photo of the members of the panel






This NASA Educational Publication (EP 125) was prepared from a transcript of a panel discussion held on July 2, 1976, in conjunction with the Viking missions to Mars.

The members of the "Why Man Explores" panel were selected as authorities in classical disciplines relating to exploration. The panel discussions were not rehearsed, and the transcript was prepared from audiotapes made during the session. This report is formulated in the direct conversational style in order to retain the impromptu atmosphere and to best convey the thoughts developed during the discussion.


Donald P. Hearth
Director, NASA Langley Research Center



Donald P. Hearth


Good evening. NASA's Langley Research Center is pleased to sponsor this symposium. The United States has embarked on a truly historic step in man's exploration of our solar system with two Viking spacecraft. We feel that it is appropriate, at this point in time, to examine the basic reasons why man explores and why he has the urge to explore. When this event was scheduled, we recognized that it might not be possible to land the first Viking on Mars on July 4th because of technical problems or Martian surprises. After Viking I went into orbit on the 19th of June, the technical problems lessened and we began to learn some marvelous things about Mars. Last Saturday night, the Viking

Project Manager made a prudent decision to explore the planet from orbit somewhat longer, and to look for a harbor, somewhat safer than the original site. Yesterday, he found a safer harbor and the landing will be in the so-called "Northwest Territory." That name was selected in a very scientific way, by the way, because it is northwest of the [5] planned landing site. Current plans are to land on the 17th of July at 3:00 in the morning, Pacific time.

That's what exploration is really all about. When one explores the unknown, one should look for surprises and be prepared to alter one's course. But, why does man explore at all? It is not just the exploration of the solar system that is the topic of this symposium but of our own Earth and indeed of the entire universe. We are here this evening to discuss this question.

I will now introduce the panel. Starting on your left is an author, philosopher, poet, Mr. Ray Bradbury. Next is an explorer, oceanographer, environmentalist, Captain Jacques Cousteau. Second from the right is an explorer, author, philosopher, Mr. James Michener. And, next to Mr. Michener is a physicist, a cosmologist, and indeed a humanist, Dr. Philip Morrison. Finally, the moderator for this evening, the editor of Saturday Review, Mr. Norman Cousins.