- Mathieu Isidro
public information officer, European Southern Observatory
Are we losing interest in space and astronomy, and if so, how can we inspire the next generation?
In times of budget cuts and crisis, science is often left behind for more pressing issues. Costly projects, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, are now endangered. Astronomy and space science in general requires enormous amounts of funding and cooperation between agencies such as NASA, ESA, JAXA, etc.
As projects have become less ambitious because they are too costly, and risk management has prevented agencies from attempting complicated and innovative missions (the explosion of Columbia grounded the fleet for months), we have lost people's interest in space and astronomy. People need to be inspired, and it is through such images as those of Armstrong on the moon (now more than 40 years ago), or the images of the rovers on Mars or on Titan that we can inspire the next generation of astronomers and space administrators, and reignite interest (and thus funding) in space.
Now that the shuttle program has ended (and thus freed a sizable portion of NASA's budget) and even though the scientific usefulness of astronauts on planets has been put into question, shouldn't we at least make Man on Mars a reality for the sake of our children? Shouldn't we attempt more daring and innovative missions to new places, like Europa? Enceladus? Io?