For the first time in human history, we have the capability to prevent our own demise from an extraterrestrial impact. We will inevitably experience another asteroid impact; they’ve happened before and they will happen again. The only question remaining is whether we possess the foresight and the will to take action to prevent it.
Earlier this week Democrats on the House Subcommittee on Space proposed legislation to increase NASA’s funding over the next three years. The bill also calls on NASA to establish a roadmap for a manned mission to Mars.
The bill introduced by the ranking member of the Space Subcommittee Donna Edwards (D-MD) proposes funding NASA at $18.10 billion in fiscal year 2014 and increasing it by 2 percent a year through fiscal year 2016 to a level of $18.87 billion.
POLL: 76% Of Americans Support Doubling NASA’s Budget For A Mission To Mars
The American public overwhelmingly support a doubling of NASA’s budget in order to fund a mission to Mars, according to a recent survey. The poll, commissioned by Explore Mars, a nonprofit organization, and aerospace contractor Boeing, also demonstrated a high degree of enthusiasm about human exploration of Mars.
The survey found that 76 percent of Americans agree that NASA’s budget should be increased to 1 percent of the total federal budget to fund initiatives, including a mission to Mars. Currently NASA’s budget represents less than 0.5 percent of overall federal spending.
“Now, if we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas. Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy – every dollar. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s. They’re developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs; devising new material to make batteries 10 times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. We need to make those investments.” - President Obama, 2013 State Of The Union
The most important argument to be made in defense of sending humans to Mars is not the science that can be done there, or the education it stimulates, or even the jobs it would create. It is the recognition that, as a species, we should not put all our eggs in one basket.
The recent Russian meteor coinciding with the flyby of Asteroid 2012 DA14 demonstrate that we need to develop the capabilities to detect and deflect extraterrestrial objects that threaten our planet. There is certainly no better reminder of the fragility of life on this planet than this great cosmic coincidence. We should read such events as warning shots, for we won’t always be so lucky.
For decades NASA has done considerable exploration of the surface of Mars, while relatively little exploration has been done of the Martian subsurface. Until now. NASA’s InSight mission aims to delve deep into the Martian surface to learn more about how our planetary neighbor formed.