The question of whether extraterrestrial life exists (and in particular "intelligent" ET life) is arguably one of the most intriguing questions today. The discovery of ET life would constitute a revolution rivaling the Copernican revolution in magnitude. Here is a brief status report.
Heroes such as imagined by the ancient Greeks, and exemplified by individuals like Neil Armstrong -- whose actions shift paradigms and extend horizons -- are proving increasingly difficult to come by. At a number of levels this is due to the development of new technologies.
Jake Matijevic, a mathematician-turned-rover-engineer who played an important role in the design of the Mars Science Laboratory, now appears in Wikipedia as "Jake Matijevic (rock). Who was Jake and what's so important about this rock that he would be honored in this way?
If the U.S. seeks to send a manned space mission to Mars or reach similar such milestones by the end of the 2020s -- or sooner -- it need provide no more than it did in the 1960s: funding, political will, and presidential accountability.
Armstrong's death last week has evoked numerous gauzy tributes to his amazing courage. But romantic memories of that historic moment belie the real triumph for Armstrong, NASA, and our deeply conflicted nation of the late 1960's.