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How To Beat Congress's Ban Of Humans On Mars 447

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the or-just-stop-spending-on-wars dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban humans on Mars at NASA: "Provided, That none of the funds under this heading shall be used for any research, development, or demonstration activities related exclusively to the human exploration of Mars." The bill is held up in Congress and the anti-Mars language may be taken out. But in case the Mars ban becomes law, the Space Review has a handy guide on how NASA can beat the ban and continue its research and development without breaking the law."
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How To Beat Congress's Ban Of Humans On Mars

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  • Congress? (Score:5, Funny)

    by rossdee (243626) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @11:03AM (#21585609)
    Somebody please tell congress that they don't have jurisdiction on other planets.
    • Re:Congress? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Pantero Blanco (792776) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @11:10AM (#21585697)
      This is one of the many reasons I don't like sensationally-worded headlines.

      Congress did not "ban humans on Mars". They stopped NASA's funding for a human mission to Mars and told it to concentrate on other things. Other nations, or private citizens of the US if I understand correctly, are free to shoot for it.
      • Re:Congress? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @11:16AM (#21585779)

        This is one of the many reasons I don't like sensationally-worded headlines.

        Congress did not "ban humans on Mars". They stopped NASA's funding for a human mission to Mars and told it to concentrate on other things. Other nations, or private citizens of the US if I understand correctly, are free to shoot for it.
        The US is allowed to shoot for it as well. They just can't pay for things that apply exclusively for Mars for the next year. This will barely affect anything. Only if NASA was researching human landing sites or actually building the Mars spacecraft could they say that their research was *only* for human exploration of Mars. And this would have to pass every year in the foreseeable future to ban NASA from human exploration of Mars (since it is a funding bill).

        • Re:Congress? (Score:4, Informative)

          by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @03:19PM (#21589331) Homepage
          The US is allowed to shoot for it as well. They just can't pay for things that apply exclusively for Mars for the next year. This will barely affect anything. Only if NASA was researching human landing sites or actually building the Mars spacecraft could they say that their research was *only* for human exploration of Mars.

          And is my memory failing me, or did I read on Slashdot some time ago that the new director of NASA had already put a hold on all projects that were *only* for human exploration of Mars until such time as additional funding was allocated for that purpose? Since Bush's "Mars, Bitches!" plan didn't actually include any funding and NASA didn't want to get distracted from their other projects for an un-funded attempt at a legacy.

          If that's true, then this is just Congress agreeing with the NASA director, saying "Yes, you should focus on other things, because we're not giving you extra money just for a manned mission to Mars for now at least".
      • by Nossie (753694) <IanHarvie@4[ ]el ... t ['Dev' in gap]> on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @11:30AM (#21586001)
        "Congress did not "ban humans on Mars". They stopped NASA's funding for a human mission to Mars and told it to concentrate on other things. Other nations, or private citizens of the US if I understand correctly, are free to shoot for it."

        Did you really mean that? I read it as:

        Congress did not "ban humans on Mars". They stopped NASA's funding for a human mission to Mars and told it to concentrate on other things. Other nations, or private citizens of the US if I understand correctly, they are free to shoot at.

        hmmmmmm :)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by plague3106 (71849)
        Honestly though, why should Congress get to decide that? NASA's main purpose is space exploration, I think that covers going to Mars.
        • Re:Congress? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by HUADPE (903765) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:20PM (#21586815) Homepage
          Honestly though, why should Congress get to decide that? NASA's main purpose is space exploration, I think that covers going to Mars.

          Because Congress created NASA and has final say over the purposes and funding of all federal agencies.

      • Re:Congress? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jinxidoru (743428) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @04:10PM (#21589939) Homepage
        And honestly, I am all for stopping the funding of a human mission to Mars. It sounds cool and all, but it isn't worth it right now. Manned missions are so much more expensive than robotic missions. Are they any better? Except for the coolness factor, there isn't much benefit having a human over a robot, especially how robots are improving. We can leave a robot up there indefinitely, we can't do the same (for a while at least) with humans. There are so many reasons why we should be focusing on robotic over human exploration.

