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Space Mars NASA Science

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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  • Bout time (Score:4, Interesting)

    by riffzifnab (449869) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:07PM (#19599401) Journal
    Wow I think we just found intelligent life in Washington DC, alert the press. Call the nation guard, they must be stopped before they do other things that actually make sense.

    Yes I'm all for space exploration but I think Mars is a little far out there. There are a lot of other space programs that could really use the funding (launching a new hurricane observation satellites and global warming research satellites come to mind). Maybe we should think about a moon base first and once we get that up and running then a president can start talking about Mars.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:09PM (#19599433)
    As a kid, I dreamed of space and really believed in NASA. I believed that we would soon have moonbases and men on Mars by the 80's, and maybe even start looking out to other stars within my lifetime.

    But that was 35 years ago. And the intervening time has been nothing more than a series of disappointments, vast amounts of wasted money, broken promises, contractor giveaways, and harsh realities. A shuttle that was supposed to be like a spaceship turned out to be more like a very expensive splashdown pod with wheels and a hefty refurbishing pricetag after each mission. A space station turned into little more than a low-orbit money sink. Promises of new ships and grand missions were promised--with little more to show for it in the end than some animation and a lot of wasted money.

    The height of our achievement was putting a couple of glorified RC cars on Mars and putting a telescope in orbit. And both those missions were a pittance compared to the wasted billions of dollar spent on projects which went nowhere and accomplished nothing.

    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.

  • Re:Bout time (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JasonKChapman (842766) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:17PM (#19599569) Homepage

    Maybe we should think about a moon base first and once we get that up and running then a president can start talking about Mars.

    According to the most recent road map, a Moon base is/was already the step prior to a manned Mars mission. If that Moon base is interpreted as "related exclusively to Human Exploration of Mars," then we lose that, too.

    But you can bet we'll have plenty of funding for peanut museums, bridges to nowhere, and other imporkant projects.

  • by secPM_MS (1081961) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:25PM (#19599713)
    When I went to college and studied physics, my interest was in deep space power and propulsion systems. I maintain my interest in space exploration, but I am not as romantically blinded by it. Satellites looking down and up and probes going places have had an enormous information return on investment. Manned space flight and the space station have not. Manned space flight is an entertainment issue, and as such gets the public attention and money. Until we can get the cost of lifting matter out of our gravity well down, long term space occupation is precluded by radiation hazards (even with high field superconducting magnetic shielding). If we are seriously interested in space, I would suggest putting more resources into the following:

    Ultra-high strength to weight nanotube cables

    1 to enable an elevator to space

    2 to serve as a kinetic energy battery for launching and receiving matter transfering through a transfer point. This works by spinning a 50,000 km cable and using the rotational kinetic energy of the cable for the energy battery

    solar sails -- invaluable for inner solar system work

    major investigation of asteroids -- unlike the moon and mars, they don't have significant gravity wells associated with them. The earth crossing asteroids require no more energy than moon missions.

    earth facing and observing satellites are exceptionally valuable

    more astronomical satellites, both as individual units and as synthrsized arrays

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:43PM (#19600005) Journal
    While I think that a lot of bad choices have been made by most of the presidents involved with NASA (starting with Nixon), NASA has been moving forward. Take a LONG look at what is happening right now. Bezos with with his new Shepard is simply a clone of the DCX (funded partly by NASA), but a decade later. Likewise, you have Spacex with falcon/dragon moving up, which is definitely a copy of NASA's Saturn/Apollo. And of course, you have Bigelow who bought the rights to Transhab as well as has had support from NASA dealing with life support which are all from ISS. Scaled Composites is creating a low cost version of the craft that NASA was going to build in the 70's, but Nixon killed (foolish). Even now, with naysayers knocking the ISS, it is doing a great deal of ground breaking work. Before we can go to mars or moon, we MUST have subsystems that will not fail. In addition, NASA is designing new sats and engines all the time. Hopefully, by 2012, the indis will have us not only in space, but heading to the moon. At that time, NASA will probably re-focus on doing things that they can not/will not do such as Nuclear engines for LONG-TERM sats and mars. This will be needed by 2015. And we will see the indis once again use this tech as a means of springboarding elsewhere. NASA has a function in doing what companies/individuals can not/will not do. And to that end, they have been a trailblazer.
  • Re:Bout time (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JasonKChapman (842766) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @05:03PM (#19600377) Homepage

    I hope we do.

    I can't disagree with a thing you said. However, a lunar base accomplishes one thing that the others on your list don't. It opens an avenue of research specifically into sustainable habitats, in situ resource usage (mining and processing technologies which might be used on asteroids in the future), and food production.

  • Mark my words (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gelfling (6534) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @05:17PM (#19600579) Homepage Journal
    When the Shuttle program ends it will give an out to the ISS partners to begin the end of the ISS program. When the ISS program ends, manned spaceflight be over for at least the remainder of the 21st century.
  • by necro81 (917438) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @05:19PM (#19600603) Journal
    Here here! I wish I had mod points today.

