- More Columbia Commentary
Edge has collected essays on Columbia by scientists and science
writers, including Gregory Benford...
A Mars expedition would be the grandest exploit open to the the 21st
Century. It would take about 2.5 years, every day closely monitored
by a huge Earthside audience and fraught with peril.
This is what we should be doing. Such an adventure would resonate
with a world beset by wars and woes. It has a grandeur appropriate to
the advanced nations, who should do it together.
The first step will be getting away from the poor, clunky shuttle, a
beast designed 30 years ago and visibly failing now. How we respond
to the challenge of this failure will tell the tale for decades to
come, and may become a marking metaphor for the entire century.
...and Mapping Mars author Oliver Morton.
...So if I was President Bush I would reaffirm my commitment to space
by mothballing the last three shuttles and the station (after finding
the best way to boost it into a century-stable orbit). I'd then use
the annual $6 billion thus saved for a serious solar-system
exploration programme. Under that heading I would put: the design of
a heavy lift vehicle in the Energia-plus/Saturn V class, capable of
launching very large payloads to earth orbit and substantial ones to
Mars; a production facility capable of producing those rockets at a
rate of two or so a year; development work with others (eg Europe,
Russia, India, Japan) on vehicles that would use that capacity for
Mars missions along the lines of those that Robert Zubrin has
proposed, though not necessarily with exactly that profile; and safe
space nuclear power and advanced ion engines to make use of that
power, initially to do some impressive robot missions but with
planned growth to allow eventual use for manned missions.
Jerusalem Reporter staff artist Avi Katz, who designed a series of
Israeli stamps commemorating SF in Israel in 2000, has an essay, He
Dared to Live Our Dreams, in the current issue, about Ilan Ramon.
As a boy, I used to draw endlessly, and spacemen and spaceships were
favorite themes. I sometimes drew crashed vessels, burnt and broken
starships on distant worlds. I suppose the fragility of the thin
metal shell of the craft in comparison to the infinity of space is
part of the daunting enormity of the vision of space travel, and the
possibility of disaster makes us appreciate the daring and courage of
the pioneers. Disasters will always be part of space travel, as
shipwrecks are part of the history and romance of seafaring.
Along with the entire nation, we Israeli science-fiction enthusiasts
mourn Ilan Ramon. He was one of our own, one who ared our dreams and
dared to live them. We know he was the first, and many more will
follow, because the future is up there. And the future, as always, is