        Everyone is up in arms about how there's a lot of programs (like the Hubble and the spacestation) that we are abandoning. The reason we are abandoning them is because of a lack of funding. Why is there a lack of funding? One big reason is because we are spending money on human space-travel projects because of this goal to reach Mars. No, instead, let's keep funding the projects that are actually providing us with all sorts of valuable research.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Stringer Bell (989985)
      They do, however, have jurisdiction over the U.S. budget.
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      First, if you have a bigger army and more nukes than anybody else you pretty much have jurisdiction anywhere you feel like it.

      Second, this doesn't stop anybody from going to Mars, or outlaw trips to Mars. All it does in says that NASA can't use money Congress has appropriated to send humans to mars; ESA or a private American citizen with enough money could still legally go to Mars.

      -mcgrew
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Bazar (778572)
      Congress isn't limiting what other people can do, they are simply giving conditions on how [b]THEIR[/b] money is not to be spent.

      I don't think there is anything preventing NASA from getting private funding to do it themselves, but frankly, i can't see any private sources coming up with the billions required to research a manned mars mission.

      Its Cheapest to simply let commercial interests develop a way. That IS the American way after all, Capitalism [wikipedia.org].

      Also i can't honestly see the point on why we need men on m
    • Re:Congress? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by innerweb (721995) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @11:23AM (#21585909)

      This is the kind of stuff that you need to figure out who did it. Then, you need to find out why. Most likely, the reason will be somewhat insane, but at least you know what you are dealing with. Then, after you know who and why, you work to make sure that it does not happen again. Ignorance is a powerful disadvantage.

      From the reference, it seems that this is an attempt to keep NASA form being administratively destroyed by a Bushism. Remember the guy Bush put in place that started slashing everything else to make one thing happen. The NASA budget is so tiny compared to so many other budgets, the solution to achieve things is not to slash and burn, but to fund it. OMG! Look at everything we have gotten out of the space race so far. Microwaves (communications and ovens), new materials, better computing, better aircraft, and more!

      So, the who is not so important, but the why is very important. To prevent another slash and burn like the last Bush appointee.

      Maybe this language is needed. Remember how many things this administration has made happen for short sighted goals that have disastrous mid to long term impacts (yeah, nothing new, but they are very good at it). Would it actually be good to go for Mars at the expense of so many other things?

      InnerWeb

    • by canuck57 (662392)

      Somebody please tell congress that they don't have jurisdiction on other planets.

      Fortunately they do not. First someone has to land there, put a flag on it and then assume residency. Otherwise it is uncharted and uninhabited up for grabs. Congress has no jurisdiction there.

      The real truth however is that they are afraid of what they already know or might find. Maybe they found something with the rover they don't want us to know? Less people who visit, any new discoveries would be easier to hold back

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MontyApollo (849862)
      I think this all came about from when Bush announced his vision for the future of NASA, the administrator at the time immediately started scrapping existing programs like Hubble to pay for this "vision". Congress had approved the NASA funding for various programs like Hubble, not for this new vision, and they didn't want someone in there killing these programs to pay for Mars. Basically they are saying that if the president wants to go to Mars, then he needs to get in funded like anything else.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @11:03AM (#21585611)
    There is no 'ban' on Mars. It just means that no funds from the current funding bill can be used for funding potential human exploration on Mars. Future bills (every single year) would have to include this 'ban' every time they were passed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CRCulver (715279)
      True, but this reveals a great lack of motivation and vision among U.S. lawmakers. Instead of getting the public fired up about space exploration, as two administrations in the 1960s succeeded in doing, year by year NASA takes another punch in the gut by funding cuts. As I mentioned in the discussion on an earlier article here, it's the height of absurdity that the U.S. is delaying exploration of Mars even further than the late date Kim Stanley Robinson chose for his trilogy beginning with Red Mars [amazon.com] , which
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Evil Adrian (253301)
        I can think of plenty of things that are more motivating and visionary to spend taxpayer money on. Things like AIDS research and cancer research, just to name two off the top of my head.

