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'Think Mars:' Online petition urges manned mission
December 28, 1999
Web posted at: 2:57 p.m. EST (1957 GMT)
SANTA BARBARA, California
(CNN) -- A group of space enthusiasts are pushing ahead with a
petition calling for a manned flight to the red planet, undaunted by the
failure in recent months of two unmanned missions to Mars.
The Mars Petition, which sets 2015
as a goal for humans to set foot on the planet nearest Earth, has received
more than 10 thousand electronic signatures since Think Mars, the Mars
Society and other space-related Web sites launched it earlier this month.
"The target of one million names by November 2000 is well within reach.
This is really catching on," said Justin Talbot-Stern, co-founder of Think Mars
Students from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology in greater Boston are the driving force behind Think Mars, but a
high school student from Santa Barbara, California, came up with the idea of
Daniel Kliman, an 18-year-old senior at Dos Pueblos High School, said he created the
petition after learning this past summer that NASA faced severe budget cuts that threatened
"I couldn't sit by and watch as Congress limited America's future. Something
had to be done to bring space and especially Mars to the majority of the
public, so budget cuts would be met with widespread public outcry instead
He acknowledges that recent setbacks in NASA's Mars exploration
program could make the job tougher for Think Mars. The space agency
suffered a double blow in late 1999, losing the Mars Global Orbiter in
September and Polar Lander in December.
"Having two probes fail certainly hasn't made getting the public to support a
human mission to Mars any easier," Kliman said.
Kevin Leclaire of Think Mars agrees, but offers another perspective. "The
argument can be made that humans at the controls could prevent accidents
that computers can't."
The planetary petitioners hope to demonstrate to government, academic and industry leaders
around the world that earthlings everywhere support "the next epic milestone" in exploration.
About 11,000 people have signed on as of late December. More than 20 percent of them come
from outside the United States, representing some 70 countries. If enough signatures are
collected, the petition will be presented to Congress and the president in 2001, Kliman
Leclaire, who manages the business concept of Think Mars, believes that a consortium of
governments, corporate sponsors and large investors could pay for a manned Mars mission,
which he said could cost as little as $10 billion.
For his part, Kliman, using simulated martian soil from NASA, has gone so
far as to design agricultural techniques for the first colonizers on the red
planet. Perhaps he will be among them.
"I hope to some day step onto the rust-red dunes of Mars. I want to feel the
freezing sand slide through my gloved fingers, and stand in awe of the edge
of canyons that dwarf Earth's greatest," he said.
The Mars petition can be viewed and signed online at this address: Mars Petition
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