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Space Science

Bill In U.S. House Plans Manned Mars Mission 399

Posted by Hemos
from the won't-pass-but-hey dept.
maddogsparky writes "Spaceref.com has a copy of a bill laying out a roadmap for NASA to send a manned mission to Mars by 2022. Highlights include an manned asteroid landing, building a research outpost on one of Mars' moons and actually providing funds to start mission planning."
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Bill In U.S. House Plans Manned Mars Mission

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  • Shotgun (Score:4, Funny)

    by ManDude (231569) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:13PM (#3533894)
    I call shotgun!
    • What's that mean?
      • It means you want the front passenger seat. I believe the term originated in the stage coach days when one person would drive the horses while the other person carried a shotgun (or rifle or something) to ward off hostile folks (Indians, bandits, etc...).
    • Re:Shotgun (Score:3, Funny)

      by LadyLucky (546115)
      Gaper.

      You can't call shotgun if you haven't seen the vehicle. I call Gaper on you, nullifying your shotgun call.

    • I call shotgun!

      That's OK, as long as I'm driving
  • Heard this before (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jthomas2 (102083) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:14PM (#3533896)
    Sounds good, very reminicent of the National Space Commission report except that had more emphasis on return to the moon versus Lagrange points.

    (Of course I know a little bit about Lagrange points,
    http://www.finds-space.org/thomasneuraute r.html,

    We do have some stuff to publish soon.)

    Well, as always, I'd like to believe.

    -Jay Thomas
    http://www.uiuc.edu/~jthomas2
  • by Rebel Patriot (540101) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:15PM (#3533903) Journal
    but this will probably turn out like that manned space station we were going to be using in 1980. Plans for it were drawn in what, '64? The logistics of this are unreasonable and currently impracticle. Self-sufficient environments on other planets will remain the realm of science fiction for years to come. The largest problem to overcome IMO is distance. The distance between Mars and Earth is phenominal. Like the English who first came to America, this would be almost doomed to failure. There will be many Roanokes before one Jamestown.

    Just my $0.02.

    P.S. First post?
    • by IdahoEv (195056) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:48PM (#3534080) Homepage

      I have to say I disagree that the logistics are unreasonable. We made it to the moon 33 years ago - a third of a century - before we even had modern computers. Getting to and from mars is simply a matter of scale... it takes longer and takes more thrust to get back off the surface. But that doesn't remotely mean it can't be done. The distance is phenomenal, yes, but in space distance just becomes time. Possibly the biggest logistical problem is medicine ... in the apollo program there was a maximum return time of about 4 days... if someone gets sick you can get them home to go to a doctor. For Mars, that's not an option because you're 6 months away with limited opportunities for orbital transition. But there are a *lot* of people working on this very problem, even while NASA hasn't yet made concrete plans for a mars mission.



      Take a look at some of the plans invented by groups outside of NASA, most notably Robert Zubrin's Mars Direct [nw.net] concept. I'll spare you going into detail but this plan has so many fail-safes it's ridiculous. The entire thing uses more-or-less existing technology.



      Meanwhile, there are two experiments already running to study the difficulties of having people live isolated on Mars for an extended mission (many months until the next launch window floats around). Check out the Mars Arctic Research Station [yorku.ca] and the Mars Desert Research Station [marssociety.org] (site temporarily down?). All this research and work is already being done, independantly of NASA. (usually marssociety.org is a great reference... at the moment it seems to be undergoing maintenance or something. Bad timing.)



      Technologically, it can be done; I think there's little question about that. As for the policital will and the money, that's a different issue. But maybe this bill shows that there is some interest after all.



      Personally, I put my money on commercialization of space being the primary driving force in the next 20 years. The profit motives and the opportunities of space tourism and potentially near-earth asteroid mining will outstrip anything the US government will deliver in the near future.



    • Redundant: In 1969, Vice-President Spiro Agnew committed the United States to a manned Mars mission by the year 2000. That beats this bill by 22 years. [As a side note, the Vice-President has traditionally been the administration's point person for space activity. That is why Apollo mission responsibility shifted from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to Mission Control in Texas (Lyndon Johnson's home state) as soon as the Saturn V cleared the launch tower.]

      Toothless: There are no penalties for failure to execute. If the mission is not completed on schedule, NASA bosses should be looking at some hard prison time. Otherwise, what's the point?

      'Nuff said.

      • Toothless: There are no penalties for failure to execute. If the mission is not completed on schedule, NASA bosses should be looking at some hard prison time. Otherwise, what's the point?

        That depends on how much control the "NASA bosses" have. If the flow of funds is not guaranteed and the objectives aren't set in stone , as was done in Apollo, then I don't see how NASA can be expected to deliver when demands on them constantly shift and when the rug of support can be yanked without due cause.
      • As a side note, the Vice-President has traditionally been the administration's point person for space activity.

        Yeah, but this VP has a lot more power than they normally do -- Cheney is Bush Senior's "numbers man", isn't he? In other words, he's definitely one of the powers behind the throne in the current administration.

        Not that it makes me any more hopeful of seeing this happen, unless they decide that it's a good way of doling out billions in corporate welfare...

    • The logistics of this are unreasonable and currently impracticle. Self-sufficient environments on other planets will remain the realm of science fiction for years to come. The largest problem to overcome IMO is distance.

