Letter: Space for dreams

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Almost thirty years ago a young boy, like millions of others around the world, sat in a darkened room as a ghostly black and white figure descended to the lunar surface. As a Nasa employee for six years I saw the same passionate look I had back in 1969 in the faces of youngsters at Space Camp as they saw the present-day shuttle.

I feel very sorry for Charles Arthur ("A waste of space", 4 December) in that he can only see investment in the International Space Station (ISS) in terms of money. I doubt whether many of those schoolchildren will ever be as inspired by investments in stocks and shares as much as by the space programme.

He admits that Mars Surveyor was a "spectacular success" but then goes on to say it showed Mars to be a "dead, cold, rocky desert". So what? A negative result in science is as good as a positive one.

Nasa's annual budget (around $14bn the last time I looked) is a relatively small part of the US government's spending, considerably smaller than social security, housing and defence.

It is those with vision, big ideas and dreams that alter our world and not those that sit and criticise.