally agreed with the logic of what she said, but all the while my soul was crying out:
    Mars! Let’s go, man!

    Perhaps what we learn from surviving in a hostile environment on another planet will help us to continue to thrive on ours when our environment changes.

  • http://www.bjmklein.com Benjamin Klein

    Does Mars have craters??? It has the highest mountain/volcano and the biggest canyon in the solar system.

  • Caitrin

    What the ability of the human body to withstand space?
    It is my understanding that the human body would deteriorate to the point that bones would be so fragile that stepping on the surface of Mars may break bones.

  • http://www.ronoutlawsblog.com/ Ron Outlaw

    Love the pictures, but my question is, why are they going to mars. They might come back with something that is worst then swine Flu. We need to be careful and focus on the planet we live on.

  • frederic c.

    Universal education & healthcare the final frontier.

  • Putney Swope

    By the time we get to Mars, if we get there, the world might be in a downward spiral caused by not doing enough to ward off global warming.

    Getting there might be moot as the earth’s temperature might have risen 3 degrees or more which would be a disaster. We might not need to go to Mars, it’s atmosphere will come to us.

  • http://www.orbitersim.com/Forum/default.aspx?g=posts&t=9287 RichWall

    It could very well take several decades or even centuries of robotic missions to set up a permanent starting point for humans (life) to be established on Mars.

    In the long run, humans will need to evolve with machines and not separately. We must use machines to advance the human condition if we have any hope of moving beyond our planet and keep evolving ourselves.

    One could argue to let the machines do it all while humankind does less, engages atrophy, and eventually looses focus to achieve anything meaningful.

    One could also argue that such a move produces no current benefit versus the cost.

    Since it is inevitable for humans to continue to develop technology, why not focus on expanding the realm of life versus the development of technology that focuses on control or the ability to conquer other segments of humanity? Even if it turns out to be a very long process.

    It will be better to keep humanity focused on the growth of life versus control or subjugation.

    One could argue to use current technology and resources to improve the physical human condition only, but look at history.
    Regardless of the progress in technology or the amount spent in the improvement of the physical human condition, all through recorded history we still have the poor. We still have a segment of humanity (life) that is considered under privileged or under resourced. Some by choice.

    If it is our goal to “even out” humanity, to where we are all the same, all have the same resources, all have the same knowledge base, suppress change, atrophy will set in and will surely lead the entire human race into the next dark age.

    In this scenario, the advancement needed by the species, that has to come from the individuals who have the talents and qualities for such advancement, will be suppressed for the sake of that argument, that others that cannot keep up or do not want to keep up, should keep up.

    This gives the latter group full control over the ability of humankind to evolve or adapt or should I say, to not evolve or not adapt.

    In this argument we should not even be in Space Now or have the use of any kind of technology that evolved out of the space program.

    With that said, Why Mars?

    Mars offers us the best opportunity to establish a self supporting colony.

    Once we get to 20,000 individuals on Mars (the critical genetic mass) (and it may take 1,000 years) and be self sufficient, we will have literally doubled our chances of survival or even more since we will have gained the knowledge from such an achievement to better understand the processes of the environment on both worlds.

    Look at the intellectual, social and economic changes that have taken place on this planet since the re-discovery of the Americas in 1492.

    In conclusion, let’s keep moving forward since the alternative is devastating.

  • http://www.planete-mars.com Boxx (France)

    Please explain that weightlessness is not any big concern, and Mars is not an American-only challenge :

    Robert Zubrin suggested the spacecraft to be in rotation all along the 6-8 month travel, to create an artificial 0.38g gravity, the same like on Mars. Thus the crew will be in good health to land and work on Mars at arrival. What about Spacecraft’s size? NASA’s opinion? Medical scientists opinions? (instead of braindead counter-measures!)

    Also don’t forget that the Moon is just an intermediary step to Mars for non-American people (who will also pay for this adventure, won’t they?)

    Thx from France !

  • M Tony Feralio

    MANNED MISSIONS TO MARS! Like Lewis and Clark we need to send PEOPLE! Wait….they didn’t have to bring their own water, food or shelter! OR THEIR AIR!!! We need to send (and robotically build ) structures, weather stations and redundant safety systems. Reliable spacecraft (Zubrin has the best idea’s so far) and centrifical gravity enroute. Let’s not get ahead of the discussion. First things first. And there are a lot of firsts!

  • http://newcafe.org Dan Wylie-Sears

    Bring a few earth-crossing asteroids to near-earth space. Establish real industry in space, supplying platinum-group metals and other materials to earth.

