Barack Obama is poised to chart a new direction for America’s exploration of the final frontier, writes the Economist. While George W. Bush supported continuing manned space exploration in the tradition of the previous century, Obama is considering scrapping some of NASA’s planned upgrades to the space shuttle program. This would leave space exploration to the robots, an idea the Economist heartily endorses.
Obama may devote part of the space budget to scores of new satellites for monitoring earth, a “domestic policy” that gets another thumb-up from the magazine. But the recent discovery of methane on Mars shows that humans cannot completely abandon the galaxy’s outer reaches. With robots currently “better and cheaper” than ever, unmanned missions are the perfect way to keep exploration going for less money.