Manned missions to the moon should be pursued for no other reason then to stretch out with our new technologies. Wouldn't it be wiser however when it comes to the outer planets to employ a different approach? Ask yourself how many robotic ships one could send to all the planets at the same price of sending one manned mission to Mars? Wouldn't it be a multitude in number? What if a US President had a vision, similar in a sense to JFK's that at the end of the decade there'd be a handful of robotic ships permanently in orbits around all of the planets. While soil composition tests can be done on site, what about developing robotic systems which could land but with a goal of bringing back various samples of sorts on a return journey to earth?
Would not such seem like a more worthy goal? With a myriad of ships scattered throughout the solar system there'd be news reports coming in continually on what's being found and discovered. Also if any one of the robotic ships goes silent it's loss could be marginalized as not having any overwhelming import. Could that really be the vision NASA so desperately needs? To boldly go, developing robotical systems seems to make more sense with pay back, spin off benefits which very clearly would enormous! Mankind could have a sense that they're really everywhere around all the planets in this very generation.
Perhaps right now it's not imperative for mankind to be taking his own physical steps. Mankind took such steps on the moon at the end of 69 but perhaps we need to allow robotics still to take the next ones, that is many ships equalling a great many achievements for mankind. Writers like Jules Verne, Arthur C Clark, Gene Rodenberry have portrayed different scenarios for the look ahead. Could it be the future which most likely will reflect our own will be the idea played out and majored in the Asimov book series, 'Foundation' a world full of robotic wonders? Even in the original Star Trek series, episode #53, 'The Ultimate Computer', professor Richard Daystrom , creator of the M-5 [concerning computer/robotics replacing men in space] stated, "One machine can do all those things they send men out to do now. Men no longer need die in space or on some alien world. Men can live and go on to achieve greater things than fact-finding and dying for galactic space..."Seems like a plan! As long as we don't arm the robotic ships with warheads I think we'll be alright!