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Subcommittee Stops Human Mars Mission Spending 343

Posted by Zonk
from the who-wants-to-go-there-anyway dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Last week's House Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, and Science FY08 budget markup would prevent work on programs devoted to human missions to Mars. According to a House Appropriations Committee press release, the markup language states that NASA cannot pursue "development or demonstration activity related exclusively to Human Exploration of Mars. NASA has too much on its plate already, and the President is welcome to include adequate funding for the Human Mars Initiative in a budget amendment or subsequent year funding requests." The Mars Society is already leading an effort to get the language removed."
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Subcommittee Stops Human Mars Mission Spending

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  • Yeay! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Rei (128717) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:06PM (#19599383) Homepage
    Yeay -- way to go congress!

    This unfunded mandate has been robbing our science for long enough.
  • by Penguinisto (415985) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:07PM (#19599393) Journal
    Sucks that short-term politics and pet pork takes precedence over the future of humanity itself. (disclosure: I don't give a frig WHICH party is at fault - this simply sucks) :/

    If NASA is that busy, then why not offload some of its activities to the private sector fer cryin' out loud?

    /P

  • by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:08PM (#19599403)
    You can either go off starting random wars of aggression, or you can conduct planetary exploration. The American taxpayer, quite rightly, doesn't want to pay for both. Many don't want to pay for either, frankly.

    If you would rather support explorers than crusaders, make sure the Presidential candidate you vote for in '08 agrees with your point of view, and hold him/her to it.
  • Is this bad? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jswigart (1004637) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:08PM (#19599411)
    I'm not sure I disagree with this idea that we shouldn't be blowing money with some goal of sending humans to mars. What exactly would we gain of it? I suppose the theory is that we could bring back samples of shit to study, but why couldn't the same be done on an unmanned mission? Seems to me there is little reason a human needs to go there, and doing so is more about proving that they can than getting anything useful out of it. On top of that I would imagine it complicates the mission immensely with additional systems and failure points(life support, how the astronauts stay sane through the trip, etc).

    Really, what is the point?
  • SOP (Score:3, Insightful)

    by R2.0 (532027) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:08PM (#19599417)
    This is basically a big FU to Bush, one of many that will come out of Congress over the next 2 years. The relative merit of appropriations is irrelevant - this is the "We Hate Bush" congress, and their actions will typically have that as a primary element.

    In other words, politics as usual.
  • by quanticle (843097) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:09PM (#19599435) Homepage
    According to the article, NASA "has too much on its plate" and needs to focus. Given the fact that there are many problems in the low Earth orbit area (aging weather satellites, and Hubble to name just two), should NASA be diverting valuable manpower and time to Mars mission planning?

    I know I'd rather have NASA put up replacements for aging weather satellites before putting up manned missions to Mars.
  • by Puls4r (724907) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:11PM (#19599469)
    I've always looked up to the Space Program. Putting people and satellites into orbit or on the moon is incredible. That's it. Incredible. The scope of what they do and the success with which they do it is nothing short of phenomenal. To top if off, it's something that we have undeniably been the best at. No ifs, ands, or buts, we are quite simply the best at it. Now the politicians have decided it's no longer a priority. Toss it on the midden heap and watch us get passed by. Not just by the Russians (who were never ALL that far behind us), but by the ESA, the Japanese, and any other country who has leaders that have a sense of adventure and a sense of the long term benefits all the research involved produces. This is a sad day.
  • by jellomizer (103300) * on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:15PM (#19599521)
    Mission to Mars.
    A Planet with a high percentage of Carbon Dioxide - What can we learn from that, maybe links to global warming?
    Finding ways to store mass amounts of energy to shuttle astronots back and forth from earth to mars, in a small place, perhaps will help with out energy consumption problems?
    Ligher Weight, easer to move, rugged space suits. This can help create far better materials for many applications.
    Number of americans employed for such a project helping the economy.
    Working with other nations of such a project, better tolerance for other cultures. ...
    One project of this scale has many side efects that a lot of supid winy people just don't want to grasp their minds around to understand.
  • by Rei (128717) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:17PM (#19599567) Homepage
    The *future of humanity*?

