Note the Destination Boring People Advocate…Isaac Asimov debate at the Hayden Planetarium (thanks to Landmark Pictures)

Factual corrections to points made by Paul Spudis: eight week round-trip missions to NEAs have been proposed (see earlier posts on this blog); most asteroids rotate at very, very low speeds; most do not have “co-orbiting clouds of debris;” resources will be collected at asteroids and processed in artificial ‘gravitational’ environments at LEO.  These are exciting, solvable engineering challenges.  Solvable.

Bob Zubrin:
“From a technical point of view, we’re much closer today to sending humans to Mars than we were to sending men to the Moon in 1961. […] While there are resources on the moon there are vastly more on Mars. There’re continent sized regions on Mars that are 60% water in the soil. There’s complex geological history which has created mineral ore. There’s carbon, which is necessary for life and for plastics. There’s nitrogen. There’s a twenty four hour day. […] The reason why it is important to do something as hard as exploring and ultimately settling Mars, is because of what it would do for opening up and creating the prospect of a human future with an open frontier rather than a limited frontier of a world of limited resources, in which choices are becoming ever closer and smaller and freedom is ever more limited.

“As far as robots versus humans despite the fact that I am a robot guy, you can’t send humans out to explore the solar system soon enough — for me. As an example, what our magnificent robots have accomplished for six years on Mars — Paul is a geologist — Paul and I could’ve done it in about a week. Okay? So robots fall far short of what you can do with humans. […] I firmly believe the best exploration and the most inspiring exploration can only be done by humans. […] Asteroids have very low gravity so you don’t have to go down into a gravity well and come back out again. There are asteroids that are incredibly rich in carbon, there are asteroids that are incredibly rich in metalic minerals: iron, nickel, and all sorts of trace elements. So everything Paul Spudis is talking about on the moon, you can get it better on an asteroid. Asteroids are an incredibly rich source of raw materials. […] There’s a lot more to mine on asteroids than there is on the moon.” 

If Lunar advocates were at a bar they’d drink alone. Soda. After having attended several space-related conferences each year for over a decade, one characteristic of moon-first advocates which has been unfailingly predictable: they are boring as hell.

The full debate may be viewed here, thanks to Landmark Pictures: