I recall as a young lad my family gathered around the TV hearing the words of the Apollo astronauts proudly announce, "The Eagle has landed!" A few hours later Neil Armstrong placed his foot on the lunar soil and we heard his all inclusive words, "That's one small step for a man but one giant leap for mankind." It truly was an American achievement realizing the goal set by John F Kennedy on May 25th 1961 when he stated, "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." Armstrong's first words placing his foot on the moon seem to want to include humanity universally as responsible for the achievement, defining it as "...a giant leap for mankind' After Apollo we saw Project Skylab which lasted from 1973 to 1979 and the Shuttle Program from 1981 to 2011.
Not to take away from those achievements, but all know so well the thought prevalent on most people's minds, that is among those interested in man in space, was the thought that we went to the moon and back to the earth and eventually just stayed there. When would the dream be realized of going to the planets beyond as one see's portrayed in Arthur C Clarke's 2001? In the 60's Clarke envisioned that by 2000 men might have gone beyond Mars and on the way to Jupiter--no such luck for those who considered that the next sign of progress. Mars has been visited various times by robotic ships and small golf court like buggies and a rather large car like version, 'Curiousity' will be traversing the red planet in 2012. We come back however to man--what about him? What should be the actually vision concerning men in the flesh visiting the other planets?
How important of a priority should it be? Apparently Neil Armstrong and Jim Lovell have expressed disappointment in regard to the cancelling of the Constellation Program of which U.S. President Obama has shelved. He holds to the position that NASA must get out of the Apollo way of thinking in regard to propulsion systems, citing that new technologies need to be advanced to make other planetary flights, beyond the moon viable. Could President Obama have a point? Even in Clarke's 2001 he had envisioned that by that year men might have developed a hibernation technique whereby astronauts on long journeys would be in a continual state of sleep. Traversing to the outer planets is indeed a long tedious affair and is there any real way to properly test willing participants as to whether they even have the capacity for such journeys?
It's all well and good to say that men have circled the globe in space stations around the earth, the record holder Russian ValeriPolyakov at 438 days,but keep in mind such ones are always conscious of the fact that they could land back on the earth in relatively short order. What exactly therefore would be a viable visions for NASA to have? No manned missions whatsoever? I wouldn't say so. I'd say there's a way to progress onwards with a vision for this time and era in the following way--manned missions to an extent but a new focus on robotic vessels. Manned missions should find itself taking place through a global mandate, of nations working together. One wonders if a Global Space Agency could be created with all nations contributing.