To travel into uncharted territory, we assume more risk than is acceptable for the average nonastronaut on planet Earth. With the Challenger accident on ascent and the Columbia disintegration on descent, the word “risk” in spaceflight has become synonymous with the demanding problem of either acquiring energy to escape the Earth or shedding the same energy to come home. The 3 riskiest parts of spaceflight actually occur on launch, reentry, and everything in between.
Those fortunate enough to witness the launch of any space vehicle have, no doubt, been awestruck that anyone in his or her right mind would willingly compete to be flung from the Earth on firepower that threatens to shred the thoracic cage of any mere mortal earthling who is within the noise radius of the controlled (or not) explosion. These are the images of chasing a dream and being a pioneer. It is the stuff of those who have been given the opportunity to fly farther and faster than Earth-bound pilots and wannabe space cadets. But the story does not stop there; witness in this issue, the article “Space Exploration, Mars, and the Nervous System.”1
Bondar RL. Mars on BalanceTwitching and Dreaming. Arch Neurol. 2007;64(4):483-484. doi:10.1001/archneur.64.4.483