    Don’t send a heavy passenger with an even heavier life-support system to Mars or anywhere just so that there can be a person in the snapshot. For the same costs, we could send vastly more useful unmanned scientific instruments.

  • Putney Swope

    You can’t have colonies on Mars. There is no air, no water, that we no off, no way to grow food.

    If you don’t have a pressurized suite on you will die in seconds.

    How about we work on fixing the planet we have first.

  • scott

    There is plenty of water, oxygen and more minerals to grow food in the soils on mars than people realize

  • http://n/a Phillip Jordan

    Mars is an excellent vantage point for mining asteroids. This would be an excellent source for mineral resources not harming our Mother Earth.

  • jim

    Man needs a challenge.We must go forward and terraform MARS! WE will allways have problems on earth to deal with and naysayers like some of these people.
    We are looking at a great new frontier and we must explore! WE MUST!

  • Robert Terry

    First, Harrison Schmidt makes several errors — using Moon fuel for Mars is silly, and we do know how to land on Mars, and the Moon is just not a good place to train for Mars.

    That aside, Mars is cheaper and more relevant than the Moon. Mars is safer than the Moon and has more available resources. Green technology to “save the Planet” is very tightly related to “exploration technology” and working both together gets the best results for either. The Mars Direct mission plan will simply get more bang for the buck.

  • Gerard Doran

    The moon is currently feasible. Mars, currently, is not. Lets do what we currently know exactly how to do technologically, and begin building one nation, together with partners of the world’s existing nations, on the eighth continent – our moon. Armstrong and Aldrin brought the words, “We came in peace for all (humankind)” there 40 years ago. It is time we should follow up on that! There is already overpopulation on our earth. “A one planet society will not survive”. Helium 3 is a key reason for building in to that promise – safe, radioactive-free nuclear energy for there, and for export back here to earth.

  • Rick Pummel

    Just from a PR standpoint, it is very important for us to go to Mars. In order to go to either the Moon or Mars, you need the support of the people. Setting a goal like Mars, with appropriately motivating arguments for doing so, will not only get us to Mars, but it will also set the stage for the widespread change in focus needed to motivate us to set up industries on the Moon. In other words, shoot beyond the moon in order to gain the support of the people, and then work backwards to the moon. In response to the lady who said we should take care of our global warming issues first: Getting us off the earth (again) will once again elevate our perspective to look down on the earth as a whole, beyond our own little “worlds,” our personal space. The biggest reason behind our lack of action in regard to global warming now is (still) a lack of belief in the problem as well as our lack of personal responsibility in regard to global issues. Going to Mars is likely to make us think on more of a collective level and be more aware of things outside our day to day lives.

  • Maynard Olson

    God bless Robert Zubrin for his passion and zeal in pushing for a manned voyage to Mars. It would be a most exciting venture. However, if such a complex mission were ever to fail, it could set back manned exploration of space for a very long time. This project must not be rushed. I do not believe that successful robotic missions to Mars in any way provides confidence in a manned mission. The duration is too long, particularly if the crew is confined to a small “tin can” space ship. Dangers of radiation & micrometeorites are potentially lethal. It is reassuring that the very serious problem of weightlessness is being addressed. Two “tin cans” swinging around each other on a string (or tether) is almost ridiculous, but some method should be found. I am also very concerned from the point of view of reliability, maintainability and availability with the complexity of systems & equipment required. These “..ilities” are of course necessary for the most important one, namely survivability. A great deal of failure mode analyses must be carefully done. I believe, as others do, that a voyage of this nature should include a number of ships (3 – Nina, Pinta & Santa Maria?) and travel in a convoy. These ships should be properly sized and designed for the challenging voyage envisioned. Of course that means more time and money. Sending life support and habitat on ahead is a great idea. I hope that the planners and designers exercise great caution so as not not rush such a historic trip. Good luck.

  • Abdy

    Let’s remember every body,it was the Russians that first planted their flag on the Moon,therefore encouraging US
    to send man to the Moon, thanks to Lenin and Marx to have some input on that.

  • Pierre Brisson

    We should not be mistaken: the target is Mars, not the Moon. It is on Mars than we can really make Science worth our spendings.

    Mars is more similar to Earth. Water has altered the Martian rocks over hundred of millions of years and possibly started the process of Life. The Moon has been dry and sterile since it was created. On Mars, we have matter to look at and scrutiny to understand ourselves and the Universe.

