Wired’s two cents on space travel to Mars:
The Columbia’s loss gives us an opportunity to take a step back – and prepare a giant leap forward. Keeping humans in space isn’t an end in itself. We are there to explore, which means going places we haven’t been before rather than building destinations in the places we can just about reach. The exploration of Mars in particular offers immense scientific promise. To understand Earth as a planet – one of the great developing themes of contemporary science – we need to understand other planets, too, and Mars is both the most accessible and the one most likely to have supported life at some point in its past. But Mars isn’t the only possible destination: There are arguments to be made for the moon as well. (Astronomers would love to install telescopes there, to look for life around other stars.) The specific destination is not the most important thing; the most important thing is to define a program that goes somewhere for some real purpose rather than justifying its circular orbits with circular arguments.
Speaking of space, did you know that you can legally purchase plots of land on the moon?
The UN Outer Space Treaty of 1967 stipulated that no government could own extraterrestrial property. However, it neglected to mention individuals and corporations. Therefore, under laws dating back from early US settlers, it was possible to stake a claim for land, and register it with the US Government Office of claim registries. A declaration of ownership was filed with the United Nations as well as the US and Russian governments in 1980 by Mr. Dennis M. Hope of the Lunar Embassy, to ensure that a legal basis for the ownership of the properties sold here can be claimed.