Explore both Earth and space

  I was very disappointed by Paul Larmer’s dismissive editorial regarding NASA’s plans to send humans to the moon and Mars (HCN, 2/2/04: A plan for Spaceship Earth). Larmer writes, "We’ll travel the galaxy later, when desperation and exploitation are no longer the driving forces."

If Larmer bothered to read more than media tidbits, then he might realize that many, if not most, planetary scientists have a strong pro-environment stance. Much of the impetus for the fledgling environmental movement 30 years ago came from the photos of the Earth taken by crews as they traveled to the moon.

Space scientists and explorers are not driven by "desperation and exploitation." They are driven by a passion to know. I thought that the publisher of HCN would understand the human desire to explore. That urge led us to explore the many and diverse corners of the West.

Space is our new frontier, and we go to those new places in peace and with curiosity. In doing so, we learn much about the Earth. The scientist who alerted us to the dangers of ozone depletion was led to that conclusion by studying the chemistry of the atmosphere of Venus. Carl Sagan was led to his theory of a "nuclear winter" by his studies of dust storms on Mars.

The point is that we cannot predict what will be discovered in our explorations, whether they are on Earth or on other worlds. The key is to continue to explore. That will lead, in the end, to greater knowledge to benefit us all. Let’s explore space and preserve the Earth together. They are not mutually exclusive efforts.

Philip Horzempa
Syracuse, New York