    Mars is less dangerous than the Moon thanks to a gravity twice as strong, some atmosphere to protect the astronauts against solar and cosmic radiations. The Martian dust is also possibly less aggressive than the Lunar dust which is more pristine and sharp because on Mars grains of dust have been somewhat worned out and softened by billion of years of atmospheric erosion.

    Mars is more economical because we can use its atmosphere to produce our oxygen and methane to move and retruen to Earth. We can do it with today’s technology which is not the case with Helium 3 because, do not be mistaken, we CANNOT control the nuclear process which would allow us theoretically to use it. We can also benefit from Mars days and nights which are similar to ours (24h38mn) to work, grow vegetables, raise animals. We cannot do that on the Moon which has 14 hours day long night and where we have no choice but to use artificial light (except on very small areas at the poles).
    The Moon has almost certainly no water.

    During the trip, we can use artificial gravity as described by Robert Zubrin (rotation of the couple created by the last burnt out stage of the launcher tied to the habitat).

    Let us not waver! Going to Mars can open us the door to Space and myriads of possibilities but…nothing is written. We have to decide it and we have to fund it. On to Mars!

  • W. Ron Hess

    Many of the comments have been very intelligent, others not. The view that we should stay at home and lick our wounds is the silliest. Pres. J.F. Kennedy proved that a great Space mission can drag us out of a recession. I’ve read that for every $1 million spent on NASA exploration and Science (vs. black field spy satellites), $10-30 million in high tech jobs and other benefits to society is generated. Instead of $billions for bailing out banks and archaic auto companies, those $billions would have been far better spent on NASA.

    The question of Mars vs. Moon isn’t trivial. The goal of getting to Mars was arbitrarily set at 30 years back in the 1970s, and the same projections of 30 years exist now. The only way to make it happen is to get the political push behind it. We’ve been to the Moon and found it has none of the resources (H2O, O2) needed for a sustained settlement, and all resources have to be sent from Earth to the Moon. Moon is little better than the Space Station in that regard. But Mars and its atmosphere and subsurface water offer everything we need. So, by all means, make Mars our prime directive! Moon can happen again as a footnote, but Mars must be our future.

    Kudos to Dr. Zubrin, Buzz Aldrin, and the late Carl Sagan for their vision in founding respectively the Mars Society, National Space Soc., and Planetary Soc. And for the books they’ve written arguing for manned missions and enlightenment!
    W. Ron Hess BeornsHall@earthlink.net

  • Sr. Mary Jude Jun, OSU

    We often hear of JFK’s dreams for his presidency, but his quote is usually only 1/2 there. He said he hoped to “put a man on the moon and SEE THAT NO CHILD WENT TO BED HUNGRY” Even though I’m for space technology in times of peace and prosperity here on this planet, it seems better to use the money trying to get to Mars to fulfill the second part of JFK’s dream and work on world poverty and the hunger crisis here. That would be a more priceless heritage to leave our world than all the trips to outer space. We could also put our efforts into keeping space for peace and work on the end of our militarization of space.

  • Michael

    Mankind needs to grow up and show some restraint. There is no need for people in space. In my view, creating a world where mankind lives in harmony with the Earth and each other is much more of a romantic and worthy goal for our best and brightest then playing with toys.

  • Carney

    To bean-counters: Zubrin’s Mars Direct Plan costs only $5B per year, a fraction of NASA’s $15B budget, which itself is less than a half a percent of the $3T federal budget.

  • Carney

    To Sister Mary Jude, our civilization is the first one in history where the rich are thin and the poor are fat. Whatever else our flaws, hunger as a serious problem isn’t one of them.

  • Jonathan Michaels

    If this was sufficiently addressed in subsequent comments, my apologies for not having read them all, but with regards to “clean up your room first”:

    While it’s a cute psychological trick to suggest without directly stating that advocating space development is childish and immature, I would suggest instead asking yourself whether an ever-increasing population stuck in an increasingly cramped area with limited energy and land would ever permanently stop fighting over said energy and land? And does anyone seriously believe that said area would, in the long term, tend in the direction of increasing “cleanliness”?

    Ever grown a potted plant? If you refuse to repot as it grows, no amount of care is going to save it in the long run. Stepping back from analogies to our actual situation, it’s going to take a lot of resources to make significant inroads into space. As long as we sit here on our pile of finite resources and wait, it’s only going to get harder.

  • Pierre Brisson

    To follow on Jonathan Michael’s image, I would say that the only way to grow a plant in a pot without increasing the size of the pot, is to clip and prune it every other day so as to get a bonzai.

    We can do it with humankind even though that permanent clipping might prove painful and dangerous (bonzai are fragile and likely to die more than other plants) but this is definitely not the future I dream for our world.

