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.
How vulnerable are we? How serious are the threats we face? How dangerous? Will we ultimately experience irreparable calamity? Are there obvious lessons or conclusions? What must we do to minimize the chances of something going horribly wrong?
"Rocket science" is more than propulsion, navigation, and imagination. It is the discipline to analyze very complex things in order to identify every risk. Some risks can be designed out. Some can be reduced by a back-up system.