    When the cost to get payload to the surface of Mars is on the order of several to many tens of thousands of dollars per kilogram, and the cost to get it back all the higher, you're not looking at "the future of humanity". You're looking at a boondoggle that's ripping off actual science programs -- not to mention, money that could instead be put into research to reduce launch costs.

    At this day in age, a manned Mars Mission is a "feel-good trip". It has nothing at all to do with the future of humanity.
  • Post-MAD politics (Score:3, Insightful)

    by athloi (1075845) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:17PM (#19599573) Homepage Journal
    This is a dumb idea for America, because whichever nation has a Mars base has an escape valve from Mutually Assured Destruction in instance of nuclear war. "Yeah, you got Washington, all right, but our 6,000-person Mars base is going to last a lot longer than your radioactive, rubble-strewn ass..."
  • Mars Sucks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by huckamania (533052) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:17PM (#19599579) Journal
    Sorry folks, but Mars is a waste of time. We're better off studying the asteroid belt and sending probes to the more interesting moons. Even with fusion, it would take a really long time to make Mars even close to livable.

    The asteroid belt is full of resources and the great thing about them is that they are already in space. We should start cataloging them and marking the ones that have necessary things like water, iron, gold, etc. Once we know what's out there, it won't be long before someone figures out how to get it and bring it back.
  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:18PM (#19599589)
    NASA is a dead end.

    Stick a $1 billion prize into an investment fund and hand it over to anyone who can get people on to Mars and back alive. Do same for moon base. Close NASA down. Billions saved and lots of highly motivated businesses and individuals will do their damnest to earn that cash.

     
  • by Kadin2048 (468275) * <slashdot.kadinNO@SPAMxoxy.net> on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:22PM (#19599639) Homepage Journal
    Sucks that short-term politics and pet pork takes precedence over the future of humanity itself. (disclosure: I don't give a frig WHICH party is at fault - this simply sucks) :/

    I feel the same way, at least about the importance of the ultimate goal -- but I'm not sure that the Human Mars Initiative (or whatever they were calling it) is really the right way to go, and that canceling it is in any way bad or wrong.

    Right now, we're so far away from having a self-sustaining (both physically and economically) off-Earth settlement, sending one guy or a few guys out to Mars and back really isn't going to get us that much closer. We have too much basic research yet to be done, in order to make it permanent. And really, non-permanent human exploration doesn't get us that much that we haven't already gotten.

    Look at it this way. Imagine that we're some European nation in the 15th or 16th century, and we want to plant a colony on the New World. The Mars project that's on the drawing board now is like sponsoring a long-distance swimming contest. It seems like it's going in the right direction, but really it's not that helpful. It's the wrong set of skills to be developing. Instead, you need to be doing boring crap on shore, building shipyards and learning how to make ships that don't sink.

    In terms of progressing towards the eventual goal of a permanent, sustainable, off-Earth human settlement, the money that we're spending pushing a few people to Mars, so they can dig around in the dirt and pose for a photo op, would be much better spent improving our materials science, producing a good reusable launch vehicle, or researching advanced robotics systems. None of those are as sexy as actually putting a person on the surface of Mars, but all of them will bring us closer to actually putting people in space, permanently, than a quick sightseeing trip would.

    About the only reason to send a person to Mars and back without a sustainable presence there, is because it would be good PR for NASA and possibly result in a lot more funding for long-term projects. But I'm not sure it would be worth the cost and diverted resources, particularly since it would mean basically setting aside all other projects and priorities in order to work on it.
  • by pentalive (449155) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:26PM (#19599725) Journal

    ... a manned Mars Mission is a "feel-good trip". It has nothing at all to do with the future of humanity.
    If we can get self-sustaining colonies running on the moon and mars, perhaps we can worry a little less about life-ending-events, like meteor strikes, on earth. Sure it's a long way in the future before a colony on the moon could repopulate the earth - but if we never start, we will never get there.
  • Re:Bout time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rei (128717) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:27PM (#19599737) Homepage
    I hope we do.

