Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ladies If You Want To Fly To Mars In The Movies-Be Scandinavian

All of You that know me well know that I love science fiction movies about expeditions to Mars. I saw a 50-year pattern last night. In every major film there is only one woman astronaut. The actress playing the astronaut is either a Danish woman or a woman of Scandinavian heritage. Let us look at a sampling of classic humans to Mars films as follows:

(1950) Rocketship X-M: The great Danish actress Osa Massen played a bright PhD who was the only woman on board. The character was a brilliant lady who could do all sorts of astronautical calculations without the aid of a computer. Osa was a beautiful and sophisticated Danish actress never appreciated by US audiences.

(1951) Flight To Mars: The American actress Virginia Huston played the only female astronaut on board the flight. Even a casual look at her would confirm that her ancestors came from Scandinavia.

(2000) Mission To Mars: Brian de Palma produced this film. He must have been thinking back 50 years to Rocketship X-M. He picked the Danish Actress Connie Nielsen to play the only woman astronaut on board a rescue mission to Mars.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

NASA On The Block

America’s human spaceflight program is adrift. The space shuttle has made its final flight, and the Obama administration has no coherent plan what to do next. Instead, it has proposed that the United States waste the next decade spending $100 billion to support a goalless human spaceflight effort that goes nowhere and accomplishes nothing. In the face of a mounting imperative to find ways to cut the federal deficit, this has set up the nation’s space program for the ax.
In order for NASA’s human-exploration effort to be defensible, it needs a concrete goal and one that is truly worth pursuing. That goal should be sending humans to Mars.
As a result of a string of successful probes sent to the Red Planet over the past 15 years, we know for certain that Mars was once a warm and wet planet and continued to have an active hydrosphere for a period on the order of a billion years - a span five times as long as the time it took for life to appear on Earth after there was liquid water here. Findings released by NASA last week indicate that underground water seeps are reaching the surface of the Red Planet periodically. Thus, if the theory is correct that life is a natural phenomenon emerging from chemistry wherever there is liquid water, various minerals and a sufficient period of time, life must have appeared on Mars and may still be there.
If we go to Mars and find fossils of past life on its surface, we will have good reason to believe we are not alone in the universe. If we send human explorers, who can erect drilling rigs that can reach underground water where Martian life may well persist, we will be able to examine it. By doing so, we will be able to determine whether life on Earth is the pattern for all life everywhere or, alternatively, whether we are simply one esoteric example of a far vaster and more interesting tapestry. These things truly are worth finding out.
Furthermore, Mars is a bracing positive challenge that our society needs. Nations, like people, thrive on challenge and decay without it. A humans-to-Mars program would be an invitation to adventure to every young person in the country, sending out the powerful clarion call: “Learn your science, and you can take part in pioneering a new world.” In return for such a challenge, we would get millions of young scientists, engineers, inventors and medical researchers, making technological innovations that create new industries, find new cures, strengthen national defense and increase national income to an extent that utterly dwarfs the expenditures of the Mars program.
But the most important reason to go to Mars is the doorway it opens to the future. Uniquely among the extraterrestrial bodies of the inner solar system, Mars is endowed with all the resources needed to support not only life, but the development of a technological civilization. For our generation and those that will follow, Mars is the New World. We should not shun its challenge.
We’re ready. Despite its greater distance, we are much better prepared today to send humans to Mars than we were to send men to the moon in 1961, when President Kennedy started the Apollo program - and we were there eight years later. Contrary to those seeking indefinite delay of any commitment, future-fantasy spaceships are not needed to send humans to Mars. The primary real requirement is a heavy-lift booster with a capability similar to that of the Saturn V launch vehicle employed in the 1960s. This is something we fully understand how to create.
The issue is not money. The issue is leadership. NASA’s average Apollo-era (1961-73) budget, adjusted for inflation, was about $19 billion a year in today’s dollars, just 5 percent more than the agency’s current budget. Yet the NASA of the ‘60s accomplished 100 times more because it had a mission with a deadline and was forced to develop an efficient plan to achieve that mission. If NASA were given that kind of direction, we could have humans on Mars within a decade. If not, as the rudderless agency continues to drift into the coming fiscal tsunami, we may soon end up with no human spaceflight program.
Some may say, why not just let it sink? Aren’t there more vital things to salvage from the budget shipwreck? Such thoughts, however, would be wrong. The government fiscal catastrophe was not caused by NASA but by an administration with no interest in it. Acceptance of the destruction of the space program simply amounts to acceptance of American decline. For all its flaws, NASA is one of the ornaments of our age. The United States comprises 4 percent of the world’s population yet has been responsible for 100 percent of the people who have walked on the moon, 100 percent of the rovers that have wheeled on Mars and 100 percent of the probes that have visited Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus or Neptune. Our time will be remembered because this is when humankind first set sail for other worlds. Our nation should be remembered as the people who opened the way.
Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Astronautics and of the Mars Society ( An updated edition of his book “The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must,” has just been published by the Free Press.
© Copyright 2011 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Sponsored Link: A $34,000 income secret Congress won’t tell you about... Because it could help make you thousands of dollars in dividends every year...Without touching regular Wall Street investments. Click here to learn more.

