Issue 77 • Week of July 9, 2023
Next week marks the 54th anniversary of humankind's greatest scientific achievement: landing on the Moon. Three astronauts completed their mission with thousands of times less computing power than the smartphones we carry today in our pockets. Even graphing calculators are more powerful than state of the art technology used in the 1960s.
Yet it has also been over 50 years since humanity's last trip to the Moon with Apollo 17. Earlier mission crews believed it was not unreasonable to hope to be selected for a future trip to Mars despite the hurdles. Unfortunately, repeated Congressional budget cuts from an ongoing lack of presidential vision for NASA since JFK has led to nearly a lifetime of disappointment since then.
Commercial ventures have been racing to fill the resulting gap in our imaginations and only now are starting to recoup some of their investments by enabling space tourism and fulfilling rocket launch contracts. New blood has renewed interest in what had been an increasingly distant memory.
However, taxpayers from multiple countries have invested considerable sums over several decades so ceding all future potential opportunities in space to billionaires would be a travesty. Two thirds of Americans still believe NASA should play a critical role in exploration as almost 3/4 of voters believe we must continue our role as a leading spacefaring nation. A majority of Americans are even warming up for the first time to the idea of sending humans to Mars.