Faced with years of congressional disinterest, NASA this week finally decided to close out its asteroid redirect mission.
The project was first pushed by President Obama as a mission to send astronauts to an asteroid. Then they downgraded it to using an unmanned spacecraft to bring a large asteroid back to lunar space, where astronauts would then visit it. Then they downgraded this to bringing back a small asteroid, which was later downgraded to bringing back a small boulder. In the process the manned mission got pushed farther and farther into the future, until it dwindled out of sight.
The mission never had any congressional support, so it was never going to happen. With the end of the Obama administration NASA can now finally stop making believe that it might happen and shut it down.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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