    I'd love to almost nothing given for manned space exploration until launch costs go down**. I'd rather see the money spent on A) robotic exploration, which almost everyone in the field acknowledges is far more cost effective; and especially spent on B) cost-reduction research.

    To get off the surface: Nuclear thermal rockets. Scramjets. Rotavators. Advanced reusable rockets. Cost-optimized conventional rockets (say, SpaceX's Falcon series, or even some more esoteric concepts like OTRAG). Advanced captive carry concepts. HARP-style. And so on.

    Once already in orbit: Too many to begin to list; here's a start [wikipedia.org].

    Also, in general, materials research would be a very big one that would apply to almost everything (and not just the space industry).

    ** I would, however, support funding for continued operations of ISS. I think the current plan for ISS is the most idiotic possible: "finish up the last bit of it, only fund it for a few years, then let it reenter". What idiocy -- spend a fortune building it, and then once you get to the point where it would be relatively cheap to keep operating, let it crash. Ongoing operations are the cheap part, and also provide an opportunity to pacify the "no funding for NASA unless there are people in space" crowd.
  • by rsborg (111459) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:28PM (#19599749) Homepage

    You can either go off starting random wars of aggression, or you can conduct planetary exploration. The American taxpayer, quite rightly, doesn't want to pay for both. Many don't want to pay for either, frankly.
    Why the hell is this modded flamebait? Despite the fact that the mission is admirable, and that I personally love the space program, if President Bush wants to say "we're going to Mars" he better damn well pony up the cash.

    For any of you who aren't aware, the Bush administration is notorious for unfunded mandates [wikipedia.org]. If Bush thinks it's so good as to put it in the State of the Union address, he better damn well find a way to pay for it... otherwise it's just hot air as usual.

  • by Rei (128717) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:29PM (#19599777) Homepage
    If we can get self-sustaining colonies running on the moon and mars,

    And if we had a million billion dollars and a pony, we could fly off to Candyland and have the faeries protect us!

    At current launch costs, a "colony" (read: independent, unlike a base) is so far beyond the realm of possibility that it's laughable to even consider.
  • by MontyApollo (849862) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:33PM (#19599829)
    Basically telling the president to pay up.

    When Bush first announced this initiative, the director of Nasa was a Bush lackey and immediately moved to cut funding to other Nasa program likes Hubble to pay for it. (Eventhough presidents change every 4 to 8 years and with them their initiatives.) Congress pays for Nasa activities, and usually they have control. It just turned out that their was a Bush lackey in charge at Nasa and he started gutting other programs to pay for all this.

    This was just a way to call the president out to have him pay for his initiative. You don't want to start a precedent where every time the president changes then existing programs are all gutted just because the president makes some random policy speech.
  • by nanosquid (1074949) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:37PM (#19599889)
    The committee has it right: trying to impose a manned trip to Mars on NASA without a huge funding increase is going to wreak havoc with NASA's science programs. If the president wants this, he needs to fund it.

    The Mars society should be ashamed for trying to have this language removed; apparently, they think that going to Mars is worth dismantling the rest of our space program.
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:41PM (#19599951)

    Sucks that short-term politics and pet pork takes precedence over the future of humanity itself.

    What are you smoking? Do you seriously believe that "humanity" has any hope of colonizing another planet to "save" itself?

    It's been half a century since we first put people in space, and now we're still "just" putting a select elite few up into space to screw around with silly zero-g experiments with little commercial or scientific value.

    The suggestion that we will have the resources, technical capability and political unity as a planet to put a large-enough-to-be-genetically-diverse-enough-to-" save"-humanity population not only into orbit but to reach a habitable planet, build a base large enough to house them, grow food, mine raw materials....long enough to either "teraform" that planet or "escape" again to another...

    ...is absolutely batshit insane. It'd be a hell of a lot cheaper and easier to build protected self-contained habitats on earth.