Add New Comment

  • Image
Real-time updating is paused(Resume)

Showing 5 comments

  • Good read, but the view that NASA only needs a simple goal to be successful doesn't hold water. It had the goal of Moon, Mars, and beyond and to replace the shuttle by 2012--yet that budget blew up in their face. It simply wasn't a problem with the goal, but mainly with the contracting and to some extent the design. Lockheed and others working on these big NASA cost-plus projects actually make more money by not making deadlines and by making things costly and labor intensive. If that wasn't bad enough, now with the SLS debacle they are not hired by NASA and they can't be fired by NASA. Congress made it law who builds the SLS. So the 38 billion for the SLS is probably the low end, because these contractors have almost no incentive to ever finish it. This is reinforced by the fact they are now hired by congressional committee whose senators directly benefit from the jobs and revenues. NASA did not want the SLS, has nothing to use it for currently, and has far cheaper methods to do the same thing. Yet congress ordered it anyway.

    I firmly believe we should go to Mars ASAP, but we got a huge problem with congress, mainly the senate science sub-committee, but in part its parent committee. And this is not a partisan issue. Both Democrats and Republicans are involved. You know something is up when you see Democrats pushing for the manned space program and Republicans saying that NASA should not invest in buying rockets and spacecraft from the commercial market. The Florida and Texas senators are mainly in it for the jobs. A good number of others are simply bought through campaign contributions.

    Bottom line: First fix the broken system, then lets talk about goals. Otherwise, these corrupt politicians are going to use it as an excuse to rob the national treasury again.
  • Cut your defense budget by a mere 10% and you could have platinum plated diamond encrusted rockets capable of flying people to Mars. Stop spending more than the entire world put together on defense.
  • Totally omitted in the article was the preparation to launch a next generation of Mars Rover and the difficulty of an immeasurably more expensive manned Mars mission to accomplish even a fraction of what the next Mars mission will. Colonization of Mars is inevitable in time, if only because we will be looking for some place to hunker down after Earth becomes too hostile a place to live. Trust me, even on a horrible day on Earth living on Mars will even be less friendly to humanity. To just say we left footprints on Mars is not yet a good enough reason to send men and women there. There has to be some National Security or Scientific reason to go there, especially with a Federal Budget when we're balancing at so much less than zero even before we begin to talk about it.
  • I can't believe that the Washington Times even published that ad for Zubrin's book that is so devoid of fact or even of solid opinion. Anyone want to debate this nonsense with me? NASA is doing a LOT more with today's budget than it ever did getting Apollo to the Moon. Admittedly, no one cares about NASA's LRO/LCROSS Missions and even fewer people are likely to care about the upcoming GRAIL missions. But either mission has and will accomplish more in a day scientifically than all of Apollo did in its many expensive years of astronauts hopping around the Moon.
  • Good article; and today we got to see the 'vaunted Russian space program' declare one of their supply craft to the ISS may have failed -- according to that article there was a loud explosion that almost shattered glass and spread debrie over a good area, sure signs something went very wrong with the craft.

    Like one old movie stated "Government contractors...."


  • RT @SpaceUpdating: NASA on the block
  • ToddJGilbert via    twitter
    ZUBRIN: NASA on the block - Washington Times: via @washtimes
  • dougl via    twitter
    ZUBRIN: NASA on the block - Washington Times: via @washtimes
  • StefanPetrov via    twitter
    ZUBRIN: NASA on the block - Washington Times: via @washtimes
  • NASA on the block - Washington Times
Trackback URL 
blog comments powered by DISQUS
Washington Times articles on Twitter