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The cutbacks won't affect some of the new projects expected to ramp up this fall, like the Automated Planet Finder at Lick and the largely privately funded Allen Telescope Array. But for Geoff Marcy, it's unbearable to have any projects sidelined on the cusp of such an era of discovery. "We have a chance to be the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria in a cosmic sense," he says. Okay, he concedes, Columbus didn't have to sail for the New World when he did; some other guy could have done it a hundred years later. Still, it breaks Marcy's heart not to have as many crafts as possible out there sailing the interstellar blue, looking for land.
"All I can say is that we humans began two million years ago on the East African savanna with sticks and stones, and miraculously, in a mere two million years, a blink of an eye on the geological timescale of things, we humans have developed computers and piano concertos and rocket ships and huge telescopes," he says. "In those two million years we all have asked ourselves, are there other Earths, are there other life forms out there, are we alone? We're the first ones to have a chance to answer this ancient human question. And we're blowing it."
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