Human spaceflight advocates who want to see people get off Earth have a legitimate cause, according to the authors, but need to openly discuss that rationale instead of masking it.
"If objective is to become multi-planetary species, then we have to fly people," Launius noted. "I wish we were a bit more honest about that."
Funding human spaceflight based on survival of the species would be a hard sell, though, and may just get harder. Several national and online surveys have shown a trend where 18-24 year-olds largely oppose sending humans to Mars, citing reasons such as "too far and too much money" and the risks to astronauts.
"Too much money"? "Risks to astronauts"? Sadly, these are exactly the kinds of cynical, self-indulgent, intellectually unadventurous arguments I've come to expect from a generation that spends its time racking up "friends" on MySpace and playing Wii.