Two planets in our galaxy are inhabited. One of them is the earth on which people have messed up for several centuries. The other is Mars, where robots drift, drill, listen and grope their way through the sandy wastelands.
For reasons that escape some flat eaters, the Red Planet is only half the size of the Earth. They believe that the devastation on Mars could shed light on the origins of life on Earth. The exploration of the desert of Arizona, of course, would be much cheaper.
But there are new signs that humans – at least the American way – are entering one of their irregular cycles of restless curiosity about space and the deadly secrets that lurk there. We had one in the 1960s that President Kennedy used to become the first nation to land people on the moon.
Now a new Gallup poll has found that the majority of Americans are for the first time advocating the deployment of a manned person or women's mission out there to explore Mars. Today, 53 percent and 46 percent are close.
That's actually quite a change in just 20 years, when the majority of Americans said forget it.
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In recent decades, the focus has been on sending unmanned robots that pass or orbit various planets or moons, and in some amazing cases, landing on Mars to explore this place.
Examining the effects of prolonged weightlessness on the human body in near-Earth orbits included the International Space Station, which flew 16 miles daily at 27,500 miles per hour and 270 miles around the Earth.
Of course, US, Russian and European astronauts spend only a few months each. This is roughly equivalent to a one-way trip to Mars, which is between 34 and 250 million miles from Earth.
In his July 4 remarks last week, President Trump said, "We'll be back on Mars Moon … and one day we'll place the American flag on Mars.
The president was reported as impatient when NASA prepared for a manned return to the moon. Apollo 17, the last mission of its kind, started in December 1972 and led the 11th and 12th men there.
These plans are inevitably lost, but NASA is currently planning to bring the Americans back to the moon by the end of Donald Trump's second term. (Just check if you're still reading.)
An important constraint to the expansion of manned space exploration was concerns about cost. However, the recent Gallup survey found that all age groups share similar views. 62% to 65% thought that the costs were justified.
In 1999, only half of the Americans surveyed could call Neil Armstrong the first man on the moon. Today it has risen to 66 percent. However, a quarter of respondents still have no idea.