Over at the great Spiked, Joe Kaplinsky lays into Stephen Hawking for giving a craptacular reason for space travel. In late June, Hawking said human beings should "spread out into space," heading to the moon and Mars because we've fouled our nest here on the Big Blue Marble. To which Kaplinsky replies:
[Hawking], like many other scientists and public figures today, seems capable of putting the case for progress (in this case, space travel) only by flagging up the doom and disaster that will occur if we don't take that progressive path. So instead of arguing that humans should conquer and colonise space because it is in our nature to explore and because that would enable us to expand and develop, he posits space travel as a way of escaping almost certain disaster on a planet that we have apparently already ruined….
No wonder manned space exploration is out of fashion, when both those, like Hawking, who support space travel and those who oppose it are motivated by the same conviction: that humans have screwed up on Earth. Both sides seem to agree that we have despoiled our planet, and the only real argument is over whether we should stay and patch things up or abandon the Earth and take flight to the moon.
Scientist and s/f novelist Gregory Benford profiled Hawking for Reason here.
NY Timesman John Tierney talked up affordable ways to get to Mars in Reason here.
Hat Tip: Arts & Letters Daily.