  • by Aaron England (681534) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:45PM (#19600029)
    As if the Russians/Chinese would just rollover. More realistically the Russians/Chinese would find a way to restore the balance (eg. putting nuclear weapons in space, further developing missiles for extraterrestrial targets [wikipedia.org] or putting men of their own in space).
  • by mrfrostee (30198) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:50PM (#19600149) Homepage
    ... trying to impose a manned trip to Mars on NASA without a huge funding increase is going to wreak havoc with NASA's science programs.

    Better look again, they are already gone.
  • by Kadin2048 (468275) * <slashdot.kadinNO@SPAMxoxy.net> on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:55PM (#19600215) Homepage Journal
    I totally agree. However, we should be setting our sights a little closer to home as regards the future of humanity. Terraforming Mars (if possible) and transplanting people (and our problems) there won't fix anything. If we can't solve the problems of disease, war, overcrowding, famine, racial/religious intolerance, etc. right here on Earth, maybe we don't deserve to survive as a species.

    That's silly. We're never going to solve those problems -- they're fundamental to our nature as individuals with different goals and desires, coupled with limited resources. What we can do, is try to spread out enough to keep a single major incident from ending us as a species.

    In contrast to some other people in the thread, although I don't think that permanent, self-sustaining (or at least economically self-sustaining, e.g. "oil platform") settlements are right around the corner, that doesn't mean that it's a bad goal, or one we shouldn't be working towards. One of the most disappointing things about our society, to me anyway, is that even though we have organizations and entities that are capable of preserving themselves and executing very long-term projects, we seldom think of more than a few years out. (You would think that large corporations and governments, which by their nature don't grow old and die, would have long planning horizons -- instead they have even shorter ones than individuals.)

    I'm not saying that working for peace, justice, harmony, etc. on Earth aren't noble endeavors or worthy of support. They certainly are. I'm just saying that if you make them a precondition for exploration, then you're dooming us just as effectively as if we don't try at all.
  • by Rei (128717) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @05:03PM (#19600359) Homepage
    And while 50 years may be realistic for simply getting people there, for establishing a real "colony", it's more than a little optimistic [daughtersoftiresias.org]. Modern manufacturing just has too much of a "long tail" to simply bring a small amount of infrastructure and expect that to suffice. On another planet, you need modern technology simply to survive. And you need to be able to keep producing it. Our modern technology infrastructure is premised on mining thousands of types of raw materials, running them through tens of thousands of industrial processes to produce hundreds of thousands of types of outputs and manufacturing those in to millions or tens of millions of products.

    Yes, you can simplify. If it would be optimal to make some bottle with polypropylene, you might, say, substitute HDPE for it. But that only goes so far. You're not going to, say, substitute HDPE for neoprene where you need a rubbery material or teflon where you need to contain fluorine. There's a fundamental level of compexity that we have to accept, and this gives an incredibly long tail of production needs.

    Here on earth, we were able to bootstrap to industry because we didn't need it to survive. On another planet functioning independently, it simply has to be there -- everything from the mining equipment to the ore haulers to the ball mills to the refineries, and on and on. They all have consumables, even if it be just the need for replacement parts when things break. Most machinery has frequent consumables -- hydraulic fluids, lubricants, and the like. And to those who say, "worst case, we just have people out there digging with picks!" -- it doesn't work that way. You not only have to be *able to produce what you need*, but *able to produce what you need faster than you consume them*.

    You can't even just put it all in one part of a planet, because all of the minerals you need won't be clustered in one location. You need huge refineries, pipelines, roads, seperate mining colonies, manufacturing centers, etc. You're looking at the equivalent of shipping, say, the industrial equivalent of Detroit to Mars.

    It's just not at all realistic with as-far-as-can-be-forseen technology.
  • by DingerX (847589) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @05:07PM (#19600423) Journal
    Bah, the money's there. They could just cut even more of those silly NASA projects that go to things like studying the Earth's climate; heck NASA's been "shifting its focus" away from many sound projects to study the Earth and the Universe in favor of sending trained monkeys on a 900-day vacation to an uninhabitable planet. After all, better to sink that money into our friends in the Aerospace industry building some massively expensive boondoggle, all in the name of "technology transfer". (which, by the way, is what happens when you step in a pile of Aibo droppings)

    Incidentally, this is a standard political tactic when dealing with budgets. If you want to protect an agency (or a department in your company, or whatever), you allocate money to everything except the agency's big project that the boss is sweet on. You come back and say, "Here's what we could do. If you want this project, approve money for it."

