Humans to Mars: Crossroad and Crisis

Like some sort of celestial prank, just as Earth and Mars draw ever closer this month, those charting where next for Americas human exploration program are worlds apart. Later this month, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board will release its findings. They are likely to be an indictment of a NASA culture gone sour; government-contractor relationships that are frayed and a serious scrutiny of the rationale and risk of placing humans in harms way. In terms of its human spaceflight program, NASA itself is seemingly in free-fall, an agency whose wing has been crippled by a devastating blow. But for those gathered here at the Sixth International Mars Society Conference, that reddish dot so vivid in the nighttime sky represents a clarion call to action.