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Tackle problems on Earth before looking to space

Published 23/10/2015

The interest in Mars and in the possibility of it harbouring basic forms of life seems odd in the context of the many unanswered questions about life on Earth.

Why get excited about a cold, barren desert when there is so much to be done on our own planet? When Nikita Khrushchev visited West Berlin, he said that in a few years, the Soviet Union would land a man on the moon, and in about 20 years, astronauts would visit Mars. One lady asked: "When will I be able to travel to East Berlin to visit my daughter?" Khrushchev did not reply.

Many are bewitched by the idea that the issues science explores are determined by the demands of science, not considerations about what we consider worthwhile investigating. Can we justify the expenditure on space in light of the need of millions for drinking water? When I hear the triumphant declaration that water has been found on Mars, my intuitive response is, "So what?"

PHILIP O'NEILL

Oxford

Belfast Telegraph

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