Missions to moon and Mars exciting, but pricey

Regarding Gerard DeGroot's Jan. 12 opinion piece, "New space drive - the right thing to do": I, too, dream of space travel. But let's have a reality check. We are not ready to spend huge amounts of money on space exploration. We remember the Apollo moon mission as a heroic and exciting event that made each of us proud to be an American.

In retrospect, however, it seemed to be our government's cold-war effort to prove military superiority. And now do we really have much use for the space station? Instead of going to the moon or Mars, maybe we should look at cleaning up our federal government to eliminate waste and mismanagement.
Robert Murray
Marion, Ohio

I was captivated by the space program as a child growing up in the 1960s, but have since seen that the Apollo push to the moon was a dead end that diverted us away from a long-term, sustainable presence in space. In regard to our latest space explorations, I propose the private sector pay its share this time, not the government. Let Hollywood pick a few attractive astronauts and then film the whole thing. Think commercial sponsors, product placement, reality programs, Hollywood epics, product tie-ins, and lunar tourism.
Tony L. Bremholm
Bryan, Texas

I take exception to Mr. DeGroot's statement that "computer geeks think not of going to the moon, but rather of spreading spam, hacking, and playing computer games." DeGroot seems ignorant of what we "computer geeks" think about space programs. There is quite a bit of overlap between space enthusiasts and computer enthusiasts. Who does DeGroot think will be doing all the engineering if we do aim for Mars? Computer geeks, that's who.
Chris Norton
Pacific Beach, Calif.

US aid still saves Ethiopians

Your Jan. 6 article "How Ethiopia's cooking-oil industry got burned by US aid," pointed out the welcome shift of development programs toward market approaches, which support private-sector development. The article did not emphasize that thousands of lives were saved and famine averted in 2003 thanks to the timely delivery of hundreds of millions of dollars of US-funded food aid.

The Ethiopian government worked closely with aid agencies to ensure that the neediest people received that aid. The oil mentioned in the article was part of a separate program that generates resources for long-term development, and the "extensive market analysis" ensures that the oil imported under this program has no negative effect on the local market.

It's worth noting the assistance from the US government for emergency-relief programs addressing health, clean water, and agricultural recovery also provided support to the private sector. How the program worked in 1996 does not reflect its overall positive impact, or the improvements that have been made since.
Marcy Vigoda
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Country Director, CARE Ethiopia

Visitor program alters foreigners' view

Regarding John Hughes's Jan. 7 Opinion column "A people-to-people defense against terrorism": I was delighted to read the author's conclusion that Congress should give a huge boost to the international visitor program, which brings up-and-coming politicians, journalists, and leaders in other fields to the US to learn about us firsthand. My family has hosted more than 30 of these visitors. To most, at the end of their visit their image of America has changed dramatically. I encourage more support of this worthwhile program.
Linda C. Appleby

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