      Distance? What part of self-sufficient didn't you understand? The distance is irrelevant (except for travel; If delicate probes can get to Mars, then so can people) to the fact that you're supposed to be self-sufficient.

      While Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars series (Red Mars, Blue Mars, Green Mars, Purple Horseshoes... no wait I made that last one up) is pretty fantastical and highly speculative in terms of what we will actually find when we get to Mars and do some serious work there, and extrapolates a lot of technology that may not be practical any time soon from current trends, the basic ideas are sound, which is the whole point of sci-fi. You need to send a lot of equipment ahead and drop it on Mars to wait for people to show up and do something with it. You need a LOT of hardware to achieve self-sufficiency. You will definitely need to bring a certain amount of mass to achieve self-sustaining food crops. That is a seriously nontrivial problem.

      This is one reason the ISS is so important, though of course it is a very different situation. You can be sure that the ISS will be doing a lot of experiments related to closed-cycle living. They will be keeping close track of what has to be brought up and what can be sustained on board, because it costs an awful lot to put mass into orbit. I don't think we'll be putting a colony on Mars any time soon, but it's definitely worth thinking about, and I do think that if we spent enough money on it, we could do it in the very near future.

    • It would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to go to Mars.

      To Terraform Mars it would cost trillions. I think we should start doing this LONG before 2020 though.

      I think 2008 we should send a Man to mars, 2015 try to terraform mars.

      By 2030 Terraforming will be done, and we can build stuff on mars because the pollution and the population will increase to the point that by 2050 we will need to be on Mars.
    • but this will probably turn out like that manned space station we were going to be using in 1980. Plans for it were drawn in what, '64?

      It seems like long-term planning is the death for big plans in space. People can't seem to grasp these far-off dates. I think that's why the Apollo Moon landing program was so successful -- it had a short deadline (get it done before the decade was over.) That, and the cold war was on.

      Ian
  • by Anonymous Coward
    In this day and age we need to be thinking about things like making sure there is enough money going into welfare, war on drugs, war on terrorism, enforcement of gun laws, etc and not on crazy stuff like going to mars. I hope this bill is struck down as it might be damaging from investment into the social programs of this country.
    • In this day and age we need to be thinking about things like making sure there is enough money going into welfare, war on drugs, war on terrorism, enforcement of gun laws, etc and not on crazy stuff like going to mars.

      Yeah, alright, we'll just put science on the backburner until every other problem is completely solved. Gees. I got news for you: we're always going to have big problems here on Earth. You need to watch a little less Star Trek. I'm all in favor of social programs but we need to fund science as well.

      Now, I'm not an expert on space and, to be honest, I didn't even read the Mars proposal, but the idea of "hold off on the space stuff until we fix problems on Earth" is one of those things that really grates on my nerves. This bill should be judged by the scientific benefits of the Mars trip alone. The fact that there are so many other needy non-space causes shouldn't enter into this.

      GMD


      • POLLUTION, We wont have air in 2020, there wont be any rainforest left, and the Ozone layer will be completely gone,

        yeah thats when we will send a MAN to mars, when will we terraform? 2050? If we wait until then, it will be too late, We'll all be dead.
    • by HanzoSan (251665)
      Why cant we invest in both? Increase taxes by about 2 trillion dollars

      (it was cut by about 1.5 trillion)

      This leaves 500 billion for a manned mission to Mars.

      The terraform project would require trillions, we cant afford to terraform mars. But we can send a man there, the reason we dont is, is it worth all that money just so we can claim we were first?

      The terraform project is more important, we should begin now taxing for it, so that in 10 years we will have a few trillion dollars which will be enough to begin.
    • In this day and age we need to be thinking about things like making sure there is enough money going into welfare, war on drugs, war on terrorism, enforcement of gun laws, etc and not on crazy stuff like going to mars.

      In this day and age we need to concentrate on working hard toward the day we can distribute the human population among multiple planets and eventually solar systems, so that when all the problems you mention boil over and result in global thermonuclear war or global biological war, our genetics will survive somewhere.

      So, I say, let's go to Mars and leave the welfare/drugs/gun law crap to sort itself out. Once you've got a decent mirror, why worry so much about the individual disks?

  • by Etcetera (14711) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:18PM (#3533916) Homepage

    One of the problems with these various large scale concept/projects is that things can flounder forever in the planning stages.

    For those of you familiar with large bureaucracies, everything lies in the funding. By forcing the funding of something and laying out a defined timetable, this bill would IMHO stand a good chance of actually causing this to become a reality. (Technical delays notwithstanding.)

    I agree, this probably won't pass... but it would a very clear signal, a strident first step, and a more exciting two decades if it did.

    So write your Congressmen, damnit! =)
  • If we donate money can we maybe send off a few of the slashdot trolls on the space shuttle? I think Mars would suit them well.
    • If Slashdot trolls go out and populate space, there could be trouble. Imagine when, years from now, radio telescopes start getting bizarre encoded transmissions (Contact style) that say:

      1. BSD is dying.
      2. Hot grits
      3. Petrified Natalie Portman [insert body part here]
      4. Rob is gay.
      5. So is Jon Katz

      It would be ultimate troll. We can't give them that satisfaction.

      Steve
  • by x-empt (127761) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:23PM (#3533941) Homepage
    In general the /. community is interested in the Space Program and the benefits it provides to the technology community.

    As this Bill progresses it will be important to have the Slashdot (dare I say "geek" crowd) write their representatives and encourage the support of this bill.