  • http://www.starrigger.net/ Jeffrey A. Carver

    Of course we should go back to the Moon, and on to Mars! And we should explore the asteroids and devise a plan for protecting our world from the next killer object from space. As others have said, even at the height of the Apollo program, space exploration was only a small fraction of the national budget. And there are plenty of willing international partners. It is misguided to say we should solve our problems here at home first. There’s no reason not to do both.

    But as to which body we should (re)visit first, to me the most obvious difference between the Moon and Mars is that the Moon is three days away in the event of an emergency, while Mars is six months away. We have much to learn before we’re ready to establish long-term habitations on another world. Let’s do it on the nearby world first, and gain the experience. Or even on near-Earth asteroids. And then go to Mars.

    Mars may be the more inspiring destination–and inspiration is indeed important–but I fear that a trip straight to Mars would be a repeat of the Apollo experience: a glorious triumph, followed by a collapse of public support, and another forty years before the next visit.

  • phyllis

    Sure, if we should ever be content with destroying but one planet the terrorists have won.

  • Scott Temp

    Phyllis, you are retarded.

  • http://www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu/~pogge/Ast161/index.html Space_Junkie

    Tom, as always, thank you for the discussion…

    One Key Question that was not raised in the program was WHY SEND A CREW OF HUMANS TO EITHER MARS OR THE MOON WHEN WE CAN SEND ROBOTS?

    What will we learn or be able to do with men that we can’t do far less expensively with an unmanned mission? The cost and risks associated with an unmanned mission are drastically less then sending a crew of astronauts along. Robots do not breath, do not get bored, do not need to be feed or kept warm. They do not need to return home. And God forbid something goes wrong, they will not leave a nation morning their loss.

    My opinion is that we should spend this treasure and effort on new unmanned missions throughout our solar system as well as new telescopes and technology to understand the universe beyond our solar system.

    We are currently in a Golden Age of space exploration. Our telescopes are finding planets with similar attributes to Earth in distant solar systems throughout the Universe and our rovers are discovering important new details about our nearest neighbors. Ultimately questions that we have been asking ourselves for millennia are finally being answered with science.

    ONE manned mission to either Mars or Back to the Moon will not yield nearly as much knowledge for humankind as the 100+ unmanned missions or new Hubble-like space telescopes that the same treasure could provide.

  • Brent Minder

    We should spend several $billion per year on a human mission to Mars. If we weren’t wasting so much on the space shuttle and the interboring space station, we’d have plenty for a human Mars mission.

    We’ve sent robots to Mars before and they’re great, but we should aspire to spreading our species to other planets. We are pioneers by nature and the inspiration, passion, and greater purpose will be only be realized by a human Mars mission, not by a nostalgic trip to the boring, old moon.

    The moon is a dead end, not a stepping stone.

    Human Mars Mission First!

  • Derek

    Addressing the “tiny tin can” concern voiced in previous posts:

    Early explorers traveled for months at a time on the open ocean in desperately small vessels. The Apollo 11 craft’s livable (sp?) space is enormous, if you consider miniaturization over the past years. Astronauts would have the equivalent of a small, multi-story apartment in which to live during the trip and afterwards on the surface.

    As Zubrin points out in his book, let’s not get over-worried about the psychological effects of long-term close quarters living. Man has done it before and man can do it again.

  • Derek

    The earth-first argument and economic resource argument are both answered by well-established truths of scientific and space exploration:

    - If we’re worried about the environment, let’s relieve the load on the ecosphere by getting off-planet. Let’s learn about appropriate eco-management by experiencing closed-system space travel and harsh-environment living.

    - Mars is cheap (compared to bank bailouts and other recent dubious expenditures) and has major returns on investment. Look at your cell phone, tennis shoes, computer, television, etc.

    - the biggest return on Mars investment is in education. More engineers, more scientists, etc. means a stronger, more vibrant economy. And that is America’s economic survival depends upon! Not more lawyers and mutual fund advisors.

  • Anne Ebel

    Plymouth rock, 1620, was not the first permenant settlement in the New World. Nor was Jamestown a few years earlier. Nor were the Spanish settlements of the mid 16th century. Even Statacona has been around longer.

    Science before propaganda Tata.

  • http://www.overviewinstitute.org Frank White

    This was an interesting program that raised a number of good points. My only concern is that, 40 years after Apollo 11, it focused narrowly on one government space program and one choice: moon vs. Mars.

    I suggest we go to both places as part of a robust global space program that includes all the nations that might want to participate, as well as the burgeoning private space industry that is now developing.

