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Mars Rovers Facing Budget Cuts [Updated] 327

Posted by kdawson
from the missed-opportunity dept.
BUL2294 notes a CNN article reporting that the Mars Rovers program at NASA is facing budget cuts of $4 million for this year and $8 million for fiscal 2009. This will mean job cuts; and in all likelihood Spirit will be put in "hibernation mode," to be reactivated when or if future funding becomes available."

Update: 03/29 20:02 GMT by KD : NASA has rescinded the memo to the JPL threatening budget cuts, and is now saying that no rovers will be shut down.
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Mars Rovers Facing Budget Cuts [Updated]

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  • All NASA has to do is say they found indicators of [terr'rists | oil | bin Laden's hideout | WMDs ] on Mars and they're good to go.

    And for a manned facility, they can pitch Mars as the next Gitmo. Think of the security!

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      All the above would have worked for the pubs, but not for dems. But to really get the pubs to vote for it, you have to tell them that there loads of bribe^H^H^H^H^H election money's. Then you can be assured that the pubs will vote for it.

      For dems, you need to tell them that are poor people on Mars and then they will spend money to see if it is true.
    • by NeverVotedBush (1041088) on Monday March 24, 2008 @08:06PM (#22851618)
      And that is the really sad part of this. So much money is being siphoned out of just about everything to pay for the war in Iraq. We have bridges collapsing, overwhelmed health institutions, overwhelmed educational systems, money being "borrowed" from social security, etc.

      The Bush administration is basically robbing this country blind to fund their war and even high-profile programs are falling victim.

      And the really sad part of all this is that the draining of money out of everything is only just beginning. We have tens of thousands of veterans who will need expensive, long-term care and more joining those ranks every day. We have interest building on the money that has been borrowed so far, while we continue to borrow to fund the war. It's total madness.

      Only a madman can stand at a podium, look America in the eye, and tell us that we are strong, our economy is strong, and we are winning some imaginary war on "terra".
      • by Belial6 (794905) on Monday March 24, 2008 @08:18PM (#22851726)
        I think the war in Iraq is as stupid as the next guy, but none of the problems you state are new since the invasion. The financial crisis that the US is facing is not caused by our war of aggression. It is caused by deficit spending. If the we had never attacked Iraq, we would still be screwed financially.
        • by osu-neko (2604) on Monday March 24, 2008 @08:22PM (#22851750)
          *notes that the previous administration had budget surpluses*
          • by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Monday March 24, 2008 @08:29PM (#22851814) Homepage Journal

            *notes that the previous administration had budget surpluses*
            TEMPORARY budget surpluses. The yearly debt is built into programs that we are committed to. Occasionally we will have budget surplusses, but we still, as GP says, are screwed in the long run.
        • by peragrin (659227) on Monday March 24, 2008 @08:26PM (#22851784)
          Under Clinton the Budget deficit would be nearly gone by now. The forecasts were for 10 years to be eliminated. Even if that got stretched to 15 because of the down turn, it would a lot better than doubling it like Bush did.

          There was a chance to clean up the future. Now the only way is to collapse the economy and rebuild. preferably with a new government first.

          anyone want to start a revolution with me?
          • by ushering05401 (1086795) on Monday March 24, 2008 @08:42PM (#22851914) Journal
            "anyone want to start a revolution with me?"

            The main problem with revolution is finding enough people you can trust after the conflict. If you win then there is all this power to be distributed... and if you lose then there is a wicked manhunt.

            In my entire life I have met two people I would trust enough to rise up with and take the consequences (win or lose) afterwards.

            Back on-topic: Space exploration joins progress in art and literature on my list of indicators that a civilization is truly prospering. Space exploration, much like astronomy, lacks the utilitarian nature of many other branches of science, and I have always considered it to be one of the brightest signs of our progress as thinking beings. Our continuing withdrawal from funding space related endeavors strikes me as a sad indicator of where we are headed.
            • by Cassius Corodes (1084513) on Monday March 24, 2008 @09:06PM (#22852080)
              I think there are practical reasons for having space exploration - it serves much like war in stimulating a different kind of thinking, unusual problems to be solved, and that inspires a new wave of creativity. When nothing major is going on things become stagnant and civilisation doesn't progress. If we put a lot of focus on space we could find new opportunities that would force us to look into new directions.

              As a side note the war in Iraq is doing wonders for the robotics industry - defence is putting a lot of funding into AI and robotics which will speed up progress by possibly a decade.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Schlage (195535)
                Lets not forget the fact that studies have shown that spending on the space program has a direct correlation to increased GNP of the United States (estimates on how much vary, I've seen ratios ranging from 1:2 to 1:7 dollars-spent:GNP-rise).

