In mid August, our author, Darrin Jenkins, wrote an editorial explaining why he thought that we shouldn’t be spending so much money on space probes, like the Curiosity lander. In the article “Curiosity Killed the Planet“, Darrin concluded with this main idea:
As cool as finding life on other planets would be, I am simply more interested in research that would save lives here. I would love to see the U.S. solve its monetary problems and get back to reality before we shoot for the stars.
That article got several comments, with a variety of opinions being expressed. One person, Matt Herndon, wrote in with a rebuttal argument that he wanted me to publish for him. I sent it to Darrin, and asked him what he thought about it. He said:
I don’t think that I was giving previous missions a pass just because I felt concern over the current missions in light of our budget situation. He seems to be making it rather personal in some ways but I guess that is the price you pay for fame. :)-
Naturally, none of us here at Techie Buzz are famous (yet), but we do love a little give and take on controversial subjects. So, without further comment, here’s that rebuttal from Matt.
Clif Sipe — Editor at Techie Buzz
Rebuttal for ‘Curiosity Killed the Planet’
In a proper response to an editorial, one would probably leap straight into the second section, Space Exploration Fan Changes His Mind. However, the title of the editorial for which I am writing this rebuttal leaves me dumbfounded. I am unsure as to whether Mr. Jenkins refers to planet Earth — which is hardly dead — or Mars, whose exploration has just begun and for which any damage might consist of a few mechanical footprints in the dust. So, unfortunately, my very first rebuttal begins with the author’s editorial title choice. “Curiosity” certainly led to the exploration of Earth and now Mars, and poor stewardship or simple ignorance has led us to damage our planet, but She is hardly on her deathbed. And if She were, Mr. Jenkins’ wouldn’t be arguing against exploration of Mars, he’d be signing himself up on the first passenger manifest.
Space Exploration Fan Changes His Mind
An so, Mr. Jenkins recently posted an editorial, “Curiosity Killed the Planet,” in which he described his childhood infatuation with the stars, outer space and the enormous promises and adventures the exploration of such held. He shares with us his fascination with the technology and prestige of man’s journey to the moon. But with NASA’s most recent achievement of note–the landing of Mars’ Curiosity Rover–he recants. “I have reached a new stage in my life that when I look at the world around me, I suddenly come to the conclusion that we seriously need some answers down here before we go searching for answers up there.” But this question was asked of the moon mission and early work on Mars.
The Same Old Argument, Part I: What’s In It For Us Down Here?
Mr. Jenkins unabashedly writes this editorial on a laptop or desktop computer that has higher operational capacities than did the room-sized computers NASA used to get John Glenn and his crew to the moon–yet fails to attribute any of the advances in computer science to the enormous IT push required for the mission. He also omits any of the many and varied experiments performed by the astronauts and the ways in which their results have been used in the ensuing decades. Unmentioned are the physiological and anatomical tests conducted throughout the journey on the astronauts and any changes these results may have caused within medical science and the care of pilots in the aviation industry. The new polymers, plastics and other synthetic materials necessary to protect the Apollo vessel from all manner of damage also are not catalogued, despite the fact that their material descendants might well be safety features in his personal automobile. Who knows how many students were encouraged to pursue educational goals with all the science and math and technology reported nightly? The mere possibility of such a list of actual advances in science and health and safety–never mind actual achievements–is precisely what Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger’s 1970 letter to Sister Mary Jecunda promised when she voiced Mr. Jenkins’ same argument 40-plus years ago.
The Same Old Argument, Part II: We Have Enough Problems Down Here to Deal With
Another one of Mr. Jenkins’ arguments against further space exploration once again has to do with a rosy memory that conveniently forgets some events. He writes, “After World War II, the U.S. was filled with euphoria…. full of confidence and pride.” He adds the ringer, “Putting a man on the moon made us the best of the best.” The Mars mission is different though. The world is at war, countries rise and fall, pollution rains down upon the land, we live in a time of violence. “Frankly, I don’t feel humanity is ready to find life elsewhere,” Mr. Jenkins concludes, as though the Apollo mission were exempt. Except any brief glance at a historical time-line finds these events surrounding the Apollo mission: the assassination of President Kennedy, demonstrations against the Vietnam War, the Israeli 6-Day War and the birth of the first ICBM.
The Same Old Argument, Part III: I’m Middle-Aged and the World is A Terrible Place
Mr. Jenkins’ is a good writer. He cynically but conclusively cites his belief that “as humanity stands today, and if we find life on Mars, I believe all of the traits which I previously stated we excel in will come to the forefront. The religious zealots will deny it. The atheists will revel that God is a man-made concoction. Braggarts will brag and the ambitious will start their money-making engines. I don’t even want to imagine the political rhetoric.” But the world is like that anyway. More telling, however, is Mr. Jenkins’ brief bio. He is the undoubtedly proud and loving father of three children. Why have children if one has no hope? Why explore other places if one has no hope?
Perhaps Mr. Jenkins needs a Corvette.
==== About the Author ====
Matt Herndon (@Just_Matt_) lives in Indianapolis. He writes about organizational communication and leadership development. Like many people his age, he dreamed of traveling to the stars as a child. Although he’s not an astronaut, he enjoys spending his free time following the endeavors of the Curiosity Rover.