        I believe that the people lacking vision are those that want to spend billions of dollars rocketing a team of 8 people to a giant red rock in the sky when we haven't figured out how to fix problems at home first.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I can think of plenty of things that are more motivating and visionary to spend taxpayer money on. Things like AIDS research and cancer research, just to name two off the top of my head.

          I believe that the people lacking vision are those that want to spend billions of dollars rocketing a team of 8 people to a giant red rock in the sky when we haven't figured out how to fix problems at home first.

          What problems at home do you think Spain should have fixed before dropping huge amounts of gold into the Columbus expeditions? When would those problems have been fixed?

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by CRCulver (715279)

            What problems at home do you think Spain should have fixed before dropping huge amounts of gold into the Columbus expeditions?

            A culture of machismo where the first thing Spanish explorers did when they reached the New World was rape women and steal?

            • by Pantero Blanco (792776) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @11:53AM (#21586375)

              A culture of machismo where the first thing Spanish explorers did when they reached the New World was rape women and steal?

              Like the Aztecs did to the other tribes, but without the human sacrifice?

              A nation that tries to deal with its social problems completely before tackling expansion and technological progress will be destroyed by the nations that don't.
              • Mars is stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

                by bussdriver (620565) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @01:45PM (#21588101)
                Man on Mars timelines are so long that robots will be much better at that time. We can out perform human exploration NOW! Its only a waste of money to do it before it gets cheap. We can send dozens of robots for the cost of 1 human. Its not cost effective and will not be for sometime (if ever.) When we are ready to build bases to live on then we can send humans (not exactly exploration at that point.) We NEED advances in robotics on earth more than methods for space travel. Everybody keeps neglecting how cold and O2 free mars is and the traveling problems; which are best saved for solving later.

                Its a DISTRACTION, didn't anybody notice how Bush has been trying to slow or stop climate science? He has NASA refocused on mars and neglecting other areas that he doesn't want or care about moving forward. Remember, he stopped a climate science probe that other countries would have paid to launch (it was already built) just because he didn't want any climate science probe backing this vast conspiracy of climate scientists scamming people about global warming. (we know he tried to censor government climate scientists, even after the public woke up.)

                I've said it before; won't waste time doing it again even if I'd get mod up like I did before.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              Yeah, how dare they corrupt those poor human-sacrificing, slave-trading innocent peoples.
        • by AndroSyn (89960)

          I can think of plenty of things that are more motivating and visionary to spend taxpayer money on. Things like AIDS research and cancer research, just to name two off the top of my head.

          This assumes that spending more money on these things is going to suddenly find cures for said things. Science doesn't work like that.

          I believe that the people lacking vision are those that want to spend billions of dollars rocketing a team of 8 people to a giant red rock in the sky when we haven't figured out how to fix

      • by PlatyPaul (690601) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @11:26AM (#21585947) Homepage Journal
        What with the additional costs of sending humans anywhere, doesn't it make sense that an already-strapped NASA would pursue human-free missions to stretch its limited budget? I mean, I'm all for pumping up the public view of space exploration, but that problem lies more in making the public aware than in the nature of the missions themselves. Seeing a robot plant an American flag on Mars could be equally awe-inspiring, if widely televised.

        The members of Congress were duly elected by the general populace of the United States; why NASA should attempt to ignore Congressional opinion is beyond me. If you happen to live in the U.S. and are upset about the situation (one way or the other), I urge you to contact [congress.org] your representative legislator(s) directly.
      • True, but this reveals a great lack of motivation and vision among U.S. lawmakers.