    Please keep the Slashdot editors informed on news regarding this Bill so that more people can read about it on Slashdot and in turn write their Senators to support it.

    Seriously, the /. crowd is numerous enough to put some good pressure on Congress to do something right.

    Read the bill, it makes note of some serious issues facing the Country's space program and it's future years down the road... such as no MAJOR challenging missions after the ISS "Alpha" is assembled.
    • Yeah, the Senators aren't involved in this ... its in the House. So write your House Representatives. No need to mess with the Senate governed by Palpatine... it will just backfire. Lets make sure Natalie Portman gets the office of Senator after her terms of Queen are up!

  • by nesneros (214571) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:27PM (#3533965) Homepage
    As much as I long to see a person set foot on mars within my lifetime, I feel like we shouldn't even bother unless we're going to give a compelling reason to go. We went to the moon long before we had any plan or reason (other than "beat the russians"), and look how far that's gotten us.

    Personally, I consider "research terraforming" to be the best of all possible reasons, and I think now is as good a time as any, but I don't see a bulk of the population realizing anytime soon how valuable another livable planet would be to the future of the human race.
    • We go now to learn how to do it. Once we terraform Mars we will have to send some people to get the ball rolling.

      As others have pointed out there will ikley be technology developed that will find many uses right here on Earth.

      It is just a cool thing to do.

  • by dstone (191334) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:31PM (#3533980) Homepage
    If the U.S. had a competitor in this race for Mars like they did for the moon in the late 60s, they would have a man there in a few short, focussed years. So, um, can we maybe pretend there's a competitive nation and get on with it?!
    • by Servo5678 (468237) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:39PM (#3534024)
      So, um, can we maybe pretend there's a competitive nation and get on with it?!

      And in other news, the president announced today that members of Al Qaeda have been spotted on Mars. "We're going to find them and smoke them out of their canals," the president said.

    • If the U.S. had a competitor in this race for Mars like they did for the moon in the late 60s, they would have a man there in a few short, focussed years.

      One of the primary reasons that we managed to get to the moon so quickly is because the computers of the day had only a few kilobytes of memory. This meant that the corresponding software had to be small and writing it was a tractable problem.

      It has been said that software is a gas that expands to fill its container. Today, with terabytes of storage available, it is very unlikely that we could finish writing and testing the software for this mission before it was cancelled due to schedule and budget overruns.

      This is one case where advances in technology has actually made it almost impossible to do something we used to have the potential to do.

  • It isn't even the answer.

    We aren't at the point where Mars makes any kind of sense. It's a bit like Columbus discovered America and now we've been to American 6 times and everyone is saying- hey we've never been to Antartica! Antartica is the next step! It's the future of mankind!

    Even that is pushing the analogy too far. Antartica is a lot more habitable than Mars. Mars has no atmosphere- well just 1% of earths- it's a vacuum; the lightbulbs in your house have more gas in them. Sure we can live on Antartica, or Mars, but we can't thrive there right now. We have the technology, but the economics aren't there- it's gonna cost hundreds of millions per person. That's no way colonise anywhere. It's pure flags and footprints. We go, we plant the flags, we come back. That's it. Yeah, it'd be glorious. But so what? It leads nowhere.

    We need to mine something that isn't at the bottom of a gravity well. Mining something at the top means you can slide it downhill to LEO, or towards Mars. Until we have mining, Mars is out of reach for practical settlement; as is most of the solar system for that matter.

    Phobos or Deimos- yes. The moon- maybe, a NEA or a comet, yes. Mars? Later.

    • I think that the mars landing would do something far greater even without a plan as you're saying. With such a huge project no one country is going to get there alone, which requires sharing the engineering and financial burden with other countries of the world. Now where do you think that almost all of the world's population would be when that capsule is broadcasting live about to land on the surface of this new planet?

      The result: total unity of the world's population. At least for that moment, but the reprocussions could be far reaching.

      Granted, the project may not have the practical uses that you seem to require, but the cultural ramifications would be massive. I wasn't alive for the moon landing, but I can assume what all of america felt when watching those first steps. I know i would be glued to the tv during those first moments and would never forget those first grainy images of the surface of mars. I know i'm not alone.

      Of course, making the world's population "feel good" isn't always an important requirement for most projects. Who knows what the next step in human evolution (reaching and colinizing other plants) will lead to down here?
    • You are totally correct. Going to Mars is such a huge deal that there is no point going unless it is a useful trip with a real purpose. Right now the technologies needed aren't there and the cost would be astronomical with little pay off.

      At the very least some very strong basic science (with applications) in MEMs and nanotech, not only for the machinery needed to get to Mars, but for construction and terraforming. To make a large scale settlement there, we will have no choice but to build with local materials.

      Second, major advances in space travel need to happen. We could possibly cobble together something that would get there and back but it would be of little lasting value. We need to understand more about alternative propolsion and energy adaption.

      Third, we have very little useful information on human spaceflight, other than it is harmful. We need another twenty years for biotech to help offset the effects of space travel on our muscle and bones.

      Fourth, some major advances in environmental science need to happen. We can barely keep the garden of paradise from turning into a sewage pit, so there's a lot of work to be done if we hope to take something as fragile as Mars and make it liveable.

      Lastly computing still has a ways to go insofar as creating robust systems that can operate autonomously, although consumer applications from blenders to driveless monorail cars seem to be making progress.

