Saturday, August 25, 2012

Macleans Magazine Won't Send Men to Mars

A recent editorial in the old media Macleans Magazine provides strong indications that the magazine editors don't want to send men to Mars for the foreseeable future because of the difficulties involved.

Neil Armstrong (1930 - 2012), the first man on the Moon. He went because it was hard.

Instead, the editors would prefer to continue writing badly sourced and mostly unattributed commentary on the topic for the people who remain on Earth. Evidently, this is easier.

At least, that's the impression given by the August 23rd, 2012 editorial "Why we don’t need to send a man to Mars—at least, not yet" which makes a number of unsupported and likely erroneous statements relating to manned exploration in general and Mars exploration in particular.

For example, the article quotes former US astronaut Tom Jones as stating:
Science is one of the great results of exploring the cosmos, but it’s not the only reason we go to space. We send humans as an expression of national will and the superiority of our form of government.
Tom Jones.
But the editorial then goes on to claim that "any space specialist will admit, as Tom Jones does, that the added marginal scientific value of a manned mission to Mars will probably, on the whole, be zero to negative for the foreseeable future."

Did astronaut Jones actually say this?

There are certainly no direct quotes; only the bald statement that he admitted to this, when asked. But while Jones is certainly an engaging and knowledgeable public speaker, his personal website, which promotes his book "Planetology: Unlocking the Secrets of the Solar System" also focuses on topics related to how the manned space program is generally a good thing.

So we have a dichotomy here. The Macleans article has either not provided important context related to the quote or has ignored this context in its quest to support the larger view that we don't need to send men to Mars.

Even the comment about how "any space specialist" would be in agreement with the overall point of the statement (that manned Mars exploration would provide little scientific value) is unsupported except for the incomplete Tom Jones attribution.

In fact, its quite likely that we could find dozens or even hundreds of "space specialists" at the recently concluded 15th Annual Mars Society National Conference who'd like nothing better than to see people on Mars ASAP and understand the scientific value of such an endeavor. Speakers at this years conference included author, society president and outspoken manned Mars exploration advocate Robert Zubrin, astronomy professor Jim Bell, ex NASA Astronaut Pete Worden, Dr. John Johnson from the NASA Exo-Planet Science Institute and quite a few others.

The Macleans article does mention the Mars Society, but not its advocacy for manned Mars missions and settlements (as outlined on the society website and in the above panel discussion). The society receives a mention only within the context of the expected round trip time for a manned mission, which would need to be "self-sufficient in ways that the Apollo astronauts weren’t" and is therefore hard.

It's also likely that there are hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of others who didn't make it to the recent Mars Society conference but are active in the area, attend other conferences and think that sending humans to Mars ASAP is a good idea. The Macleans editorial ignores them all.

A motivational poster, evidently required.
There's more (including a complete absence of any context or justification for the statement that "we may well learn more about Mars from Curiosity than all the Apollo missions combined told us about Earth’s moon.") but the key thing here to remember is that Macleans couldn't even find someone willing to put a byline on the finished editorial. Essentially no one would claim responsibility for it.

Any publication claiming to be "Canada's only national weekly current affairs magazine" should be able to do better.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Support our Patreon Page