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President Bush's Jan. 14 announcement of a new NASA initiative for sending humans to Mars via a moon base sent reporters scurrying for experts who could comment on the feasibility of such a plan.
Many of the resulting news articles included commentary by MIT faculty members and researchers. Quotations from a few of those articles are below.
"Any astronaut, you scratch our skin and you'll find Mars blood flowing underneath. That's how much I care about it."
--Jeffrey Hoffman, professor of the practice in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics who spent 20 years as an astronaut, to Ned Potter of ABC News, Jan. 15.
"We have to be certain that returning successfully to the moon does not become the end of the voyage, that we indeed use it as a steppingstone to Mars. Mars is where the scientific action is: the origins of our solar system and sister planets, and the search for life."
--Laurence Young, the Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics. Quoted by Kevin Coughlin of The Star-Ledger (Newark, N.J.), Jan. 15.
"If we send human beings into space, we want to do everything we can to maintain their health and safety. Space is not friendly to the human body. What we need to do is carefully study the adverse effects of space flight on human physiology, then develop countermeasures, before we send astronauts on such a mission."
--Richard J. Cohen, professor in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology and leader of the cardiovascular alterations team in the National Space Biomedical Research Institute. Quoted by Lisa M. Krieger of the San Jose Mercury News, Jan. 20.
"The president doesn't make an announcement like this without study. We have spent part of the last year doing a detailed study ... It's been almost 30 years since we built a new launch system. There is an enormous difference between the skills the nation had during Apollo and now. You have working at NASA now ... a generation that has never built a rocket."
--Edward Crawley, professor in aero/astro and executive director of the Cambridge-MIT Institute. Quoted by Bryan Bender of the Boston Globe, Jan. 21.
"The work force is a huge issue for NASA, but also an opportunity. If you are going to have a long-range plan, you want to have a lot of young people involved."
--Professor Claude Canizares, associate provost and a space scientist who served for 10 years on the NASA Advisory Council. Quoted by Bryan Bender of the Boston Globe, Jan. 21.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 28, 2004.