        No, it reveals the great frustration of US lawmakers with NASA for screwing up and mismanaging project after expensive project, year after wearying year. Between the overhyped and overpriced Shuttle program (and two very visible accidents on top of other problems), Hubble, the ongoing disaster that is ISS, and whole string of less visible projects... Congress simply doesn't trust NASA.
         
        Historically, post-Apollo, NASA has tried to spin every project it can into being a precursor for manned Mars missions... Which Congress has historically been uninterested in funding. (This 'ban' isn't the first such, nor even the second...) Worse yet, NASA has also (historically) tried every trick in the book in the book to get around the 'bans', further engendering mistrust of them in Congress.
         
        NASA has been hobbled practically since it's birth by the Shuttle - Station - Mars!! vision laid out by Werner Von Braun and enthusiastically endorsed by early NASA administrators. Yes Virginia - the Shuttle program has been around that long, the earliest studies are contemporary with the Mercury project. Many in NASA (at the time) felt that Max Faget and the STG represented a shortcut to beating the Russians and a way of getting early engineering experience before getting to the real task at hand - developing a shuttle and all the rest of Von Braun's vision.
         
         

        Instead of getting the public fired up about space exploration, as two administrations in the 1960s succeeded in doing, year by year NASA takes another punch in the gut by funding cuts.

        Except - in real life it didn't happen that way. The Apollo (Lunar) program was an accident of a) the Cold War, and b) the Kennedy assassination. Before he died, Jack Kennedy was already seeking to distance himself from, and minimize the program. When he was killed, Apollo was funded as his memorial. Even so, budget cutbacks started as soon as they could be managed - Apollo landing missions and post Apollo programs were being cancelled or cut back as early as 1966! By the time we actually reached the moon, the program was already running on vapors.
         
        So far as public interest goes - just look at the TV numbers of the various landing missions. The great public interest, much ballyhooed by space fanboys, simply never existed.
      • > True, but this reveals a great lack of motivation and vision among U.S. lawmakers

        So telling NASA to use their budget on science rather than propaganda shows "lack of vision"?

    • It says that the funding can not be used for EXCLUSIVE mars exploration R/D. IOW, they can fund dual use items. Kind of lame, but not a big thing. Most of what NASA does is multi-use. We really should keep alive research that is geared towards mars (as well as small nuclear power). So for the moment, other than human habitat and Martian suits, just about everything else is dual-use in that it either is robotics for Mars, or will work on Moon/Mars.

      What is interesting on this, is the amount of games that pol
  • Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RandoX (828285) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @11:05AM (#21585643)
    What does Congress have against funding for exploration of Mars? What's the purpose for that?
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Cy Sperling (960158) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @11:09AM (#21585689)
      They, more than likely, see it as a colossal waste of taxpayers money. Unlike, say..., sending millions of dollars in cash into a warzone with no accountability whatsoever.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by gEvil (beta) (945888)
        Millions? I think you meant billions and trillions.
      • They, more than likely, see it as a colossal waste of taxpayers money. Unlike, say..., sending millions of dollars in cash into a warzone with no accountability whatsoever.
        We shouldn't be wasting taxpayer money on an unconstitutional space program or an unconstitutional non-war.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by halivar (535827)
          And all Ron's people said, "Paul-men."

          If NASA was based in Ron Paul's home district, I'd bet my dollar to your donut he'd be extolling the virtues of pork--errr... I mean--Martian exploration.

          You need to dial your Cynacism-O-Meter up a notch and realize Libertarians are not so far from Democrats/Republicans as you may think.
        • How in good conscious do you let yourself post messages via this unconstitutional Internet?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by oahazmatt (868057)
        What's that you say? Oil deposits on Mars???
      • worse than that, they realize there's no oil on Mars nor is there a big chunk of the nation believing that we should be there. Nothing short of a new cold war with other superpowers or some other fantastic reason going to make sure we get there any time soon. Right now as it is they plan to return in say 30 years... The apathy of this country in regard to science is truly astounding and quite disturbing.
      • by bigdavex (155746)

        They, more than likely, see it as a colossal waste of taxpayers money. Unlike, say..., sending millions of dollars in cash into a warzone with no accountability whatsoever.

