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Human Cooperation Is True Final Frontier

December 3, 2018

NASA pulled off yet another extraordinary engineering feat Monday when its InSight lander slowed from 25,000 miles per hour after a six-month journey from Earth and landed softly on Mars. The lander will drill deep into the Martian soil to produce data on the planet’s geology, seismic activity and evolution, providing insight into how planets form, the development of our solar system and, possibly, clues to what the future might hold for Earth. As that scientific work got under way, NASA also advanced the frontier of space exploration back on Earth. It announced that it had approved nine U.S. companies to bid on future missions to deliver materials and supplies to the moon, where the United States plans to return and establish an outpost in furtherance of eventual human missions to Mars. The current plan calls for human flights to lunar orbit in 2023, as a precursor to establishing a platform in lunar orbit as the base for human visits to the moon and Mars. Meanwhile, the plan also calls for expanding international participation in the International Space Station, including the recruitment of crew members from more countries. The scope and attendant cost of space exploration requires the sort of broad-based effort in the moon/Mars concept, incorporating private sector and international participation. Such an effort also pays a major dividend in making space exploration and exploitation a unifying objective back on the ground. The United States and Russia continue to cooperate closely in space, for example, even though they are at odds on a host of other matters. Human cooperation is the true final frontier. If the challenges posed by space help to harness that cooperation, it will be as miraculous as softly landing a highly functional working robot on a planet 140 million miles away.

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