      We'll get there, but right now we just don't have what it takes to make the trip worthwhile.

    • by Guppy06 (410832) on Friday May 17, 2002 @12:37AM (#3534935)
      "It's a bit like Columbus discovered America and now we've been to American 6 times"

      Columbus stumbled across the New World in 1492. How many permanent European settlements were established between and the end of the 15th century? Heck, let me be generous: Between then and the end of the 16th century?

      We got to the moon and back six times in a span of half a decade or so. Starting from 1492, when's the first time that there were six expeditions to the New World in such a small time frame?

      "it's a vacuum"

      For a planet with no atmosphere, it sure seems to have a lot of dust storms. Not to mention all the erosion that's apparent on the surface...

      "We need to mine something that isn't at the bottom of a gravity well."

      As I recall from my physics courses, if it's something, by definition it's in the bottom of a gravity well.

      And while we're on the subject of asteroid mining, sure they tend to have lots of heavy elements, but if you're looking for light stuff (say, oh, I dunno... reaction mass!?!), you need a heavy duty gravity well to hang on to it and collect it.

      "Phobos or Deimos- yes."

      After expelling enough reaction mass to get to Mars in a reasonable amount of time (ie. before the crew gets microwaved into crispy critters), you honestly think bringing enough fuel to reach Martian escape velocity (remember, 1/3 G) is really going to make that much of a difference? Heck, landing on Mars has the advantage over its satellites in that it at least has SOME atmosphere, so you don't need near as much shielding once you get there. Especially when you consider how long you're going to have to be there until Earth catches up with you again (even if you're using nuclear rockets).

      "a NEA or a comet, yes"

      Instead of going on a manned interplanetary expedition to someplace we run into once or twice a year or so, you're in favor of trying to catch up with and land on something that doesn't come anywhere near here for a few centuries or millenia? And what will the crew do when they get there? Start digging their own graves?

      "Mars? Later."

      "If not now, when? If not us, who?"
    • You can kiss those projects goodbye in your lifetime if NASA wants to make a propaganda win by landing some people on Mars. The probes are about as good for most purposes. You simply can't say the same thing about a permanent moon base.

      There are some risky and practical applications for moon missions, yet regarding Mars we'll be lucky to make it back.
  • Personally, I would like to see space exploration start happening, and continue happening. Let's be honest: The moon missions, while probably the most significant and arguably the most complex engineering feat in human history, basically was "Wow! We made it! Now what??".

    Instead of throwing all this government money into the sh**hold where we know it will probably never come out, let's give tax incentives to get private companies into space. First company to mine an asteroid gets a 20 year tax moritorium! Same deal for space-based factories!

    The key is that space has to pay for itself. If we depend on the government to put men into space, then men in space depends on the whims of budgets and politicians. The only way to get there and stay there is to have an economic incentive to stay there.

    • A tax moratorium to encourage space development would be great... if companies actually paid taxes. Enron never paid a dime of federal taxes. Tyco International dodged $400 million in taxes last year by incorporating in Bermuda. Etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam. There are too many tax shelters already that are a hell of a lot easier to establish than an asteroid mine.

      -Isaac

    • Uh... WHAT taxes?

      If you spend your own money to get a ton of equipment up into space, if you're mining in space, and everything you build is in space, and it stays in space, exactly what country do you owe ANY taxes too? You could set up shop on earth in practically any country you wanted to and run your space business from there, or space. Unless you have a satellite (no pun intended) office in a country that has taxes, you shouldn't have to pay any to anyone. In time, simply fork off the space based enterprise as its own entity, or even have it declare itself its own country. You can then trade with that country as you see fit, barring any embargos. I would have a difficult time declaring my independance in the USA, since no matter how strong I am, I have to be able to fend off the entire US military. And frankly, thats not going to happen. But in space, what is anybody going to be able to do about it? Nobody will support spending hundreds of millions of dollars to shoot something out of deep space simply because they're not paying thier taxes.

      Or maybe they would. Who knows.

      -Restil
    • Taxes are not the problem. All those international treating OUTLAWING the commercialization of space are a problem. Have a look here for a list of current space treaties:
      Space Treaties [islandone.org]

      The "Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (1967)" is a good example with articles like:

      The exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind.

      Very noble, but its hard to make a buck.

    • If you can get to it and put yout little flag on it, it's yours.

  • by nomadic (141991)
    Great, maybe congress can infuse a little enthusiasm into NASA, whose lofty goals involve a few decades of launching incrementally better satellites.
  • Just make sure nobody tries to do inter-dimensional space travel over there. You never know what Hell will do... and I don't want my rabbit to die.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:39PM (#3534025)

    Good bill. It's always refreshing to see politicians work toward dreams in science, technology and exploration. The time table for this bill may need to slow down a bit to be realistic, but what is really needed to make the human Mars exploration and the further exploration of the solar system after Mars practical and economical is the development of nuclear propulsion, something that has always been a political hot potato.

    Without nuclear propulsion, a manned mission anywhere farther than the moon will always take too long be too costly and have a much too small margin of error to be acceptable.

  • In 2050 we will hear old people complaining
    "We can put a man on Mars, but can't make a car that works right"
  • ...money on funding an Islamic space programme maybe we could get another space race going. That's the only way we're ever going to see any more manned exploration.
  • If manned spaceflight were that cool, we would be talking about all the nifty things we could add to the ISS right now. The fact is, there is not enough science up there that requires human beings to justify the cost of sending them.