        I find this sort of logic tempting. But isn't it setting the bar a bit low if we say, "This activity is not as stupid as the war in Iraq. Therefore, let's do it."
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Solandri (704621) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @11:19AM (#21585833)
      NASA has two factions - manned and unmanned missions - who both compete internally for the same money. Big-name manned NASA projects like Apollo, the shuttle, ISS, and this manned Mars mission have a history of expanding until they consume almost the entirety of NASA's budget. Many, maybe even most, would say most of the useful science comes from NASA's unmanned missions. On a bang-for-the-buck basis, I think almost everyone agrees the unmanned missions yield much greater returns. But of course there's an allure, a romance with sending a man out there.

      Congress is trying to protect the other projects from being cannibalized to fund the manned Mars mission. And they want Bush to pony up the dollars for it if he's going to give NASA a mandate to put a man on Mars (as opposed to just giving the mandate with no funds, forcing NASA to divert funds from other useful missions).

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CheshireCatCO (185193)
        Precisely. It's an old trick to give an agency more to do than you know its funding will carry. You look like a visionary *and* and a fiscal conservative and force someone else to make the painful cuts and to be the bad guy. In the case of NASA, it's almost invariably the manned program or engineering side that is supported and the unmanned and/or science that is cut.

        Really, all Congress seems to be asking is for the Administration to be honest with its funding requests: ask for the money needed to do wh
    • by morari (1080535)
      They obviously know of the Martian cities that litter the planet's surface and are thus protecting their own interesting, seeing as all of Congress are alien clones.
    • What does Congress have against funding for exploration of Mars? What's the purpose for that?

      Politics as usual. Considering that the Mars mission is backed by George Bush (he proposed it with some minor fanfare in early 2004), I'd surmise that it's just another way for Congress to take a swipe at Dubya.

      Who cares about science when you can score some cheap political points...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hey! (33014)
      Well, I'll tell you the problem I have with it.

      It's not for real. A real program would have a deadline within the career horizon of most members of Congress, and have a much larger budget tied to achieving substantial milestones every single year.

      So, you take money away from real projects, like Earth climate measurement, and you give it to a show program that is not realistically connected to its ostensible ends. The current "Vision" is to establish a lunar base in 2020 -- so far so good, and to launch t
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TopSpin (753) *

      What does Congress have against funding for exploration of Mars?

      At the present time Mars exploration is an inefficient method of purchasing voters. The money will instead flow to those interests that leverage the largest constituency of the dominant party [democrats.org]. What those interests are can be found here [aarp.org], here [afge.org], here [nea.org] and here [sierraclub.org], but mostly here [ama-assn.org]. All public proselytizing aside the recent change in US political party dominance has not and will not cause substantial disruption in the flow of funds here [wikipedia.org], because nothing raises the cost of voters for incumbent rulers as rapidly a

  • Easy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @11:05AM (#21585651) Homepage Journal
    Plan to go to Pluto. When a congress more favorable to a mars mission is in place, have them remove the ban. Funny enough, developing technologies to get us to Pluto would be very handy in getting us to Mars as well.

    Or plan to send a ship the opposite direct then are rotation and plan to meet up with it in 8 months.
    • by peragrin (659227)
      IO or Europa are a lot closer. Plus think of the kick arse view you could get with Jupiter in background.
      • by geekoid (135745)
        Excellent location suggestion. My thinking was the farther we have to plan to go, the easier changing it to mars would be.

        I'm sure congress knows what they're doing~
  • What is it with legal speak putting commas in funny places? I know they leave them out to be ambiguous so it can be read in a favourable light later, but adding them in at incorrect positions?

    Provided, That none of the funds...

    That doesn't even make sense. "Provided that..." (i.e. "on the basis that the following is true") makes sense, but not with a comma.