    Besides, it makes sound sense: a mission to Mars inspires the imagination, but it's only the best use of limited resources if you read science fiction books and don't believe in Evolution. 'Cos there may be inhabitable planets, far, far, away, but there isn't another Earth; and humans didn't exactly evolve to live on a planet other htan Earth. If your goal is to colonize the galaxy (a questionable one), that goal is better reached sinking what little cash you have into studying the cosmos, figuring out where you want to go, and how to get there, as well as studying the Earth, and figuring out how to make it last so we can develop a culture capable of going there. For a mission to Mars is gonna be hugely expensive, and it's several orders of magnitude cheaper than exporting life to another world.

    If your goal is to find out about humans, society, and the universe, then again, your money is better spent on cheaper research projects. Heck, you could even make an argument that a manned Mars mission's worth of unmanned probes would give us a far better picture of the red planet and the solar system then frying a bunch of anthropoids in Martian radiation.

    Of course, if your goal is to inspire the population and distract the people from an unpopular war, well maybe.
  • by kalidasa (577403) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @05:10PM (#19600479) Journal
    The cost of a manned Mars mission is currently estimated at $120B, with the highest estimate I've ever seen (for the far more ambitious program that was proposed, and killed, during the first Bush administration) was $400B. The cost of the war in Iraq so far has been $320B; the GAO projects a total cost in the area of $640B, and I've seen some estimates in the low trillions of dollars. And I'd argue that the War in Iraq (not the one in Afghanistan, which is a different kettle of fish) has nothing to do with the future of humanity, or even of the US (except perhaps endangering that future by damaging our foreign relations).
  • Re:Yeay! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ArcherB (796902) * on Thursday June 21, 2007 @05:17PM (#19600573) Journal
    I am tired of seeing this admin push a direction and not funding it adequately.

    Almost true.

    I am tired of seeing this admin push a direction and congress not funding it adequately.

    There! NOW it's true. Remember, congress controls the purse strings.
  • Re:SOP (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @05:20PM (#19600621)
    No, ECONOMICS as usual. Instead of chalking up anything negative of the president to blind hatred, how about reading some of the previous insightful posts? Bush decided he wanted to go to Mars almost on a whim and started slashing existing programs (friggin' Hubble for God's sake). Congress is simply saying if you want a new program, then give NASA the money without playing the shell game with their existing budget.
  • Re:One Book: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rei (128717) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @05:21PM (#19600639) Homepage
    Challenge:

    1) Pick a finished piece of technology sitting somewhere around you.
    2) Figure out what all of its components are.
    3) Figure out what all of those components are made of.
    4) Figure out the industrial processes needed to make those ingredients.
    5) Figure out what raw inputs are needed for those processes (all of them, not just the primary ore).
    6) For every input that needs to be manufactured, trace it back in the same way. Repeat.
    7) For every part of the industrial infrastructure that might wear out or be consumed, trace back a complete route for its production.
    8) For every truly "raw" input, figure out what sort of process it takes to mine it (factor in all equipment and consumables). Also figure out how much infrastructure it will take to move all of the "raw" inputs, once mined, to their destinations, given that deposits won't be next to each other.
    9) For all new parts that you've just added, go back to step 2.

    This doesn't even address the issue of actually *manufacturing* parts and products and all of the facilities needed to make the millions of accumulated parts of all kinds, shapes, sizes, and raw materials.

    And this just looks at what's needed to get you that one piece of technology that you picked.