                And then, of course, there's all of the direct spin-offs that come from research done in the space program, and I'm not just talking tempurpedic!
            • by nametaken (610866) on Monday March 24, 2008 @09:17PM (#22852150)
              I'm inclined to agree with you, but my disdain for management of Iraq and such aside, I didn't see anything about the Bush administration in the article. Did the administration cut the funding for this somehow or was it an internal decision at NASA to redirect the funds? I honestly don't know, is this something congress controls through an oversight committee?

              Was it due to diminishing returns on the rovers? Is the money genuinely better spent on what the article says they'll be spending it on... next year's new rover?

              I'd imagine that $8 mil is a tiny bit of their annual budget and you'd think you'd want to put it towards something you already have parked on another planet and you know works. But then, I'm about the least qualified guy in the world to guess about those things.

        • by NeverVotedBush (1041088) on Monday March 24, 2008 @08:28PM (#22851808)
          We might still be screwed but certainly not to the extent that we are now. Estimates of what this war will end up costing - if it is ended soon with a complete withdrawal of US forces - are in the $3 Trillion dollar range. That used to be over half of our National debt.

          No more. The US National debt is now $9.4 Trillion. Our debt is increasing by $1.6 Billion dollars every single day. http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/ [brillig.com]

          The National debt was around $5 Trillion when Bush took office. As noted above, it's now approaching $10 Trillion. He has basically doubled it during his two terms. So, yeah, we would still be screwed without the war but we are especially screwed with it.

          And 4,000 Americans are really screwed - they're dead. And another 30-40,000 suffer from various levels of injuries up to missing limbs, missing eyes, missing parts of their brains, extreme disfigurement, etc.

          Any other comments are superfluous.
          • And 4,000 Americans are really screwed - they're dead.
            Perhaps they were spared the disillusionment? Small comfort to their families to be sure.
          • by Plutonite (999141) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @12:03AM (#22853366)
            Thank you for putting up the numbers, saved me a whole lot of searching as I was infuriated by the GP. 3 Trillion kind of makes a difference.

            About the casualties(drifting slightly off-topic) I think the most alarming are the psychological effects. [nytimes.com]
            There may be 4000 soldiers dead, but those returning home after an utterly meaningless time spent in a country thousands of miles away, are the ones tearing my heart apart. It is one thing to lose a limb or an eye. That is terrible, but at least you can try to move on with your life. But to have your body whole and yet be wandering like a madman (or literally as a madman) with a gun at night, in the streets of your home town, because some ABSOLUTE MORON decided to send you to war with a secular country that had nothing whatsoever to do with us.. I think that is the saddest thing in the world. My heart goes out to all the people we killed, and all the soldiers we lost, and all the money that could have saved millions and done miracles in supporting science and human welfare. War is such a bitch.
            • by chuckymonkey (1059244) <<charles.d.burton> <at> <gmail.com>> on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @04:11AM (#22854556) Journal
              Yes war is a bitch, it's ugly, dirty, bloody and terrible as well. I would know as I spent two years in Iraq, and I still ask for what? The guys you talk about walking around with the guns in the middle of the night are very few compared to the many like myself and a friend I met in the Army who is more like a brother to me than my real brother. He's also the godfather of my children. We're the ones that hunted in the night, made the decisions on whether or not someone would die (not reactionary as in a firefight, we targeted and premeditated who would die) and have to live with those decisions for the rest of our lives. I could probably be called a psychopath now from the things that I had to do. I live with the nightmares, I wake up wondering where I am sometimes, I react badly to anyone trying to cause me or my family harm, sometimes if the terrain is right while I'm driving I'll have brief flashes of being back in Iraq driving around the desert, objects beside the road still terrify me, and where I used to be somewhat phlegmatic I now can snap into blazing irrational anger in an instant. I'm one of the lucky ones though, my wife stayed with me unlike 80% of the other soldiers. Not only that but she has been instrumental in helping me through the bad times, never fearing that I would hurt her, and calming me down when I have an episode. My brother has sunk into a depression so deep that I don't know how to help him, I can't get him to see a doctor and the only person he'll really open up to is me. Those are the stories that are around you every day, 1/4 of us have them somewhat severely and damned near all to some minor extent. Ours are probably a little different because we premeditated everything, but then again everyone's story is different.

              Back on topic though, this country really needs to get the sense of wonder back and realize that a lot of what we have today we owe to the space programs.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Maybe the US would have been screwed anyway, but it's now $3 trillion more screwed [timesonline.co.uk] than it would have been without the war. That's $10,000 per person -- a significant amount of extra screwing, I'd say.
      • ... People's Republic of China. They have all these excess US dollars you see, as a result of selling us consumer products. They don't have much useful to do with them, so they buy our Treasury bonds.