    Now, getting costs down is smart. We should be investing our money in cheap methods of getting to orbit. That is the kind of thing that will pay off. Once space is cheap, a hell of a lot more space science is justified.
  • how much do you think it'll cost for some billionare to get a ride on this?
  • This won't work (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DietFluffy (150048)
    Even if this bill passes, which I doubt it will, a simple act of Congress cannot possibly restore NASA to its former glory. Space exploration is no longer a top priority for the American people, now that the cold war is over. Once thought of as essential for national security, NASA is now suffering due to budget cuts.

    The public might still think that space exploration is "cool," but few would be willing to sacrifice other government programs or accept a tax hike in order to free up money for NASA. If the public doesn't care, why would politicians care? NASA won't win you votes at the ballot box.
  • Here's the problem that I see. Even if this bill passes it is only the first step in the grand scheme.

    The bill would offer -

    $50,000,000 for fiscal year 2003.
    $200,000,000 for fiscal year 2004.

    This would be used for planning, etc. . . This is only a small fraction of what it is going to take to develop the needed equipment/technology to get there.

    They are shooting for 2020? Even if this bill does pass that leaves 16 more years for congress to de-rail or bury this project in favor of something else (see military spending, tax breaks, etc. . .).

    I agree that this bill is a start, but it certainly doesn't offer a lot in the way of a long term commitment from the American government. If only there was a way to get a president involved maybe he could get the American people excited about the space program again.
  • by Dyslexic (112)
    What the /. community seems to be missing is, that 2002 is a (re)election year. Many Senators/Reps are proposing bills that would never actually get passed (for instance the ludicrous Constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages [foxnews.com]).

    Every politician is looking for their ticket into the next term, and it looks like Rep. Lampson is going for the space angle. Hell, he may be even trying to capitalize on the ATOC sci-fi brouhaha (it wouldn't suprise me, knowing how the political system works in the USA).

    With an administration that has been chopping NASA's budget left and right, this has very little chance of actually taking place.

    Dys.

  • They could use space tourists. First, charge them a ludicrous amount for the trip. Then use them as beta-testers for the life support systems. Even the animal rights activists would be happy.

    RMN
    ~~~
  • We need Reagan back.

    Then we could collect the whole fucking set:

    * The "Star Wars" laser defence system
    * A space-station on Mars
    * Maybe a fleet of "nuclear class" space ships

    Sometimes creativity is also a by-product of degenerative brain disease. How often we overlook that.

    :)
  • by codepunk (167897)
    Don't give me no bullshit about not being ready. Look at what they flew in during the apollo days. What we really need is someone in charge with some BIG NUTS.

  • Better hurry-up buying the space hardware on e-bay [ebay.com] before NASA gets enough funds to "Buy this item now"...
  • by Ars-Fartsica (166957) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @10:36PM (#3534278)
    We've got a budget deficit, a war on terrorism that has devolved to the US managing a quarter of the world, a huge catastrophe looming with social security, crumbling schools, a growing military budget....

    All of these add up to very very little money for Mars.

    I would love to be proven wrong, but I suspect that this bill will not see much debate.

    • Interesting points, but some counter points call out. Not saying that the bill is going to (or should) pass, but nevertheless:

      1. Budge deficit is a paper tiger. We always have a budget deficit - well at least for the last few decades. Congress and the Executive branch routinely use funds from "special" sources, like for example Social Security, to finance the "general fund". This year it happens that the numbers actually do show a deficit. Last year they showed a surplus despite the fact that there was *no surplus*. In perfect theory, the government should run on a clean line - ie not one dollar surplus or deficit. In practice anything within $100 billion (or about 4-5% of the total gross federal budget) is a "even". I think last I heard the suggested deficit was $70-80 billion. So this is not a real issue, as far as I can see (especially since Congress has never been able to restrain spending - they can *always* find a few billion more for a special pork filled project).

      2. The War on Terrorism is funded largely from the existing military budget - this type of thing is actually budgeted for. But you are correct - there is *no end* to it in sight, and it seems to keep growing in scope and cost.

      3. Castastrophe Looming with Social Security is simple FUD. It is very very simple. There is no "trust fund" or "lock box". Never has been. You pay social security tax today and gets spent next week on payments to retirees. As the population shifts the ration of 3-payors to everyone 1 collector will shift to 1-payer for everyone 2 collectors. Its pretty simple then to figure out what must happen. Either benefits must be cut to maintain the ration, or taxes must go up (or some of both). Chances are since 60%+ of eligble social security benefactors vote that benefits will not be substantially affected. As a result, expect social security taxes to get much higher.

      4. As a technical note (and as a libertarian) support for schools by the Federal government should be immediately cut, but it will never happen. Schools always are crumbling. Every president since Harding has been promising to reform education and school funding. Every time they pass legislation, usually bi-partisian, and it never helps on the large scale. Don't expect any politican to lose much sleep over this issue.

      5. The military budget is in constant flux, depending on the alignments of the two moons (congress and executive, of course). The point is well taken, that this could inhibit spending on other projects.

      The bottom line though? If Congress wanted to they could find money for this project. Just as Trent Lott can channel funding to his home district in "guaranteed loans" (aka handouts) to spur shipbuilding, and just as Daschle can get pork to his home districts, you can expect that if the right senators and reps latched onto this they could get it passed.

