Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Apollo 8 Astronaut: Sending People to Mars Would Be Stupid

Bill Anders, who is famous for the “Earthrise” photo, which is the first ever picture of Earth from the orbit of the Moon taken by men, criticised Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos on their highly ambitious space exploration projects. Anders also believes NASA is not ready to go back to the Moon and there’s not enough public support for it.

Bill Anders, who reached the orbit of the Moon 50 years ago and took the photo of Earth’s rising over our satellite orbit, has made serious criticism of space exploration projects of private aerospace firms as well as NASA.

Talking to BBC Radio 5 Live for the new documentary about the Apollo 8 mission, Anders said that “it is not actually fun to make space travel and not so exciting to go to the Moon.” While talking about how hard space travel is, Anders argued that NASA should be spending its budget on other things instead of planning a manned mission to Mars.

“What’s the imperative? What’s pushing us to go to Mars? I don’t think the public is that interested,” said Anders, adding that the public isn’t even interested in going to the Moon, which is true. According to a Pew poll in 2018, only 18 per cent of US citizens think going to Mars is important, while 45 per cent say that it is a lower priority. 37 per cent of Americans, on the other hand, think it is unnecessary to go to the Red Planet, as Elon Musk is committed to making it real.

You would think that Mars is bombarded with high radiation of the Sun and too far away and public’ opinion is not surprising. But general view towards going back to the Moon is almost the same as Mars for Americans. Only 13 per cent say that it is imperative, while 42 per cent think it’s lower priority. For 44 per cent, it is not important.

“Mars colony is nonsense”

What Anderson underlined in terms of space exploration is very important because many people support the idea of “expanding the lifespan of Earth” instead of colonizing the Moon or Mars. Some people support the idea that space agencies should be spending their budget to help the environment more than building spacecraft to explore deep space. Some scientists, on the other hand, like NASA’s Umut Yıldız, think that the budget of the weapons industry should be downsized and allocated for environmental projects.

Anders, is supporting the unmanned Mars missions in this concept but thinks going there is just a fantasy. Plans of Elon Musk’ SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin are hard to believe for him. “There’s a lot of hype about Mars that is nonsense,” said Borman. “Musk and Bezos, they’re talking about putting colonies on Mars, that’s nonsense” he says.

Ilustration of SpaceX’ Starship on Mars colony. [SpaceX]

Commander of Apollo 8 mission, Frank Borman supported Anders on his thought about deep space missions. According to him, you will just puke all the way getting there to only see a “devastation”, “meteor craters” and “no color at all”, just different shades of grey.

Reminding us that the Apollo missions took place in an era of extreme competition against the Soviets, Anders believes NASA couldn’t go to the Moon today. “They’re so ossified… many of the centres are mainly interested in keeping busy, and you don’t see the public support.”

Depite criticisms from Borman, Anders remained supportive of NASA and said “we need robust exploration of the Solar System and man is a part of that.”

It is hard to know what Elon Musk would think and if NASA would re-evaluate its robotic missions to the Moon after Anders’ comments. But space exploration is already a huge industry and it can not be limited when there are so many ambitious entrepreneurs like Musk, Bezos and Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson.


IFLS, Sciencealert, DijitalX


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