Comment How disappointing. Felix Baumgartner, the steely-sphered Austrian who recently supplied us all with much quality entertainment by leaping out of a balloon 128,000 feet above New Mexico to break the all-time world altitude skydiving record, turns out to be a blinkered fool.
In an interview with the Telegraph last week which has suddenly leapt to the attention of the internet, Baumgartner offers the following insights:
"A lot of guys they are talking about landing on Mars ... Because [they say] it is so important to land on Mars because we would learn a lot more about our planet here, our Earth, by going to Mars which actually makes no sense to me because we know a lot about Earth and we still treat our planet, which is very fragile, in a really bad way.
"So I think we should perhaps spend all the money [which is] going to Mars to learn about Earth. I mean, you cannot send people there because it is just too far away. That little knowledge we get from Mars I don't think it does make sense."
The skydiving Austrian added that in his opinion the US taxpayers' money spent to land the Curiosity rover on Mars should instead have been diverted to "saving our planet", though he didn't specify how this should be done.
Mr Baumgartner's commercial sponsor for his recent leap was Red Bull. We here on the Reg space desk don't drink a whole lot of Red Bull anyway, but as long as Baumgartner remains connected with the firm we shall drink none, and we encourage our readers to adopt a similar stance. (Unless maybe he offers a complete retraction of his words.)
This is because we are sick of the blinkered attitude which always seeks to divert space exploration money - which is in any event only a tiny proportion of the US or any other government's spending - to this or that hobbyhorse. Baumgartner presumably wants to see NASA's budget (and with it that of the ESA etc) diverted into renewable power subsidies or some such money-pit: others depending on their politics have often pushed the idea of channelling space cash towards minuscule improvements to benefits, minuscule tax cuts or other such pointless ends.
Even supposing we could somehow, with this very limited amount of money, transform the Earth into a very paradise ... sooner or later we would detect a large approaching asteroid or comet, or in some other way the enormous universe around us will make its presence felt. And then, in all likelihood, we would all be cursing Baumgartner's name. Even the present very limited space capability we have is by no means reassuring in this context.
Away with you, Baumgartner. ®