Why America Shouldn’t Stop at the Moon — or Mars

James Pethokoukis

James Pethokoukis

Space,

Aim higher. 

Why America Shouldn’t Stop at the Moon — or Mars

A half century after Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface, the moon landing remains both a monumental achievement for humanity and a powerfully resonant symbol of American greatness. If you have any doubts of the latter, just watch a bunch of political campaign ads. Images from the Apollo 11 mission often serve as visual shorthand for the nation’s technological prowess and can-do spirit. Now mix in some quick-cut World War Two footage (US troops marching through Paris, the Iwo Jima flag raising), lay down a Hans Zimmer-esque score, and the result looks a patriotic mini-blockbuster directed by Michael Bay.

So it’s not surprising that when politicians want to appear as visionary leaders and make a visceral appeal to voters, their eyes turn back to the skies. America’s three most recent presidents, despite many philosophical differences, all agree that putting an American on Mars is an important national goal. In his recent Fourth of July speech, President Trump told the crowd that “we’re going to be back on the moon very soon, and, someday soon, we will plant the American flag on Mars.” And while Democrats in attendance might have hated that Trump was speaking at all, they probably liked the idea. A recent Gallup poll finds support for a Mars mission is rising, with 53% in favor and both parties equally supportive.

Okay, then, let’s return to the moon and build a permanent base there. And then proceed to Mars and build one there, too. But our ambitions shouldn’t stop at the Red Planet, or even in our Solar System. The stars should be our destination.

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