    As for the ban, those are some interesting ways to get around it. "Humanoid exploration" could potentially also include a human-shaped robot that has tac

  • I hear Congress's Martian cops are really patrolling the Mars surface vigilantly. So watch out, humans.
  • To perform non-robotic landings on Mars without violating a ban on human landing, staff the Mars mission with members of the current US administration!

    Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all week! Try the veal, it's delicious!

  • Not quite... (Score:5, Informative)

    by igotmybfg (525391) <slashdotNO@SPAMdanielthompson.net> on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @11:10AM (#21585705) Homepage
    From the article:

    "The House of Representatives version of HR 3093, the bill that determines NASA's funding for 2008, effectively bans the study of an entire planet: Provided, That none of the funds under this heading shall be used for any research, development, or demonstration activities related exclusively to the human exploration of Mars.
    As you can clearly see, the language in that bill does NOT "ban the study of an entire planet" - it just says that any research done must have other applications besides the human exploration of Mars. For example, a weather study wouldn't be "banned", because that would also be related to the Mars Rovers. So basically, as long as NASA can show that any R&D activity is related to something else besides humans on Mars, the ban won't apply to it.
  • Is it a waste of money to consider putting humans on Mars in our lifetime? Probably.

    Should NASA be free to spend its own budget without Congressional oversight? Probably.

    Perhaps NASA needs to earn back some goodwill by proving that they're still relevant and useful first.
    • by sholden (12227)
      Should NASA be free to spend its own budget without Congressional oversight? Probably.

      But the budget is provided by Congress (well directed to them by Congress), and they allocate it for whatever reasons they have - if NASA looks like they might spend it on something Congress doesn't want them to, then such a restriction seems reasonable.

      If the head of NASA said "I read on the internet that the price of gold is "going to the moon", since we also want to go to moon I am going to invest 100% of NASA's budget
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Stringer Bell (989985)

      Should NASA be free to spend its own budget without Congressional oversight? Probably.

      Absolutely not. NASA's budget comes out of my pocket, so I want some say in how it's spent. My congress critters represent me, and without their oversight I've got no say in the matter. Ditto the military, public schools, etc.

      And yes, I realize that in practice I haven't got much say anyway, but the current arrangement is set forth by the Constitution.

  • by MSTCrow5429 (642744) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @11:13AM (#21585737)
    "Provided, That none of the funds under this heading shall be used for any research, development, or demonstration activities related exclusively to the human exploration of Mars."
  • The rest of the world will get mankind to Mars and beyond. Who would have thunk that the new American century http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_for_the_New_American_Century/ [wikipedia.org] would mean retreating from scientific advancement. It's 11:00, do you know where your tax dollars are?
  • If we aren't going to actually explore anything beyond our own "bubble", what is the point of NASA anyway? I can understand not wanting to spend public money on space exploration anymore...especially now that private sector spaceflight is ramping up. But it seems stupid to keep NASA around at all if they eliminate the exploration. I guess they just want to turn it into a bureaucracy purely to regulate the private sector. I say if we are going to spend the money, at least make it worth while and keep Mar
  • Get the government out of the space exploration business. Government doesn't work. Remove unreasonable restrictions on space exploration by businesses and private citizens, and you'll see a boom in space exploration funding!
    • Boom is right, if Carmack's attempts are anything to go by.
    • by Bluesman (104513)
      Really? I doubt it, simply because there's currently no economic benefit to exploring space. Yeah, you might make a profit on the first round of ultra-rich space tourists paying $100 grand each to go 100 miles up, but after the novelty wears off, what then? A lot of people might give their life's savings to go up, but you can't do that twice, so unless there's something compelling up there to do, it's not a sustainable business.

      It won't be until conditions on this planet become so bad that living on Mars
    • Remove unreasonable restrictions on space exploration by businesses and private citizens, and you'll see a boom in space exploration funding!

      Not in this case you won't. There's nothing on Mars with a commercial value anywhere near the transportation cost. Nor will it make sense to use any of the very crappy real estate on Mars until after the much better real estate in Antarctica is all used up.

