NASA has some grand plans to launch a crewed mission to Mars in the coming decades. However, one of the space agency’s former astronauts believes it would be foolhardy to send astronauts to the red planet due to what he feels is a lack of clear purpose on NASA’s part and a lack of public interest in the project.
As quoted by BBC News, former Apollo 8 lunar module pilot Bill Anders spoke to BBC Radio 5 Live, where he commented that he supports NASA’s “remarkable” unmanned space missions, as they are able to come up with notable scientific discoveries without costing too much. However, the 85-year-old retired astronaut added that he is less of a fan of NASA‘s manned missions, particularly the agency’s planned Mars mission, which, per its official website, might take place sometime in the 2030s.
“What’s the imperative? What’s pushing us to go to Mars?” Anders asked.
“I don’t think the public is that interested.”
Newsweek also quoted Anders as saying that the idea of sending astronauts to Mars is a “stupid” one that borders on being “ridiculous.”
As further reported by Newsweek, Anders took several more shots at NASA, suggesting that the agency currently does not have the resources to get to the moon. He illustrated the differences between how NASA is today and how it was during his time as an astronaut when the Apollo program regularly sent astronauts to the moon and flew them back to Earth without a hitch.
“They’re so ossified. [It] has turned into a jobs program, many of the centers are mainly interested in keeping busy and you don’t see the public support other than they get the workers their pay and their congressmen get re-elected.”
Regarding NASA’s achievements after the agency ended the Apollo program in 1972, Bill Anders was similarly critical, saying that NASA “really mismanaged” its manned missions since the last few Apollo lunar landings, but adding that these opinions have “not [made him] a very popular guy” with the space agency.
Currently, NASA has been pushing forward with its exploration of Mars, as its InSight lander touched down on the planet’s surface late last month and has since made the news for recording the sound of Mars’ winds and snapping its first “selfie” on the red planet. The agency is also working on potential missions that could have astronauts setting foot on the moon’s surface for the first time since the early 1970s, in hopes of preparing for an actual crewed Mars mission at some point in the 2030s.