    It used to be that a war's home front consisted of a lot of sacrifice - not just sending the boys off to fight and die, but also making do with less, shortages and rationing, and, of course, higher taxes to pay for the military expenditure. Now we somehow think that we can fight a war without sacrifice. In the particular case of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the President and Congress seemed to feel that we could not only afford a $750 billion [] open-ended war (probably over $1 trillion [] before all is said and done), but could even afford tax cuts for the most well-off at the same time.

    The President and Congress (2001-present) don't even feel the need to account for the cost of this prolonged war in the normal budget - it requires periodic "emergency" spending so that everyone's precious balanced budget fuzzy calculations can still work out.
  • by SpinyNorman (33776) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @05:29PM (#19600747)
    Just to put it in perspective, Bush's Iraq war has so far (budget approval through this year) cost us, the US taxpayers, about $400 billion (it's running about $200 million PER DAY), and it's estimated that it'll be over $1 trillion ($1000 billion) by the time the troops eventually come home. On a more personal note $1 trillion is about $10,000 per US household.

    Compared to that, NASAs annual budget is around $17 billion.

    So, yeah, rather than killing 100,000 Iraqi civilians, turning Iraq into a breeding ground for terrorists, making the rest of the world hate us, and destroying the US constitution as an added bonus, we *could* have done a LOT more fun and worthwhile things. Or Bush could instead have just given $10,000 to each family in the US to spend how they please. Same cost.

  • by klenwell (960296) <klenwell AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday June 21, 2007 @05:35PM (#19600827) Homepage Journal
    Manned space flight is an entertainment issue, and as such gets the public attention and money.

    A point trenchantly made on the Simpsons -- what? 15 years ago? -- when Homer went into space. In rod we trust.

    The failings of NASA are curmudgeonly summarized by Gregg Easterbrook in this Wired article:

    How NASA Screwed Up (And Four Ways to Fix It) []

    Or if you'd rather have a break from reading, listen to his NPR radio interview [] (and the NASA's chiefs response, if you want to end up even more pissed off than Easterbrook.)

    Easterbrook is more concerned with the crappy Motel 6 we're committed to building on the moon. But members of the Society for the Preservation of Legislative Language Protecting Missions to Mars just see that as a halfway house to Mars anyway.

    I'm on Easterbrook's side here. Leave Mars for Duck Dodgers in the 24th-and-a-half century and get to the real science.
  • by RexRhino (769423) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @06:10PM (#19601213)

    IIRC, no land creature of over a couple of kilos managed it (though many oceanic creatures of that size did).
    The estimated size of the K-T asteroid was roughly 10 km wide. That's considered 'still fairly small' as far as Near Earth Objects go.
    It wasn't the impact that killed creatures over a couple of kilos, it was the enviornmental destruction that followed (such as blocking out the sun, thus destroying vegetation that creatures needed to survive, etc.)

    It would be much easier and cheaper to set up a self-sustaining underground "space station" on earth, than to do the same thing on Mars or the Moon.
  • Re:One Book: (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 21, 2007 @08:04PM (#19602457)
    It's called an input-output matrix [], kind of like how your favorite search engine aggregates web page votes, except it handles supplies instead.

    And that doesn't even consider the possibility of special built relatively independent machines, or of bootstrapping.
  • by Jeremi (14640) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @08:04PM (#19602467) Homepage
    So, yeah, rather than killing 100,000 Iraqi civilians, turning Iraq into a breeding ground for terrorists, making the rest of the world hate us, and destroying the US constitution as an added bonus, we *could* have done a LOT more fun and worthwhile things. Or Bush could instead have just given $10,000 to each family in the US to spend how they please. Same cost.

    I should probably point out that if we divide the cost of the war in Iraq ($400 billion) by the population of Iraq (a bit over 26 million), we find that we've already spent $14,934 per Iraqi citizen. In retrospect, perhaps we should have just mailed them each a check with a note that says "this check will be valid as soon as Saddam Hussein is out of power". That would have accomplished our goals more cheaply, with far less loss of life.

    And of course if you use the more realistic $1 trillion figure mentioned above instead of just the $400 billion we've spent so far, then when all is said and done we will have spent $37,336 for each Iraqi citizen. Maybe we should just bought them all a new SUV? (Oprah style!)

    But I suppose it's not how much money we spend, but rather who we spend it on. A cool trillion dollars of US tax money in defense contractors' pockets is a pretty good return on their political investment, isn't it? What a wonderful coincidence that Halliburton's former CEO [] just happens to be the Vice President who was the driving force behind this, err, extraordinarily generous expenditure of US tax dollars.

    Not that I'm bitter or anything.... :^P

  • Re:Yeay! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lessthan (977374) on Friday June 22, 2007 @01:11AM (#19604817)
    Have you done any research on these programs at all? I'm guessing not. Your second example is the soybean tech research. Did you know that soybean is one of the three main agricultural exports of the U.S.? How about the conservation of the Great Lakes, which supports a $4 billion dollar fishing industry (to say nothing of the massive amounts of cargo floated through)? Why is this a waste of money? You seemed to have singled out programs that look like they're related to environmental or charitable causes, without even verifying if they are indeed related to these ideologies.

Real programmers don't write in BASIC. Actually, no programmers write in BASIC after reaching puberty.