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Argument: A manned mission to Mars would inspire humankind

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Buzz Aldrin. "Commentary: Let's aim for Mars". CNN. June 23, 2009: "We have remained, since our Apollo days, locked in Earth orbit. But five years ago, NASA was tasked with returning to the moon by 2020, rerunning the moon race that we won 40 years ago. Not surprisingly, this new race has failed to ignite the imagination of young Americans -- or their leaders.

What we truly need is not more Cold War-style competition but a destination in space that offers great rewards for the risks to achieve it. I believe that destination must be homesteading Mars, the first human colony on another world.

By refocusing our space program on Mars for America's future, we can restore the sense of wonder and adventure in space exploration that we knew in the summer of 1969. We won the moon race; now it's time for us to live and work on Mars, first on its moons and then on its surface."

"Why we must go to Mars." "The first manned landing on Mars would serve as an invitation to adventure for children around the world. There will be some 100 million kids in the U.S. schools over the next 10 years. If a Mars program were to inspire just an additional 1 percent of them to pursue scientific educations, the net result would be one million more scientists, engineers, inventors, medical researchers and doctors.

Mars is the New World. Someday millions of people will live there. What language will they speak? What values and traditions will they cherish as they move from there to the solar system and beyond? When they look back on our time, will any of our other actions compare in value with what we do now to bring their society into being? Today we have the opportunity to be the parents, the founders, the shapers of a new branch of the human family. By so doing, we will put our stamp on the future. It is a privilege not to be disdained lightly."

James Cameron. "Why Go to Mars?" August 25, 1999: "Just as an Indian boy on the cusp of manhood walks alone in the wasteland on his vision quest, confronting Mars will be a right of passage for our adolescent children -- or adolescent civilization. It will be our collective vision quest by which we will know ourselves and find the next clue to our destiny. When the first man or woman sets foot on Mars, every human being on Earth will stand vicariously in those boots at that moment. We will all as one be uplifted and ennobled. We will be energized by the exhilaration of the accomplishment, and of being part of the greatest adventure of all.

In an age when the horizons have grown near, when the lands of mystery are as close as the travel channel, when everything seems known and tired, when all the wildernesses are conquered, the human soul is starved for challenge. Only our outbound quest can satisfy this hunger, which is a very real hunger that is at once spiritual, psychological, emotional, as well as intellectual. We do this for knowledge and to hone our technical capabilities. But most of all, we do it for our deepest hearts, which yearn outward."

Ethan Siegel. "Should we go to Mars or not?" Starts with a Bang. July 24, 2009: "as a scientist, this is a tough admission -- we have more to consider than just science. NASA was not originally a scientific organization, although it accomplished (and continues to accomplish) some great science. It was originally a military organization, and my point is that I believe the purposes of NASA projects do and should go beyond the purely scientific.

To that end, think about the Apollo program. The Soviets had landed a probe on the Moon nearly a decade before. Was it really important to have humans on it? For science, not really. But for humanity, what a step! With Neil Armstrong's first step, we became -- as far as we know -- the first species in the entire Universe to travel to a world other than our own.

For the first time, dreams of space tourism and space colonization seemed a reality. 40 years later, the best thing we've got is the ISS, a somewhat habitable buoy in orbit. Why are we not encouraging space tourism? Why are we not ferrying civilians up to the ISS for parties? Sure, it might cost 50 billion dollars to go to Mars the first time, and maybe all the astronauts who go will die there, but there are nearly seven billion of us who'd love to someday be able to go. Great achievements require great courage, and a great reward never comes without great risk. Although I wasn't yet alive for it, I don't know anyone who watched the Moon landing who wasn't living vicariously through Neil and Buzz. And most of the people I know who saw it had dreams of someone just like them being able to do it too. Although science fiction excites people's imaginations, it pales in comparison to when the real thing catches up."

Stephen Ashworth, Oxford, U.K.: "Exploring the unknown lifts us out of our mundane lives and gives us the chance to wonder at new discoveries, to believe in the future and to grow. We need to send Beagle and its successors to Mars in order to maintain our culture of optimism and progress."[1]

Stephen Hawking: "Robotic missions are much cheaper and may provide more scientific information, but they don’t catch the public imagination in the same way, and they don’t spread the human race into space, which I’m arguing should be our long-term strategy."[2]

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