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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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:04PM (#19599369)
    The first link is to a PDF file. If you don't want to read the whole press release, here is the relevant part:

    "The bill language also continues a moratorium prohibiting NASA from implementing a reduction in force and from funding any research, 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."
    • by MontyApollo (849862) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:33PM (#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.
    • DSC-304s (Score:3, Funny)

      by HTH NE1 (675604)
      They just don't want the general public finding out about our existing DSC-304 [wikipedia.org] shipyard on Mars.
  • Yeay! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Rei (128717)
    Yeay -- way to go congress!

    This unfunded mandate has been robbing our science for long enough.
    • Re:Yeay! (Score:4, Informative)

      by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:16PM (#19599547) Journal
      If read carefully, it does make sense. It says that anything related to ONLY humans on mars. For anything with a dual use, then it gets funding. Basically, the bulk of this is applicable to space, the moon, and/or robotics. Very little is related to just humans on mars. But it would be nice to see funding for NASA increased. I am tired of seeing this admin push a direction and not funding it adequately.
    • Re:Yeay! (Score:5, Informative)

      by ArcherB (796902) * on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:44PM (#19600939) Journal
      HERE are some fine examples of other programs that could be cut to fund NASA. They are listed by state, amount, and program. Also, keep in mind that this is just a few examples, only for the 2006 budget, and many, if not all of these are just the annual budgets. In other words, this is spent every year: [cagw.org]

      WA $359,000Organic cropping (Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, Research and Education Activities - Special Research Grants)

      MO $987,000National Center for Soybean Technology (Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, Research and Education Activities - Special Research Grants)

      VT $750,000Environmentally safe products (Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, Research and Education Activities - Special Research Grants)

      CA $1,929,000Exotic pest diseases (Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, Research and Education Activities - Special Research Grants)

      I $2,500,000For the Great Lakes Basin Program for Soil and Erosion Control (Conservation Programs)

      IA $1,775,000Iowa Biotechnology Consortium (Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, Research and Education Activities - Special Research Grants)

      MD $3,625,000Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (Agricultural Research Service, Buildings and Facilities)

      NY $3,625,000Center for Grape Genetics (Agricultural Research Service, Buildings and Facilities)

      TX $546,000Hispanic Leadership in Agriculture (Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, Research and Education Activities - Federal Administration)

      MS $1,433,000Mississippi Valley State University, Curriculum Development (Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, Research and Education Activities - Federal Administration)

      MI $1,350,000Pasteurization of shell eggs (Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, Research and Education Activities - Federal Administration)

      CA $3,625,000Grape Genomics Research Center (Agricultural Research Service, Buildings and Facilities)

      WI $8,000,000Nutrient Management Laboratory (Agricultural Research Service, Buildings and Facilities)

      $18,000,000Facilities in rural communities with extreme unemployment (Rural Community Advancement Program)

      $18,250,000Technical assistance grants for rural water and waste systems (Rural Community Advancement Program)

      AK $25,000,000Rural and native villages in Alaska (Rural Community Advancement Program)

      MD $6,000,000Chesapeake Bay activities (Conservation Programs)

      OH $1,145,000Center for Innovative Food Technology (Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, Research and Education Activities - Federal Administration)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by damiam (409504)
        Those are all valuable programs, and essentially pocket change when considering space research. I have a better list:

        ~$100,000,000,000/yr: War in Iraq
  • by Penguinisto (415985) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:07PM (#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

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Rei (128717)
      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
      • by pentalive (449155) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:26PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Rei (128717)
          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.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by MarkGriz (520778)
          "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."

          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.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Sperbels (1008585)
          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
        • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @05:00PM (#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.
      • 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.

        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...)

        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.

        In 1495, Spain felt pretty ripped off by the lack of all that promised gold, got no shorter commercial route to China, found only indig

        • by Rei (128717) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:38PM (#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.
      • 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.

        Columbus, Magellan, and the Mayflower voyage were very expensive trips as well. Today, not so much.
      • by kalidasa (577403) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:10PM (#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).
    • by Kadin2048 (468275) * <[slashdot.kadin] [at] [xoxy.net]> on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:22PM (#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.
      • >>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.

        I think it would be another moon shot. People would be excited at first, then bored and then "Mission complete. Let's spend money on something else."

        (Unless of course we were to "find" some "possible alien artifacts". Then there would be some good Nasa funding.)

        I agree with most everything else you said.
    • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

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


      It's been going on for years. The CAIB Report [nasa.gov] even has a side-bar that talks about ear-tags and their overall effect on NASA's budget.
    • 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

    • by Rei (128717)
      If NASA is that busy, then why not offload some of its activities to the private sector fer cryin' out loud?