    Modern technology suffers from very serious "long tail" problems when dealing with colonization.
  • by Sperbels (1008585) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @05:23PM (#19600657)
    I'm all for establishing colonies on the moon and Mars, but the idea that we need to do this now because of an inevitable meteor strike is not terribly realistic. Given a worst case scenario like a gigantic comet hitting the earth and setting everything ablaze...with dust blocking out the sun for decades, and a new ice age, etc... Humans would still be able to survive in very small self sustaining shelters, similar to the places where people would be living on the moon and Mars. If we're using a some kind of mass extinction event as justification, then it's still easier to survive on an utterly lifeless and devastated Earth than it is to survive on the Moon or Mars. If for no other reason than we have an near endless supply of oxygen and water and dirt that is suitable to growing food.
  • by Rei (128717) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @05:27PM (#19600723) Homepage
    You keep up that attitude, and you'll be walking to Mars. ;)

    (why am I reminded of Google's directions from New York to London [google.com]?)

    The proper first step to get from point A to point B is usually not to just walk. It's to figure out the fastest way to accomplish the trip. With your route, you might end up walking to point B, while a wiser person would get in their car and drive.

    In this case, the proper course of action is not to send people on a money-wasting trip that accomplishes virtually nothing toward colonization. The proper course of action is to invest in lowering the costs associated with space exploration.
  • by Rei (128717) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @05:38PM (#19600863) Homepage
    Ah, the "stupid" analogy. :)

    Question - how much did it cost to fund Christopher Columbus' initial 1492 expedition? (Considering that it required royal patronage... I'm thinking it was nearly the same order of expense). In retrospect, that cost was paid back and then profited by history (consider the combined GDP's and natural resources found in Canada, the US, Mexico, Central and South America...)

    Colombus didn't go to colonize, and I don't have his numbers, so let's check out an early colony for comparison: Jamestown.

    Check out this nice set of referenced calculations [wikipedia.org] for how much people paid to get to the New World. Depending on how much they were bringing, some people paid less than as ~$2k to get to Jamestown. The most expensive were ~20k. That is, for themselves *and* their gear. That much money wouldn't even pay for a single kilogram to go to Mars.

    Oh, but it gets worse. On an unsettled part of Earth, modern technology is not needed to survive. The technology you need can be created in the wilderness. Not so on Mars. You need technology to survive, and modern technology suffers from "long tail" problems: each piece of technology has many components, each component many materials, each material taking an industrial process with many steps and often many raw materials, and so on. You simply can't go there and "bootstrap" like you can on Earth.

    A more apt comparison would been if instead of going to Jamestown, the British colonists instead went to colonize the Marianas Trench.
  • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @05:42PM (#19600923) Journal
    "Why would you care if one day a man walks on Mars? Maybe I am just a selfish prick, but unless that man is me, I don't really care. Turning vast amounts of society's resources into a project to get a handful of humans onto Mars is a waste of my money. It might make your nationalistic pride feel warm and fuzzy, or maybe give you a feeling of greater human accomplishment, but warm fuzzy feelings is the extent of what is really accomplished."

    Replace some of your text to reference the Olympics games and you have another huge waste of money to give glory to a few and fuzzy feelings to the rest.
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @06:00PM (#19601113) Homepage
    Sure it's a long way in the future before a colony on the moon could repopulate the earth - but if we never start, we will never get there.

    You're missing the point Rei was making. A manned mission to Mars is not the first baby step towards having a full-fledged off-planet colony. It might seem like a rational progression from sending a few people for a short stay, to a few people for a long time, to many people for a long time, to a complete self-sustaining off-planet colony. But it isn't. The Mars Mission would basically solve none of the major problems that make a colony completely out of our league any time in the future.

    We should be working on cheaper reusable vehicles to reduce launch costs. Any Mars colony is going to require a lot of material to get it started, and to sustain it until it can become self-sufficient.

    We should be working on robotics and fully automated construction/industry. We will want to build as much infrastructure on Mars as possible before any people actually arrive.

    We should be working on ecology and hydroponics because right now the smallest self-sustaining ecosystem we have is arguably between the size of a country and a planet, and we have never succeeded in boot-strapping an ecosystem from nothing. The whole point is that the colony can't depend on Earth, and we have no ability to do anything in space that doesn't depend 100% on Earth support.

