Boldly Going Nowhere, New York Times OpEd by Seth Shostak, SETI Institute
"The pace of improvement in rocketry is languid. It will be a decade before NASAs new Orion spacecraft allows humans to revisit the Moon, a short cosmic hop. And while todays launching vehicles are more powerful than their predecessors, the speeds are hardly impressive. The New Horizons probe cleared the pad at a clip barely twice that of the Atlas rocket that hoisted John Glenn into orbit at the dawn of the space age.
So while theres little doubt that humanity will soon explore and eventually colonize the Moon, Mars and the satellites and asteroids of the outer solar system, sending humans beyond that is impractical for the foreseeable future.
But theres another technology thats developing at a breakneck clip, and with which our grandchildren could make virtual trips to other solar systems. Its called telepresence a collection of technologies that extends vision, hearing and touch far beyond the corporeal confines of our nervous system."
Frank's Note: I guess the NYT never heard of the VASIMR rocket....
"A plausible solution would be to re-energize NASAs development of nuclear-powered rockets, with the intention of building a craft able to send clusters of micro-bots into deep space at velocities of, say, one-tenth light speed. Depending on financing and our ability to garner international cooperation, these probes could be sent off before the 21st century starts to wane. By the middle of the following century, on-the-scene data from Epsilon Eridani, the nearest known planetary system, could be in our hands."