      Yeah! They should rely on the private sector, not all of those government agencies like they currently do, such as the United States Department of Boeing, the Department of Lockheed, the Department of Orbital Sciences Corporation . . .

      (Were you under the mistaken impression that NASA *doesn't* outsource most of its non-research work to the private sector?)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by coaxial (28297)
      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

  • Bout time (Score:4, Interesting)

    by riffzifnab (449869) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:07PM (#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.

    -RZ
    • by 2nd Post! (213333)
      What? If you solve the problem of Mars, you solve the problem of the Moon. Cut spending for one, and you jeopardize the other, too.
      • Both of them are shortsighted. Why waste the money to pull materials up out of our gravity well, just to drop them down another one?

        Until the space program stops paying over and over again to orbit the same mass (space shuttle I'm looking at you), we're never going to get anywhere.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JasonKChapman (842766)

      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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rei (128717)
        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). A
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by JasonKChapman (842766)

          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.

  • by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:08PM (#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.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by TheMeuge (645043)

      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.

      And many of the latter have the intelligence of a tree stump, and the foresight of a drunk gerbil up Richard Gere's asshole. Doesn't mean we should listen to them.
      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by elrous0 (869638) *
        And many who want to go to space are little more than Star Trek dreamers, who haven't come to the harsh realization that:

        A) The solar system, outside of earth, is comprised of uninhabitable sterile rocks

        B) The vastness of space and unlikeliness of life effectively means we're all alone.

        In essence, we're stuck on this rock we call earth. So how about, instead of wasting all this money so a bunch of scifi dreamers can get their jollies, we spend our money and effort trying to make earth a better place i

    • he American taxpayer, quite rightly, doesn't want to pay for both. Many don't want to pay for either, frankly.
      Governments don't tax people to pay for wars any more.

       
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by necro81 (917438)
        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 [washingtonpost.com] open-ended wa
    • by rsborg (111459) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:28PM (#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.

    • "and hold him/her to it."

      By which you mean "Vote for someone else in 2012"?
    • 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.

      How exactly do we hold them to it? Are you going to write strongly worded letters? Call the Congressman, or the Congressional or Whitehouse switchboards? Vote them out of office 4-6 years after they've been elected? Petition for a recall? Pray for an ethics scandal or criminal charges to be filed?

      Of that list, tell me which ones are
    • by SpinyNorman (33776) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:29PM (#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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jeremi (14640)
        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

  • Is this bad? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jswigart (1004637)
    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 addit
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by SDF-7 (556604)
      Figuring out how to get people out there and back comes to mind quickly.

      Just after Mars (and before Jupiter) is the asteroid belt... and asteroid mining has a lot of potential (if you don't want to maintain scarcity of some minerals by watching the mines here on Earth tap out... or don't relish strip mining/whatnot). I wouldn't say that's infeasible to do via automation, but for that length of mission and with the variables involved, having a human (or a few) on the spot would likely make things easier.
    • . . . doing so is more about proving that they can than getting anything useful out of it.

      Maybe. But then again, the same can be said for a great many major technological advancements in human history. Airplanes come to mind. As do automobiles.

  • SOP (Score:3, Insightful)

    by R2.0 (532027) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:08PM (#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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      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:SOP (Score:4, Insightful)

      by zCyl (14362) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @05:37PM (#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 elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:09PM (#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.

    • This will have no measureable effect on NASA for at least 10 years. Even then it wouldn't have much effect. Any funding for a Mars lander would just be stuck with a label for a future Sample Return mission for testing on Mars itself, or done as part of the Moon landing program.

      Also keep in mind that it says that manned Mars missions need to be explicitly funded, and not taken from general NASA funds. So if NASA ever gets to the point that they actually could consider a Mars mission (many years away), this

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by secPM_MS (1081961)
      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 gravit
    • 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.

      Unfortunately it may end up being Chinese or Indian. But I shouldn't be sad. I dont care who get's their first as long as we get there.

    • by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:43PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GreggBz (777373)

      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

  • by quanticle (843097) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:09PM (#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 Stanistani (808333) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:10PM (#19599449) Homepage Journal
    Relabel it all as "Human Ganymede Landing Research."

    Didn't anyone learn from Wrong Way Corrigan [wikipedia.org]?
  • How does this affect anything? There is no spending for manned Mars missions right now!


    Almost all of NASA's spaceflight planning for the next decade are focused on getting new flight hardware ready to replace the shuttle, and maybe then going to the moon.