      Not saying it will pass, but there is no reason it *couldn't*. Of course, more often than not these bills are the ultimate paper-tigers. They show that the rep "cares" about issues that the people care about, and gives them a plank for their next campaign ("I will push to get this good bill through, I just need more time and more votes (and money!).")
      • Good post. I have some comments which should not be construed as being adversarial...just some points of disagreemtn.

        1. Budget deficit is a paper tiger. We always have a budget deficit

        We also have a balanced budget amendment. Both Clinton and Bush were serious about erasing the national debt as well. All of these don't make big deficits for space programs seem possible.

        2. The War on Terrorism is funded largely from the existing military budget - this type of thing is actually budgeted for.

        I don't know where you got this from but it doesn't jive with anything I see on CSPAN. This conflict has already create a extra cost of over $10 billion dollars. I understand there are sunk costs with reference to staffing overseas bases, but armaments and fuel are not sunk costs.

        3. Castastrophe Looming with Social Security is simple FUD

        Oh I agree, but its a huge voter issue, and Bush is going to have address it in some fashion. SS is dead one way or another - there is no arithmetic in the US econonmy that can save it, but don't tell that to the AARP.

        In any case, even in terms of pure science I can think of a dozen different research projects more deserving. Alternative energy. Grid computing. Nanotechnology/MEMs. Genomics. etc etc.

  • by thumbtack (445103) <thumbtack@jun o . c om> on Thursday May 16, 2002 @10:38PM (#3534290)
    shouldn't we be planning a mission to Venus instead?
  • by istartedi (132515) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @10:40PM (#3534304) Journal

    Not enough votes on Mars.

    No farmers, no steelworkers, no Cuban immigrants, no nothin'. It ain't a key "swing planet", it has no electoral votes, no representation, no key industries, and it isn't even a decent vacation spot.

    What we need is a lobby. First make land grants on Mars. Slip it in as a rider on some military spending bill. Then, we can start complaining about how transportation is lousy there; maybe divert some funds from Amtrak, grease a few palms here and there. The first rocket needs to be loaded with representatives for welfare mothers, schoolchildren, teachers, steelworkers, farmers, union members, and other key constituency groups who know how to lobby. The scientists can come later.

    If the rocket makes it we'll get one helluva Mars lobby. If it blows up, that'll be fine too. It's a win-win situation.

    Hey, don't blame me. You were the ones who brought Congress into the picture.

  • First USA may not even exsist in 2022 if we dont stop terrorism.

    Second by 2022, we should be building on mars, not sending the first man to mars.

    I mean damn, If we are going to pollute earth shouldnt we be preparing mars.

    2022? Come on, we can go to Mars 5 years from now.

    2022? ITs not a technology issue, its cheap Americans who want tax cuts. My Prediction, China or Russia will go to Mars before us.
    • Re:2022? AHAHAHAHAHA (Score:4, Interesting)

      by danheskett (178529) <(danheskett) (at) (gmail.com)> on Thursday May 16, 2002 @11:09PM (#3534513)
      You are not thinking clearly. From the end first, to the beginning last.

      China or Russia will go to Mars before us.
      What an absolute joke. Really. First off, Russia is an economic position that is at best unstable and at worst massively disasterous. Their currency is weak against nearly everything, they are struggling with inflation, they can't get investment for core necessities, their military is aging rapidly, new growth is slowing, the world oil market faces increased pressure (Russia is #2 supplier of oil worldwide), the space agency has taken to piracy of money/resources to pay for workers just to show up. It would take a fairly major miracle to get Russia into a decent enough position to undertake this project in 10 years, let alone 5. Perhaps if everything goes right for them in the next 10 years, and if they get a handle on organized crime, corruption, and ill internal policies they could start the process of rebuilding their space agency. Maybe. As for China, that is again a simply infeasible prediction, untenable except with the most bare facts. China will be facing a major population problem more and more over the coming decades. The political situation is likely to change drasticatally in that time. Additionally, their are simply to many youngish males in the country. Chances are better than even-money that they will be engaged in a major conventional war within the next two decades.

      I mean damn, If we are going to pollute earth shouldnt we be preparing mars.
      This is an utterly redicioulous position. This type of exploration has nothing to do with earth-genesis. Lets be straight: colonization of Mars isn't even on the table at this point by reasonable people. It is simply to far past our abilities in a purely technical, political, and sociological sense. The proper solution is to handle and manage localized pollution, not find new land to exploit/pollute. There are arguments made for landing on Mars - to make it Earth 2.0 is simply not a useful place to start.

      Second by 2022, we should be building on mars, not sending the first man to mars.
      Again, simply not going to happen, and for many reasons. But more importantly, it makes no sense. What are we going to be "building" on mars? Hotels? Skyscrapers? Research facilities? Its pretty simple - people need reasons to take risks. There isn't any benefit other than "ohh, neato" and perhaps some secondary/tertiary spins offs to be had by getting to Mars and building on it right away. It doesn't make sense.

