Sending astronauts to Mars would be stupid, astronaut says

Blue marble The home planet as seen from lunar orbit Christmas Eve 1968

Blue marble The home planet as seen from lunar orbit Christmas Eve 1968

The moon missions might be the only time a human will ever step foot on ground outside Earth if it were up to one former astronaut. Despite Anders' opinions, NASA is gearing up for putting humans on Mars. Eventually, the USA space agency hopes to send astronauts for the first time to the surface of the red planet.

Nasa was approached for a response to Anders' comments, but hasn't responded.

Bill Anders is one of them, still flying high at age 85. Borman jokingly said, "You can't do that, Anders, it's not in the flight plan" - I'd been pretty much holding onto the flight plan because I was overloaded with snapping away at the moon - but I figured, the heck with it, even a coldhearted [Air Force] fighter pilot like me realized this was something worth snapping and lucky for me I had color film and a 250mm lens on my camera. But he says the public support simply isn't there to fund vastly more expensive human missions. "What's the imperative? What's pushing us to go to Mars?", the pioneering astronaut asked. Last month, the InSight lander, which will sample the planet's interior, successfully touched down at Elysium Planitia. Apollo 8, which lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center on December 21, 1968, was the first manned spacecraft to leave low-Earth orbit, reach the moon, orbit it and safely return. But on Christmas Eve 1968, the capsule made it to lunar orbit. They were picked up by the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown. With the clock ticking on President Kennedy's challenge to land on the moon by decade's end, delays with the lunar module were threatening to slow the Apollo program. But with that spacecraft still not ready, NASA took the bold decision to launch a command and service module around the Moon by itself as a precursor to a crewed landing. "[It] has turned into a jobs programme...numerous 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".

Even though it would fly farther than any manned spaceship ever had and produce a photograph of the Earth from the perspective of the moon that's widely credited with launching the environmental movement, Borman said he had one overriding goal on the trip.

SEVIGNY: So this is the audio from Apollo 8 and I think it's Bill Anders who starts speaking first. "It hardly did anything except have an exciting launch, but it never lived up to its promise", he said.

On any day (when there is not a shutdown of the United States government), we can watch live video of our planet, directly from the International Space Station. "NASA has turned into a jobs program". "We can see all the way down to Cape Horn in South America".

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On the other hand, seeing the Earth in contrast to space, is a reminder of how unique we are, and that we really should try and take care of this place that sustains our lives. "I remember sitting with some friends on the hood of my vehicle in the parking lot looking up at the moon, which was just this fingernail sliver that was visible". And fortunately, I think that we were successful in trying to tell our story.

Many have pointed out the irony of the photo, since Apollo 8 was sent to study and take pictures of the Moon's surface - not Earth.

However, Mr Borman drew the line at supporting SpaceX founder and entrepreneur Elon Musk and Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, who both have space missions in the works.

For Borman however, "there's a lot of hype about Mars that's nonsense".

After checking out their spacecraft's systems, the crew prepared for the crucial Trans-Lunar-Injection (TLI) which required a re-ignition of the Saturn V's third stage, still attached to the Apollo spacecraft.

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