    By the time we actually solve these problems, the minor task of actually getting a human's feet to touch the ground on another planet will be considered trivial.

    The Mars Mission is not the start of a Mars Colony. It's a boondoggle that was threatening to get in the way of the actual science that could, in time, lead to an actual off-planet population.
  • by Toonol (1057698) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @06:08PM (#19601197)

    People actually worry about this? As if humans are oh-so-important to the universe that we must ensure our survival by colonizing another planet. Somehow I think the universe will get along just fine without us. Perhaps even a bit better.

    People aren't important to the universe. People are important to other people. I'm a person. I could care less about how well the universe gets along, I care about how people will get along.

    Why do you rate an inanimate thing as more important than people? I would scorch a thousand [unoccupied] galaxies to save humanity.

  • Re:SOP (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zCyl (14362) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @06:37PM (#19601497)

    This is basically a big FU to Bush, one of many that will come out of Congress over the next 2 years. The relative merit of appropriations is irrelevant - this is the "We Hate Bush" congress, and their actions will typically have that as a primary element.

    It sounds to me more like a bit of basic rare common sense. If you want a mission to Mars, that mission will cost money, and money must be allocated for it. NASA does quite a lot of valuable things, and terminating all of those things to just barely have enough money to start thinking about a mission to Mars is not the right way to go about that.

    I'm in favor of a mission to Mars quite a bit more than Bush is. (He just wanted to sound like a visionary without having to budget for it, whereas I actually see intrinsic economic, technological, and scientific value to such a pursuit.) But to do it, we need to dedicate the appropriate resources. It's not that we are unable to afford it, but until the money is properly allocated, we cannot really go to Mars.
  • by coaxial (28297) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @08:01PM (#19602445) Homepage
    Sucks that short-term politics and pet pork takes precedence over the future of humanity itself.

    I believe Bruce Sterling [boingboing.net] put best when he said:

    I'll believe in people settling Mars at about the same time I see people settling the Gobi Desert. The Gobi Desert is about a thousand times as hospitable as Mars and five hundred times cheaper and easier to reach. Nobody ever writes "Gobi Desert Opera" because, well, it's just kind of plonkingly obvious that there's no good reason to go there and live. It's ugly, it's inhospitable and there's no way to make it pay. Mars is just the same, really. We just romanticize it because it's so hard to reach.


    Seriously, you should read this. [antipope.org]
  • by GreggBz (777373) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @08:31PM (#19602693) Homepage

    I've come to accept that man may one day land on Mars. But he won't be wearing a NASA logo on his suit.


    Shame, because NASA has the biggest technological head start in this race.

    I'm usually less technical and more emotional when I post about NASA, and you know what? This is an emotional issue.

    Really, what got us to the moon? A clear vision from our young charismatic leader, which was followed up. We wanted to prove American technological might. We wanted to explore and push the boundaries of humans and their technology. We wanted to do the impossible, show the world our best and in the process learn all about ourselves and our place in this universe. Everyone involved in the Apollo program believed, was passionate and had what they needed to get things done. We did it with an overwhelming tide of determination.

    History gives us a fine, valid example of what is needed and if the politicians really cared about getting it done, they'd follow that.

    But it's just not going to happen, because guess what, they don't really care. The speech like the one we got from our current president, about the Crew Exploration Vehicle? I thought I was listening to the CEO of General Motors. Oh, and the budget allocated for this? About half to 1/3 of what was given for the Apollo program, adjusted for inflation. And that must be divided among our current programs, too. Apollo was a singular focus, uncompromising.

    There are a lot of people to blame, but I think we can all start with congress and the president. Their priorities are with other things.
  • by Grave (8234) <[moc.liamtoh] [ta] [88treblawa]> on Thursday June 21, 2007 @10:22PM (#19603603)
    Really? You mean to tell me that figuring out the cheapest way to send people to mars wouldn't result in lowing the costs of space exploration?

