Moon, Mars,. and the Future

On September 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy spoke at Rice University and spoke these immortal words that launched the United States on its quest to the Moon:

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

In an era of international and geo-political competition, President Kennedy launched the United States into its decade long quest that culminated in the Apollo landings that are the subject of this book.

Now over 40 years after those historic manned Apollo landings, a number of other countries including Japan and China, are taking aim at our satellite neighbor. During the writing of this book, China soft landed a robotic rover onto the Moon.

Meanwhile, the United States and NASA, with a number of fits and false starts, inches its way towards a manned mission to the other legendary celestial objective, Mars. Robotic Mars rovers such as Curiosity, Opportunity, and Spirit have landed and explored Mars, and have expanded our knowledge of our red planet neighbor.

The Moon and the planet Mars dominate the imaginations of mankind. Literature of all cultures, both poetry and prose, are filled with the romance, the science, and the adventure of traveling to the Moon and Mars. Well-known authors, such as H. G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Bradbury, and Isaac Asimov, have penned books about the Moon and Mars.

To each generation, the Moon and Mars represents a challenge, impacting its technology, medical sciences, society, and culture.

A look at the challenges that the Apollo program faced, and the comparison that a Mars effort will have to overcome, is in order.

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