      First USA may not even exsist in 2022 if we dont stop terrorism.
      Talk about FUD. Terrorism poses no long-term threat to the United States. Furthermore it will never stop, ever. It will forever be a clear and present danger. Always. Forever. No matter what. It has *always* been that way. Read A People's History of the United States if you need proof. No amount of bombs or suicide explosions, or anything will stop the country. If it ever did get *really* bad, all it would take would be a few fairly small changes in policy to eliminate most all terrorist threats. Finally, the funniest line in your whole assine post:

      its cheap Americans who want tax cuts
      What a joke. Let me explain it to you. The purpose the government isn't to send people to Mars. We don't want tax cuts, we demand them, and deserve them. My "tax freedom" day is coming up soon - its going to be the last week of May. That means all the money I've made so far this year will go to *government*. Its nearly 50% of the way through the year. When that magic 51% comes, I am going to just stop working and live off the dole. Quite simply, politicans and government agencies are incapable of restraining themselves in spending. We all know that if this Mars mission gets funded a good portion of that money will be wasted, go towards overhead, and general be frittered away. The bottom line is that the benefits do not even begin to outweigh the costs.

      Until someone can present to me a clear and viable reason to expend this money, that fits within our notion of government, my vote will always be 'no' to this type of project.

      Man on Mars? Yeah, it'd be cool. Is there any cultural, moral, social, or political imperative to accomplish this task today, tomorrow or anytime in the future? Absolutely without qualifications and with resounding clearness "no".
  • pour the equal amount of pressure on your congress critter to vote for this as we poured on to not vote for things like the SSSCA! I'll be writing some letters tomorrow. of course, I'm unemployed so I have a lot of time to do such things..
    ---
  • June 20, 1969

    My dad was 12 years old when he first saw the television broadcast of Neil Armstrong take the first steps onto a world of wonders.

    The whole world stopped and watched. People in the former Soviet Union and the world sat dumbfounded at the accomplishment. It wasn't just 'America' that made it to the moon, it was the entire world.

    Now imagine that feeling, for one moment. What would it be like for just one second to actually have a sense of accomplishment that goes above anything and everything. Above all the petty differences regarding possessions and wealth. I would give anything to have that excitement in my lifetime. What was your feeling on Sept. 11th? I can tell you mine, horror. Can't we have something different? Something spectactularly humbling and amazing?!

    I think it's time that we as humans actually try to accomplish something more then making money and material wealth. That we prove to everything and anything out there that we will continue to survive if we actually try to work together. Think of the jobs that this type of project would create.

    I've read some other posts regarding this...ppl saying we should do this to welfare and blah blah blah. What if this created 100,000 more jobs? What if this actually motivated ppl to get off their butts and do something?

    What if for even 10 mins, you could say that you someway, no matter how minor it was, YOU contributed to something so grand, so spectacular, that nothing or no one could ever take that satisfaction away from you.

    But then again, we as humans will probably never be able to experience that feeling. We'll continue to argue about welfare, who gets what money and what possessions. Who's house is bigger. etc. etc. etc.

    I just turned 21. I hope for just one second I will be able to experience something that will atleast leave me somewhat satisfied so that before I die, I can actually relfect on the accomplishments as a race that we have accomplished. What I have accomplished will never compare to what if we all worked together to accomplish.

    I wish for that feeling my Dad had...33 years ago.

    That is my dream, and hope.

  • This is cool. Don't get me wrong, I like the Idea, and am for it 110%, but, there are other projects that need funds, like projects developing impulse and warp drive.

    And maybe a faster then light communications method... Plus, we need to setup a sensor permiter of our solar system :)
  • $$$'s (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Easy2RememberNick (179395) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @11:31PM (#3534613)
    Maybe if the government didn't give $180 billion to farmers then a mission to Mars would be possible. I know let's send the farmers to Mars.
  • I wonder how fast we could get a colony on Mars if we could cinvince people that our entire specieis is in danger of being destroyed. If we spent half as much effort as we currently spend on religon or anything else, how long would it take? Perhaps it could become it's own religon, saving the species by getting some of eggs out of the same basket.
  • How appropriate that this bill should be presented to Congress now, just after I have finished reading Frederick Pohl's "Man Plus." (For those who don't know, "Man Plus" deals with sending a man to Mars.)

    I was thinking about how an actual Mars mission might be accomplished, with minimum cost and maximum gain. Here's what I came up with:

    1. Construct a large ship in orbit--launching the entire ship on one rocket wouldn't really be feasible for a Mars expedition as it was for the lunar missions.

    2. The ship might need to simulate gravity by spinning on an axis--after all, this will be a long mission (1-2 years) and we can't let the astronauts get too weak.

    3. Send the ship off to Mars, land with a couple (or three) landing vehicles, then bring the ship back to Earth.

    4. Use the ship as an orbiting space station. That's the real brilliance of my plan. We get a free space station in the process.

    Well, that's all.
    • In 1990, Robert Zubrin and David Baker of Martin Marietta and Owen Gwynne of NASA developed Mars Direct, a plan that would allow permanent colonization of Mars within ten years, at a cost of approximately $30 billion. The plan uses rockets that are only slightly more powerful than Saturn V's, doesn't require building a space station or an orbital shipyard, and has half the payload requirements of a "traditional" round-trip Mars mission.

      The trick is to go there in two steps:

      Send an unmanned ship containing an unfueled return vehicle, six tons of hydrogen, and a chemical catalyst. Use the catalyst and the Martian atmosphere (primarily CO2) to create methane and water from the hydrogen (CO2 + 4H2 --> CH4 + 2H2O, exothermic). Store the methane for later use as rocket fuel. Elecrolyze the water to create oxygen gas (for later use as, well, oxygen) and more hydrogen, which you re-use to make more methane and water. This reaction eventually produces 24 tons of methane and 48 tons of oxygen; the plan calls for making an additional 36 tons of oxygen by reducing CO2.