  • There goes my summer vacation plans with quiet days traversing the canals of Mars. I just hate Saturn. The noxious gases always leave my kids with a rash. Oh, well.
  • Inevitable (Score:2, Insightful)

    As has already been pointed out, the summary is misleading. But you might as well get used to this idea. We will NEVER colonize the planets. As soon as the technology starts to get close, the scientists and environmentalists will stop it, so as to not contaminate a virgin environment. *Particularly* in the case of Mars, because scientists want to see if life already exists there (it doesn't, but they want to find out for sure).

    I understand the romance of living on other planets, but it's inevitable that t

    • Re:Inevitable (Score:5, Insightful)

      by teslar (706653) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:06PM (#21586569)

      We will NEVER colonize the planets.

      Sure. And there is a market for maybe 5 computers in the world, 640K is enough for anybody, we don't need telephones because we have good messenger boys, flight of heavier-than-air vehicles is impossible, rail travel at high speed is impossible because humans would be unable to breathe and asphyxiate etc etc. Oh, and just for you:

      To place a man in a multi-stage rocket and project him into the controlling gravitational field of the moon where the passengers can make scientific observations, perhaps land alive, and then return to earth - all that constitutes a wild dream worthy of Jules Verne. I am bold enough to say that such a man-made voyage will never occur regardless of all future advances.
      --Lee DeForest

      Have you learned nothing from past absolute statements?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Have you learned nothing from past absolute statements?

        Sheesh, way to not read my post at all. Where did I say it was technologically impossible?

  • Please correct me if I'm wrong but my understanding is that they are just not wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on it. With a nation so far in debt why are we trying to force the taxpayer to foot the bill to go to Mars anyway? Ooh, we could always just tell the federal reserve to print more money and further devalue the dollar. But of course we would have to pay those private banks back.
  • by Nova Express (100383) <lawrenceperson&gmail,com> on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @11:18AM (#21585825) Homepage Journal
    ...is a dollar that can't be used to provide pork for John Murtha's district. [cbsnews.com]

    Or defense contracts for companies owned by Nancy Pelosi's husband. [mypetjawa.mu.nu].

    Or billions in subsidies to Fortune 500 agribusiness companies. [cbsnews.com]

    There can be no funding for frivolities like the human exploration of space when so many of the needs of the Permanent Bipartisan State of Porkistan remain unmet...

  • All these worlds are yours, except Mars. Attempt no landings there.
  • by ColoradoAuthor (682295) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @11:31AM (#21586009) Homepage

    Regardless of whether one thinks that the "Mars ban" is a good idea, would it be good for NASA to get a reputation of using loopholes and subverting the intent of Congress? Even if NASA complied, space enthusiasts could inadvertently build such a reputation in the public mind.

    Then what? Would Congress get more strict the next year, resulting in dozens of started-but-never completed projects? Would the public say, "Those NASA dudes can't be trusted! See how they handled the Mars ban? Let's use that money to subsidize professional football instead!"

  • Sounds suspicious. Don't underestimate the power of the Martian lobby, especially in an election year. What is Mars trying to hide?
  • Why stop at Mars? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Meoward (665631) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @11:33AM (#21586039)

    What's so wonderful about manned exploration of space anyway?

    Transporting humans and all of their environmental requirements is ridiculously expensive. The risk for the travelers is ultimate. Alternatively, unmanned missions can go not only where no one has gone before, but also where no one will ever be able to go (e.g. the Venutian surface), and for a fraction of the cost.

    The only upside from a manned mission is that we feel all warm and fuzzy when our heroes return from the voyage. Big deal.

    Sounds odd to say, but I'm with Congress on this one. I just wish they'd taken it farther.

    • by Technician (215283)
      The only upside from a manned mission is that we feel all warm and fuzzy when our heroes return from the voyage. Big deal.