    This need not be an established government program, just a recognition that there are in fact many countries heading out into the solar system, and that there is a commercial space effort as well.

    That’s where the space future is really headed.

  • Victor

    Many of those who commented on this story were keen to bash space exploration and the proposal to send humans to Mars, yet so few seemed to be acquainted with the facts of the issue. I’m afraid that their animosity seemed, for the most part, to be based on ignorance or blind prejudice.

    I’m also sorry to say that I can say nothing better about those who imply that space exploration should be set aside until we solve poverty, global warming, war, and so forth.

    People! T-h-i-n-k through this idea a little more carefully — do you r-e-a-l-l-y think that the pittance we would save if we discontinued space exploration and development would be used to do these things? And do you really believe that the “powers-that-be” are spending all their time thinking about or promoting space exploration, and that THIS is why they don’t do more to address the other issues?

    If you do, I can think of some great beach property you ought to consider investing in. It’s located on Ellesmere Island, the biggest island in Canada’s Arctic archpelago. The weather’s really nice there — for about three weeks of the year.

    On a more positive note, a big “thank you” is in order for Bob Zubrin. He’s not perfect, but he’s done a lot to hold up the candle of reason and logic for those of us who care enough to inform ourselves about space and dare enough to dream about the world beyond that which lies before our eyes. Keep fighting the good fight.

    Also, thanks to NPR for doing this.

  • Brad

    Americans are so much in denial about what is happening to our planet it is putting our species, along with countless others in jeopardy of survivable.

    Forests are being burned to the ground at a rate that is terrifying. 20% of the rain forest is already lost to this practice. As it progresses faster and faster scientists are warning there is a tipping point where the remaining rain forest will turn into desert.

    The oceans are being fished out 4x times faster than their rate of replenishment. 90-95% of all big fish are gone. Immense dead zones are spreading across the globe at the same time cores reefs are dying. The oceans are acidifying as they sink up the carbon we spew into the air. How soon until the oceans are dead to any life?

    Americans only see the fresh fish in every supermarket across the country. It’s end is coming fast. It is only still abundant and cheap because industrialized fishing and cheap labor all around the world have made it that way, temporarily.

    Global warming is bearing down upon us and we haven’t even begun to do even a tiny fraction of what we will need to do to survive. There will be mass migrations and untold misery. But again humans seem to be unable to see the future even the tiniest bit if it means doing without something today.

    The race to mars is very laughable. Especially all the speculation about water on Mars. We are going to run out of fresh drinking water for billions on this planet long before we ever find evidence of it on Mars.

    I feel like the people who are so excited about exploring space are like young children. They have no real perspective on life around them. It is all about how something makes them feel. No regard for what’s going on around them.

    Too bad we did this to ourselves. We could have gone in such a different direction. One where going to Mars was a real possibly. But that spaceship has sailed. We are about to reap what we have sown on this planet.

    Good luck to all.

Sep 16, 2014
Jasmin Torres helps classmate Brianna Rameles with a worksheet at the Diloreto Magnet School in New Britain, Conn., Wednesday Feb. 22, 2012. (AP/Charles Krupa)

More parents are “red-shirting” their children in kindergarten—holding them back for a year, hoping they’ll have an edge. Does it work? We look.

Sep 16, 2014
From "Rich Hill"

“Rich Hill,” a new documentary on growing up poor, now, in rural America. The dreams and the desperation.

Sep 15, 2014
This Monday, Sept. 27, 2010 file photo shows hikers on the South Kaibab Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz. (AP/Carson Walker)

Uproar over development plans for the Grand Canyon. We go to the Navajo Nation and the Canyon floor to see what’s at stake.

Sep 15, 2014
In this Thursday, Sep. 11, 2014 photo, Middle Eastern leaders stand together during a family photo with of the Gulf Cooperation Council and regional partners at King Abdulaziz International Airport’s Royal Terminal in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. (AP/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)

President Obama says he will build a coalition of partners in the Middle East to combat ISIS. We’ll do a reality check on who’s really stepping up for what.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: September 12, 2014
Friday, Sep 12, 2014

In which you had varied reactions to the prospect of a robotic spouse.

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Beverly Gooden on #WhyIStayed
Friday, Sep 12, 2014

Beverly Gooden — who originated the #WhyIStayed hashtag that has taken off across Twitter — joined us today for our discussion on domestic violence.

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Tierney Sutton Plays LIVE For On Point
Friday, Sep 5, 2014

We break out Tierney Sutton’s three beautiful live tracks from our broadcast today for your listening pleasure.

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