    Going to the moon taught us an awful lot about getting people into space, and supporting human life for a couple of weeks in space. It taught us a lot about landing on low-grav, no-atmosphere bodies, and lifting off from them again. We learned quite a bit about space exploration from that. Sadly most of it has been ignored for the space shuttle program, but if we don't try to branch out, we will not ever leave this planet. You don't just figure out the cheapest way to colonize a planet without sending humans there a few times first. How stupid would humanity be if we invested in everything needed for colonization, sent it all there, and then discovered that, since we'd never actually done the human trip to Mars beforehand, there was some hugely significant thing we missed about the planet or the trip? What if there actually is a significant difference in the impact on the body from a months-long trip to Mars compared with a months-long stay on a space station just outside our atmosphere?

    The proper first step to getting humans to Mars is most likely developing a CHEAP way of getting humans to and from space. From there, developing useful, CHEAP space stations that can support launching missions deeper into space. Through all of this, a primary goal must be that these actions will be compatible with future exploration of space. We don't need another shuttle or ISS. This mandate from Congress would pretty much prevent taking steps towards Mars exploration.

    I swear, if the government continues pissing me off with short-sighted crap like this and an inability to actually effect CHANGE, I'm going to wind up having to run for office in another decade. Cut the pork, stop throwing money at the rest of the world's problems and invest in something that will benefit all mankind for centuries to come.

    Sigh. *forces blood pressure down*
  • Re:Yeay! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rbanffy (584143) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @11:20PM (#19604023) Homepage Journal
    They merely said something on the lines of "Take a step by step approach and focus on the task at hand". Something like:

    1- First we need to find a better way - than the shuttle: it's not hard - to put people in orbit.
    2- Then they must be able to stay alive long enough for a trip to Mars without any Progress cargo ship in sight.
    3- Then NASA should focus on the vehicle that can really take them to Mars orbit
    4- Then they should develop the vehicle that would land on Mars and be able to stay a couple months there
    5- Then they should figure out how the astronauts get back to mothership and bring it safely back to Earth

    The only steps this cut affect are on item 4. Each and every other item is a lot more useful than just Mars and, frankly, if NASA develops something that has no other use than to put people on Mars, it really deserves the cut.
  • by patrik (55312) <pbutler@nOspaM.killertux.org> on Friday June 22, 2007 @08:21AM (#19606737) Homepage
    But see NASA isn't a dead end. No company is going to operate at a $119 Billion loss(assuming it only costs $120B, but that could be as bad as the trillions) to get to mars, when it has no current current practical value. NASA exists because there is no company that could operate with such losses when there is no immediate commercial gain. That's not to say that going to Mars doesn't have amazing repercussions for science or giving the human race a place to expand to. It is a good goal for sometime in the future but NASA has more practical considerations that should not be dropped just for Mars.

    NASA makes contributions into aeronautical research both in safety and in generating new technology and in environmental science. The first is how we stay competitive with other nations who's aerospace industries are heavily supported by their government (China, Europe, et al). The second is extremely important for anyone who believes that we have air, water, dirt and life on planet Earth irregardless of climate change.

    So if you're willing to see our aerospace industry collapse, our knowledge of the Earth stagnate AND real space exploration fail then we can go your way, otherwise you're just not being realistic. Of course we could just give NASA the money it needs for all jobs, but this is probably not feasible at the moment considering the mismanagement of our taxes either fighting wars that we probably should not be in, or through pork barrel BS.

    Patrik
  • baby steps please! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Timberwolf0122 (872207) on Friday June 22, 2007 @08:49AM (#19606887) Journal
    Why don't we consentrate on getting a good foot print on the moon, set up a base, maybe even a launch site w/orbital fueling and then... think about Mars. It's hundreds of millions of years old, it'll still be there next century and with a base on the moon to supply fuel at a fraction of the launch cost we can send a much, much better equiped mission there.

    Also the technology developed to sustain life on the moon can be used on Mars with the added bonus that the moon is that much closer should anything go wrong.
    br.Until man goes to the moon I think we should consentrate on sending more driods to Mars, maybe set up a remote base built and run by robots.

"In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current." -- Thomas Jefferson

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