        This means the PRC has the US over a barrel: if we try to stand up to them over, say, Tibet or Taiwan, they'll stop buying our bonds, or even dump them.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I don't understand these funny "comments" people post on their "websites." I was put into hibernation mode centuries ago, and only recently awoken, but I do know this... Martians need safe drinking water. It's time to melt the caps.
  • Sad day (Score:5, Insightful)

    by edwardpickman (965122) on Monday March 24, 2008 @07:33PM (#22851320)
    Billions wasted in Iraq and one of the most exciting programs since the Moon landing starts a slow death from budget cuts. Just plain sickening. We need a grass roots funding effort to save the Rovers since it looks like the second one will be cut next year.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jurzdevil (1259614)
      i completely agree...NASA catches so much bad media when something fails, but when they achieve something so incredible, nobody hears about it and their budget gets slashed.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by tjstork (137384)
      Billions wasted in Iraq and one of the most exciting programs since the Moon landing starts a slow death from budget cuts. Just plain sickening. We need a grass roots funding effort to save the Rovers since it looks like the second one will be cut next year

      The same President who launched the war in Iraq also is the first President to enact a workable plan for putting people on Mars. By contrast, if Obama gets in, its likely that NASA will face some pretty deep cuts. For some reason, Republicans don't have
      • Whoa. Let me sort of agree with you... if the Bush administration had stuck to the platform of a humble foreign policy, they would have been alright.

        All they've done is start a new age of McCarthyism, suspend habeas corpus, agree to formally demolish our borders with Mexico and Canada, extend the powers of the executive branch beyond the oversight of congress, lied under oath or refused to even testify about the terrorist attacks under oath, wiretapped American citizens who are 'guilty' of receiving 'suspic
        • by tjstork (137384)
          All they've done is start a new age of McCarthyism, suspend habeas corpus, agree to formally demolish our borders with Mexico and Canada, extend the powers of the executive branch beyond the oversight of congress, lied under oath or refused to even testify about the terrorist attacks under oath, wiretapped American citizens who are 'guilty' of receiving 'suspicious' phone calls, run the economy into the ground... caused two to three trillion dollars of damage to our economy for a war that was both illegal a
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by copponex (13876)

            McCarthy created a national climate of fear over the whole media. There's no media that is afraid of Bush....

            His toughest interview was in Ireland. But it's really besides the point.

            It is true that the new McCarthyism is less visible, but I believe that's only because it's very difficult to call someone a conspirator and get away with it. If they don't like you, they'll just forget to validate your press pass and cause you to lose your job, or perhaps expose your wife's secret identity through surrogates in the media...

            Habeas Corpus isn't suspended for any US Citizen

            Wrong. Jose Padilla is a good name to start with.

            No one knows how many US citizens are being h

      • Re:Sad day (Score:5, Insightful)

        by isomeme (177414) <cdberry@gmail.com> on Monday March 24, 2008 @08:30PM (#22851822) Homepage Journal
        Republicans don't have as big of a problem blowing lots of money on space stuff, whereas Democrats always have to get past this "we could use the money to feed the poor" mental stumbling block.

        Yep, those Democratic bastards John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson nearly killed our space program by underfunding Gemini and Apollo, but the Republican Richard Nixon did a swell job of building on the success of Apollo with ambitious, well funded follow-on programs, which is why we have a thriving lunar colony and burgeoning orbital industries today.
    • by timeOday (582209)
      I say this with out detracting from the success of the program, but hasn't it already run its course (and then some?) What are they doing with the rovers lately anyways?
    • Re:Sad day (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rucs_hack (784150) on Monday March 24, 2008 @07:45PM (#22851420)
      There's no oil on Mars.

      Besides, people tend to believe that more money is spent on space science then actually is, so it's a nice visible way to pretend to be cutting back on government spending.
      • There's no oil on Mars.

        Ahhh, but we don't know this for certain. If the geological origin for oil ("abiogenic") theories are correct, then there's every reason to believe that there may, in fact, be some oil on Mars. Might explain some of the methane we see seeping from the surface.

    • by Cordath (581672) on Monday March 24, 2008 @08:01PM (#22851582)
      It's painful watching some of the most fascinating projects ever conceived being raked over the coals of budget cuts in the U.S., but you guys aren't alone.

      Some of you may have seen that giant freakin' cool space robot called Dextre that just went up to the ISS. The Canadian company responsible (MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates or MDA) for that coolness is being sold off to a U.S. company.

