Your editorial shows the sort of muddleheadedness that afflicts us most grievously. You blithely write of a manned trip to Mars, casually noting that it would cost $120 billion--that is, $1,500 per American household. Then you add some glib comments about "exploration," a "political boost," and "whether we can afford not to do it."
What kind of country, what kind of government, are we developing? To govern is to choose. To choose means to decide what is vital and essential to the nation, what is valuable and highly desirable, and what would merely be nice to have.
I am a professional aerospace scientist, and have spent my career deeply involved in issues of space flight. And I want someone to tell me, concretely, what Mr. and Mrs. Average American would get in return for that $1,500 in tax money that you are asking them to toss at Mars. Haven't we learned, by now, that just because government agencies such as NASA continue to reach for our wallets, we are under no obligation to deliver?