The Top 15 Reasons for Space Exploration (and Mars in Particular)

Curiosity’s Cameras (NASA)

We spent today at Planetfest 2012, listening to more than a dozen speakers, each with some connection to and great enthusiasm for space exploration in general and the current mission to Mars in particular. As we await tomorrow night’s landing of the Mars rover Curiosity on the Martian surface, we share with you the reasons we heard today for bothering with such an endeavor.

LORI GARVER, NASA Deputy Administrator:

“NASA is a place that carries our dreams and aspirations.”

“We’re the one species that does it [explores] for reasons other than our own survival. […] I believe it is one of our most intrinsically human characteristics.”

Space exploration “helps lift the standard of living for all.”

DAVID BRIN, Science Fiction Author:

“It’s a manifestation of desire when a free people say I want to allocate enough money and patience” to explore space. “Are we a civilization that desires to do this kind of thing? […] We have to become a people again who have a mission.”

SCOTT MAXWELL, Mars Rover Driver:

“The most exciting words are I don’t know.”

“This is the reason we are so lucky to live in this time and place. […] We can have these kinds of adventures.”

“The future has a lovely habit of surprising us.”

There exists “no substitute for going down to the surface.”

JIM BELL, President of The Planetary Society and Professor, School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University:

“It’s not easy. […] These [space exploration missions] are some of the hardest things our species does.”

“These layered rocks [on Mars] are telling us a story. […] We’re going to go read those pages of the book.”

JIM GREEN, NASA Director of the Planetary Science Division:

“It has changed everything about our perspective of us in the solar system.”

“I would love to see humans on Mars, boots on Mars. […] Mars is the ultimate destination. […] I’d like to think it will happen in my lifetime.”

RAY ARVIDSON, James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor, Washington University:

“Understanding of Mars will undoubtedly come back [to Earth].”

BILL NYE, The Science Guy and CEO of The Planetary Society:

“The joy of discovery—that, my friends, is the essence of this business.”

“We’re doing it for much less than a fancy cup of coffee per tax payer.”


“This weekend is going to change the world.”

Gale Crater (NASA): Curiosity will land here on August 5!

That’s why we’re heading back to Pasadena tomorrow for more discussions and to watch the streaming coverage of the landing with The Planetary Society. See our previous post “Mars Rover! Mars Rover! Send Curiosity Right Over!” for information on how you can view Mars in the night sky and watch the landing on your computer.

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