  • Priorities (Score:5, Funny)

    by mushupork (819735) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:11PM (#19599467)
    We need tax money to make craters, not explore them.
  • by Puls4r (724907) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:11PM (#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 quanticle (843097)
      This doesn't cut off all funding for human space exploration. It doesn't say anything about canceling NASA's space shuttle replacement. It doesn't even prohibit NASA from planning moon bases. This isn't the end of American space exploration. All this amendment says is that perhaps its a bit premature to be planning for Mars when we can't even get out of low Earth orbit.

      Personally, I'd like to see NASA start putting people back on the moon before they start looking at putting people on Mars.
    • by Scarblac (122480)

      Well, it's a nice dream, but it's going to take money. Just handing the order to NASA without giving them any extra money wasn't going to make it happen anyway, so it's good that this publicity stunt is scrapped.

      If Bush really wants this, he can allocate money for it in the budget.

  • I say, hooray. NASA has better things to do, e.g. support science. Unmanned missions are a far better value.
  • Human mission to Mars would cost a stupid amount of money and the net benefit is hard to quantify. The US has a really big economic problem already and a program like this would be suicide. How can the US ever pay off its federal debts while maintaining a massive deficit budget? Spending on a glamorous mission to Mars will only compound a seemingly insurmountable problem.

    The crash is coming, are you prepared? China is currently propping up the US dollar (buying it), and loaning the US billions of dolla

    • The US has a really big economic problem already

      Like what, exactly?

      How can the US ever pay off its federal debts while maintaining a massive deficit budget?

      The deficit that's lower than it's been in years and shrinks every month? Our economy grows us out of deficit every time. If we'd just stop doing stupid things like the prescription drug program and bridges to nowhere, we'd be better off...

      The crash is coming, are you prepared?

      The economy always moves in cycles. WHEN (not if) it does go back down,

  • by jellomizer (103300) * on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:15PM (#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 elrous0 (869638) *
      ...or maybe we'll just be wasting a lot of money to visit a sterile desert--money that we can't afford in a country already spiraling towards bankruptcy with a multi-trillion $ national debt.
      • by geekoid (135745)
        yeah, we're talking about 280Million dollars. really a drop in the bucket.

        However, the spin off technologies from Space exploration has returned many more times it's cost in tax dollars. Many, if not all, of those technologies ares till in use and still return taxes.
        How much money does the government get in taxes from business that make smoke detector?
        Just one of many spin off technologies.

        Historically, Space exploration has been an investment. An investment that has paid off quite well.

        That doesn't account
  • Post-MAD politics (Score:3, Insightful)

    by athloi (1075845) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:17PM (#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 @03:17PM (#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 @03:18PM (#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 Anthonares (466582) <[moc.oohay] [ta] [03ladnek]> on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:21PM (#19599627) Homepage
    There is no significant funding for human exploration of Mars, nothing that even registers on the FY 2008 budget highlights. There might be a few relatively small grants to develop next generation spacesuits, but those will be useful on the Moon, too, so they won't be affected.

    This isn't then an appropriate response to a fiscally unsound endeavor by a careful legislature. It's a gesture that the Congress will not support the President's Vision for Space Exploration in its entirety.

    But, this language has the capability to significantly delay an eventual human mission to Mars if it's passed. It will force NASA to view the Moon as its ultimate objective, rather than as a stepping stone to Mars and beyond, as envisioned by the President.

    Whether this is a good thing is up to debate, but I am inclined to believe that this empty gesture has great potential for unintended consequences further down the road.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DingerX (847589)
      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
  • "the markup language states"

    since when does the government write using HTML or XML. :)

  • by nanosquid (1074949) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:37PM (#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.
  • The Mars effort was a stupid agenda from the start (presumably due to the fact that our 'leaders' do not understand science and have no vision).

    One should only consider sending humans to planets, after:
    1) One has exhausted all possible exploration capabilities of robotic explorers.
    2) One has "rad-hardened" (genetically enhanced) astronauts that don't require tons of shielding from radiation.
    3) One has robust nanotechnology to make such ventures significantly less expensive.

    Now, shortly after one has all of
  • Off-planet habitation should focus on the moon instead of Mars.

    You'd still need completely enclosed domes, caves or spaceports.

    You'd still need full shielding from cosmic radiation and hard UV.

    You'd still need imported air, water, food, medicines, equipment, etc.

    However, you'd be a lot closer to home, reducing shipping costs and times, both ways. You can coast to the moon in three days, or accelerate there in 12 hours.

    Reduced time in transit means reduced radiation exposure, which means reduced ship shieldi
  • Mark my words (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gelfling (6534) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:17PM (#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.

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