Our photo essay about Titusville, Florida, appears in the Spring 2013 issue of Fifth Wednesday Journal. “The End of an Era for the Town That Launched It” chronicles our visits to the place where many Kennedy Space Center workers live and examines the effects of the end of the space shuttle program on the people who lived launch to launch.
Fifth Wednesday Journal wanted to know more about why we were writing about the space program, what it means for the nation, and whether we should go to Mars. Our conversation with Annie Bruckner appears on the magazine’s blog.
“Manifest Destiny is really a nineteenth-century concept; it smacks of conquering and empire. The space program, for a while, during the space race with the Russians at least, drew from this deeply ingrained concept that Americans held. NASA and the space shuttle, however, also shifted our ideas of what exploration means. Maps had changed by the end of the twentieth century, and we were moving away from that old notion that drove land acquisition and remaking others around the world in our image.”
“We’d like to think Curiosity is the new way to think about exploration, that the goal of exploration is not about expansion of territory, as it was in the nineteenth century or during the space race, and that space exploration remains part of twenty-first century ambitions. By Curiosity, we mean inquisitiveness, the desire to learn and know, and we also mean the amazing Mars rover named Curiosity. Unmanned space exploration has long been part of space exploration, and probes, rovers, telescopes, and all sorts of technology have come a long way, in part because of space exploration. Though human space flight should and probably will be important in the future — as both a means and a goal — robotics and virtual exploration are already playing a big role in the twenty-first century and will probably continue to surprise us.”
“Going to Mars will be very hard. When we spoke with shuttle astronaut Michael Barratt, who holds an MD and researches effects of radiation on the human body, he indicated that, using current knowledge and technology, it’s iffy whether anyone could survive the trip to Mars because of the radiation exposure along the way. Solar events, alpha particles, and ‘the really high-energy cosmic rays’ beyond Earth’s orbit are all forms of radiation, which, Barratt says, is ‘the major question mark—slash showstopper—for interplanetary travel.’ Imagine what it would mean to all of us if scientists and engineers were working a lot harder on the problem of radiation exposure and limiting the dangerous effects. That research will happen if we foster a serious, concerted effort to put humans on Mars.”
Read more of our interview at the magazine’s blog HERE.