      So far we've hauled six tons of hydrogen into space, thrown it at Mars, and used it to produce over 100 tons of rocket fuel, which is now sitting in a depot on Mars. Compare this to the cost of hauling 200 tons of rocket fuel into space, much less sending that much mass on a round trip to Mars.

      Three years later, launch the manned rocket. With the return vehicle and fuel already on Mars, your manned vehicle only needs enough fuel to get there, and doesn't need the ability to lift off from Mars again; in fact, the vehicle is designed to become a permanent, habitable fixture of the Martian landscape. Your first rocket has already explored the territory with a few roving robot probes, and is even providing a landing beacon.

      At the same time as the manned vehicle launch, launch a second unmanned rocket, identical to the first. This is your redundant backup for the incoming astronauts, in case the fuel depot springs a leak while they're in transit; at worst they'll have to wait for the second chemical factory to ramp up production, but otherwise you can have a complete failure of the first rocket and still be safe.

      Spend 1.5 years on Mars. No need to worry about getting home before your fuel runs out, because you're making more fuel as you go; you brought enough food supplies to last at least three years (and will leave some behind as a backup for the next manned mission, just in case), and you're producing oxygen and water faster than you can consume them.

      Get in the return vehicle and go home. Repeat the cycle until you've colonized Mars.

      The problems with Mars Direct fall into two broad categories: It requires a small nuclear reactor (smaller than the typical nuclear submarine's) to provide the initial power supply for the first unmanned lander, which makes the anti-nuclear lobby go nuts. The second problem is that Mars Direct doesn't scratch enough backs within the NASA bureaucracy to get funded: It bypasses the need for space stations, lunar landings, orbiting space fleets, warp drives, etc., and thus doesn't get support from any of the intra-NASA groups that want their pet project funded instead.

      The reasons we haven't been to Mars have nothing to do with practicality or affordability: Getting to Mars is achievable with current technology, and could be done for the cost of a steel tariff. It's all about politics and votes -- if half a million people marched on Washington to demand a Mars mission, we'd be there by 2010.

  • Mr. Lampson is the congress-critter for the area around the Johnson Space Center, which is about to get hammered for inducing a $5 billion overrun on the International Space Station. The Houston Chronicle recently had an article [chron.com] stating that 4000 jobs were at risk at JSC (out of ~16,000 total). Lampson wants to be able to say that he tried to save jobs at JSC in order to bolster his re-election chances.
  • NASA funding has been in a slow decline for decades. During the Apollo program, NASA had a lot more money to spend on the people and equipment needed to do the job right. Today, the agency is in a slow-motion implosion. Many people are retiring or are being forced out by budget cuts. Very few new people are being hired. There is little money for developing new technology or replacing old equipment. Faster, cheaper, better, pick two.
  • Buzz Aldrin [newsfactor.com] has some interesting ideas for getting to mars, again and again for relatively cheap. I actually read a little blurb in this month's popular science that got me interested. Basically you put a few 'space hotels' as the media has begun to call them in orbit around the Sun. Once you've got those puppies in orbit it makes the trip much cheaper then using rockets to get all the way to Mars and back.
  • by Graymalkin (13732) on Friday May 17, 2002 @12:43AM (#3534963)
    For geeks going to Mars is a technological achievement, a cool thing to do with no material benefit returned to the people (taxpayers) investing in it. Even the lowest estimates for a Mars mission run in the tens of billions for a single mission. Tens of billions of dollars to...plant a flag, take some measurements, and shoot some pictures? Apollo was a similar sort of mission though they actually had some nice returns on the investment because the technology to accomplish the mission didn't exist. The universities and contractors that designed and built equipment or just worked the numbers for the Gemini and Apollo missions gained immense amounts of knowlage about working in space. Had Apollo not needed small powerful computer systems which didn't exist at the time, slashdot probably would not exist and neither would your PC. The problem with a Mars mission is we have much of the technology needed to get there meaning putting an investment into the project isn't going to give you much of a return. It is inefficient and wasteful to mine Mars or even fabricate materials there for export. Say you had a Mars colony with a space launch infrastructure, it would cost them about as much to send something to Earth as it would cost us to send something to Mars. It is much more efficient to send a self sufficient manufacturing/refinment system to a much less massive body like an asteroid and have it send material back down to Earth. It's like mining the top of a mountain and rolling stuff downhill. As long as you've got a method to stop stuff it requires much less effort than trying to send your material up hill.
  • Why? Because it's there. Because it serves a fundamental need of humanity: To expand and explore. When we will get there is another question altogether. It might happen suddenly because the Chinese are already planning to start a lunar colony by 2015 (astonautix.com) and the US feels the peer pressure. It might happen because the technology eventualy advances to the point where in 2030 say, it is relatively easy to do so. It might happen because someone might realise that the comet/asteroid wacking into the earth theory a la deep impact and armegeddon is not so far fetched (Just ask the dynosaurs) and they need to be able to rendezvous with asteroids. It might happen because of political reasons such as a president needing something to take away the focus from other important problems.

    But it will happen. And even the deepest cynics don't even seem to doubt that. The how and when they doubt, but not the if.

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