Letter to the Editor

One small step for man in space may be best plan for exploration

Regarding the Nov. 24 front-page article “Space industry faces choice for next direction”:

In a series of articles and speeches 30 years ago, I proclaimed that “Space Phase III: The Commercial Era” was about to dawn. As a member of the “Old Space” community described in the article, I felt that the moment for the “New Space” group was just around the corner. Our entrepreneurs would find a way to make a buck, at least between here and low Earth orbit. Now, it appears from The Post’s fine series of articles on the future of the United States’ space efforts, we may finally be about to turn that corner.

But increasingly the focus seems to be shifting from relatively straightforward near-Earth quests to goals as remote as the moon and even Mars. As a now-fossilized Old Spacer who remembers progression through Mercury and Gemini to Apollo, is it all right for me to suggest taking it a step at a time? Or is that just what the dreamers mean when they say we were “slow, bureaucratic . . . cautious and halting”? 

Robert F. Allnutt, Bethesda

The writer served as assistant general counsel, assistant administrator and associate deputy administrator of NASA from 1960 to 1983.

While I admire Elon Musk’s spirit with respect to space flight, a reality check is in order. We may enterprise within our solar system, but we’re not going to be “exploring the stars.” The distances are just too vast.  

There is, nevertheless, plenty to do closer to home, starting with an ambitious garbage-collection program to clean up all the junk we’ve already left in Earth’s orbit. And we might try to control our hubris as we dream about terraforming Mars, since the terraforming we’re conducting right now on Earth may not be going all that well.

Warren Emerson, Arlington

 
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