I’m going to write something shocking here, and I want to prepare you for it first. Remember that this comes from a total sci-fi geek; I have, at various times in my life, owned not only a toy phaser, but a tricorder and communicator to boot. I have seen every episode of Star Trek ever made (yes, really). I can have an informed discussion about the relative merits of visions of the future embodied by the Foundation series, the Culture, or the Hegemony of Man. I love this stuff.
Yet any way I approach it, the conclusion seems inevitable: manned spaceflight is mostly a waste of resources, and we should stop doing it.
Between NASA’s announcement of water on Mars, the release of The Martian (awesome movie, go check it out!) and Elon Musk’s incessant demands that we go nuke and colonize that same poor, undeserving planet, we’re experiencing a newfound fever pitch of exuberance about space exploration these days. That’s awesome – go exploration! Go science! Yet so many people rush right past the “exploration” part of that in their hurry to get to “so when can I board a shuttle to Europa?” that I decided a reality check was in order.
In short: exploration is great, and we should do more of it. But sending humans into space is, for the most part, a huge waste of resources done for all the wrong reasons. Here’s why.