2004-01-21 / Editorials

Editorial

Manned Mars Program Is America

As the first pictures from the Mars robotic exploration vehicle were beamed back to earth from 35 million miles away, President George W. Bush announced plans for a new space exploration venture. Bush’s plan would lead to the first manned landings on the moon since the 1970s. Those landings in turn would lead to the moon being used as a jumping-off place for manned expeditions to Mars.

We think the unrealized potential of a manned expedition to Mars far outweighs the detriments. The president’s plan is an ambitious one that honors the spirit of adventure—the desire to see the other side of the mountain—that has been a part of the American character long before this nation threw off British rule. The first English settlers to set foot on the North American continent refused to confine themselves to a handful of colonies huddled on the Eastern Seaboard. They and all the immigrants from all other nations who followed them kept going, pushing the edge of the envelope further and further. Because they possessed a spirit of adventure, this, the home of free people, stretches from one ocean to the other and beyond.

Nor did the American willingness to explore confine itself to physical surroundings. The country that arose from the spirit of adventure of a free people was the home of thousands of explorers of inner space as well. Given the freedom to exercise their creativity, ingenuity and ambition, Americans have made scientific, technological and cultural discoveries that continue to benefit this country and the world at large—discoveries that will take us to Mars and beyond while providing an immeasurably better quality of life here on earth. Manned exploration of Mars offers yet one more opportunity for us to discover and develop the best that lies within the universe—and in ourselves.


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