Mars is the hottest topic in the space science world these days, with new rovers, orbiters, and landers finding out new and exciting things about the Red Planet with startling regularity. Multiple manned missions are already in their earliest stages, but not everyone is on board with the idea of sending humans to our most tempting planetary neighbor.
In a new interview with BBC, former NASA astronaut and Apollo 8 lunar module pilot Bill Anders weighed in on the push to get mankind to Mars, and he’s not exactly thrilled with the whole thing.
Anders, now 85 years old, says that there’s not much reason to send humans to Mars, especially when unmanned missions seem to be doing great work on their own and for much less investment. The former NASA astronaut, who notes that he’s a “big supporter” of the unmanned Mars efforts, calls manned Mars missions “almost ridiculous.”
“What’s the imperative? What’s pushing us to go to Mars?” Anders asked during the interview. “I don’t think the public is that interested.”
Along with his criticisms of ongoing manned Mars mission efforts, Anders had some particularly harsh words for the current state of NASA itself.
“NASA couldn’t get to the Moon today. They’re so ossified,” Anders told the BBC. “NASA 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.”
Anders isn’t necessarily wrong about a couple of his points, but it’s worth noting that NASA has had continued budget struggles for some time, and the inability to secure funding for new, more exciting advancements has certainly hampered its ability to repeatedly wow the public with groundbreaking feats. In any case, manned missions to Mars are less a question of “if” and more a question of “when.”