      I don't know of any fuel on this planet that will take a large enough payload of fuel to Mars for the return trip. Who said they would ever return? At current tech, it's a one way ticket.

      You haven't seen any probes sent with enough fuel to return. You won't see it anytime soon. Fuel that is light enough to take, but has enough mass to provide thrust to escape Mars orbital velocity do
  • by threaded (89367) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @11:33AM (#21586047) Homepage
    Manned missions look cool, but you get more science out of the unmanned missions. Trying to get NASA to concentrate on the unmanned stuff is what they're trying to do.

    As I understand it, it's all about bang per buck.
    • "..., but you get more science out of the unmanned missions. T"

      That's not true at all. You can get a lot of data for some specific missions from unmanned missions. SOme missions need to be unmanned by there nature, Voyager, for example.

      But humans can do a lot on the fly, respond to changing conditions or mission priorities. Then can even ignore priorities that have become inappropriate do to an unforeseen change.

      Why is it robotic OR humans, why not robotics AND humans?

      I would want to see the adventurers tha
  • You can drive a truck through that "exclusively" language. It says nothing about activities related to a mission intended to put, e.g., a monkey on mars. Or a human somewhere else. Life support for a Mars mission? No problem, it's for the monkey project. Mars suits? Those aren't Mars suits, they're suits for some moon of Jupiter...
  • A law is made by the USA to stop the science. But, happyly for the mankind, other country take the lead.
  • Congress loves to use their power over funding to push the (just barely) majority agenda and encourage lots of special interest lobbying. What if we gave the tax payers the right to send something like 50% of their taxes to government projects of their choice similar to how we handle non-profit donations now. If people like to fund space travel, feeding the homeless, stem cell research, or a war against terror, they can send their own tax dollars. This would only be on our income taxes (social security,
  • Easy! (Score:4, Funny)

    by jav1231 (539129) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @11:57AM (#21586453)
    How To Beat Congress's Ban Of Humans On Mars and NASA's Funding Thereof: 1. Get private donations to build your own spaceship! 2. Goto Mars! 3. Congress gets mad! 4. Fund NASA's manned mission to Mars to arrest you! 5. Congress 0WNED!
  • Space Shuttle? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Enrique1218 (603187) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:22PM (#21586843) Journal
    I support temporarily banning NASA from making any efforts toward sending any manned mission to Mars. Modern spaceflight is just to damn primitive. For one, we need a new space shuttle. One that is design for 21st century space flight because there is a lot more hazards up there than were in 1970's. Second, we need better propulsion systems. It takes to much effort to get humans into orbit much less sending them to the moon or any planets. Moreover, modern spaceflight is still a complex precise pagent that does not forgive error. There is no room for improvisation if something goes wrong on the trip to Mars.
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @12:32PM (#21587023) Homepage

    Sending humans to Mars is stupid and pointless. It's an idea trotted out by politicians every decade or so to distract voters, not something to really do. Congress is right to pull the plug.

    Space travel on chemical fuels is just barely possible, and it's not getting any better. Chemical rockets work about as well as they did forty years ago. Chemical fuels haven't improved, and they're not going to. We've had liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen for forty years, and that's as good as it gets.

    Hence the fundamental problem. All spacecraft have to be so weight-reduced that they're fragile and unreliable. If spacecraft could be built with the weight budget of a jetliner, with about 50% of the mass at takeoff being fuel, they'd work fine.

    Without fission, fusion, or antimatter power, or new physics, this isn't going to improve. We're stuck without a better power source.

    There hasn't been a new power source for half a century now. First time since the Industrial Revolution that's happened. Most of the major problems in the world today, from global warming to the Middle East, come from that fact.

    That's the problem. Mars is a sideshow.

  • "Exclusively" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @02:54PM (#21589075) Journal
    That's a key word in the proposal. It'd be damn silly to put money into R&D that couldn't translate to another domain. The intent is to be able to use (frinstance) the Constellation lifters for both lunar and Mars flights. There was never any plan to ban people from Mars.

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