      The important thing to realize about MDA is that it was started over four decades ago and has been carefully nurtured by public funding with the express intention of forwarding Canada's space technology sector. MDA is the backbone of Canada's space program. (as small as it may be) In addition to selling off Canada's space program, this sale also includes RADARSAT-2, which was built with Canadian tax money and is currently used by the government to monitor the arctic. The sale of this satellite to a U.S. company will mean that the Canadian government will be ceding control [foxbusiness.com] of the satellite which it paid for to the U.S., a country which disputes Canadian sovereignty in some of the areas RADARSAT-2 monitors. RADARSAT-2 was effectively *given* to MDA to simplify operations, but now it's being sold to the U.S. and the money is going to MDA's shareholders rather than the Canadian government that paid for it!

      The only thing standing in the way is a Rubber Stamp from the Industry minister Jim Prentice. Seeing as he's never failed to rubber stamp a sale before, the picture looks grim.

      So, the U.S. is not alone in being mismanaged from the very top.
      • by Telvin_3d (855514) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:19PM (#22852602)
        Actually, decent chance that the sale may not go through.

        First, for political reasons there are a lot of reasons to say no. Canada WILL be seeing a Federal election in the next six months or so. Selling off the company undermines a lot of the current government's platform. It looks bad on a national security front. It looks bad on an arctic sovereignty front. It looks bad on a selling out Canadian interests to the Americans front (which never goes over well with the voters). It looks bad on a public money front seeing as the Canadian government just finished bankrolling a lot of the research and tech that is making the company an attractive purchase.

        The second reason the sale might not go through is that it might be illegal. The united states is basically the only first world country in the world that has not signed the Ottawa Convention on Landmines. Big-ass international treaty, famously brokered by Canada, that bans the production and use of anti-personnel landmines among other things. Now, seeing as the company trying to buy MDA is one of the largest landmine manufacturers in the world. Under the terms of the treaty, it may actually be illegal for Canada to approve any sale or business involving them.

        In addition, many of the engineers and big brains that work for MDA are threatening to quit if the sale goes through. Plenty of them could be pulling in larger paycheques in the States already except that they don't want to build weapons or support companies that do.

        So, very little advantage in Canada for the government to approve the sale. And the only real downside to not approving it is pissing off a few of Bush's friends. On the other hand, he is down to a few months now and it is looking like bending over for his administration now won't score many brownie points with whoever replaces him.
    • A long time ago I wrote to the IRS and NASA and proposed that a box be added to the tax return forms that would allow people to donate directly to NASA. It wouldn't come out of their taxes - it would just be a convenient way to donate.

      I never heard from either of them.

      States have similar programs to donate to various wildlife and other programs. I think if there was a way for people to donate to NASA, there would be a real boost to NASA funding.
      • by wwahammy (765566)
        Or it will be a really convenient way to kill all NASA funding. This gives politicians easy cover for cutting the NASA budget: "You know people only donated $20 million on their taxes to NASA last year, that must be all they want". I can't say with certainty whether that would really be the result but its certainly plausable.
    • Neither of them are cut yet, and as you can see in the article, the plan is still to keep Opportunity moving next year, and ceasing operations from Spirit doesn't necessarily mean it's out of the picture completely either. While driving would almost certainly cease, and communications resources would be limited, an automated, stationary program of observations may be feasible.

      This is definitely sad, but I wouldn't call it sickening. The rovers have accomplished far more than probably anyone at JPL expect
    • Honestly, I don't think this is so sad. I mean, the rovers are cool and all, but they were designed to look for life on Mars, and obviously there wasn't any. There really isn't that much of a point in continuing their mission. They've taken plenty of cool pictures, snooped around their immediate area (the one considered most likely to harbor life on the whole planet), and found nothing. So with no life on Mars, and the rovers too slow to get to the other side of the planet and send us some pictures we haven

      • Actually, they're not designed to look for life. They're mobile geology platforms. If they happened to find life, or evidence of life, that'd be the Holy Grail. There are future probes going up that will "look for life". Still, they've done a good job and we've learned a lot from them.
    • by JSBiff (87824) on Monday March 24, 2008 @08:20PM (#22851736) Journal
      I confess complete and total ignorance here. I'm just trying to figure out why it's so expensive to run the rover program?

      The rovers, it's true, cost a lot of money to design, build, test, and deliver to Mars. But that is money already spent. Now that they are there, what are the major expenses of running the program? I realize that you do need staff and equipment to maintain communication with the rovers, and to send them programming, and that implies needing facilities in which to house the staff and equipment. But NASA already owns the facilities and equipment, I believe?

      How many staff does it take to run the program? I wouldn't think it would be a huge number of people? 20 or 30 (that might be way off, I'm just pulling numbers out of the air, admittedly, but I can't understand why it would take a lot of people to run the program)? I realize that the scientists and engineers working on a program like this would be higher paid than the general public. Assuming an average salary of 100k per year, plus benefits at, say, 20k per year, 30 people would run you 3.6M per year.

      Also, quick question - sometimes in large organizations like NASA, you can get some tricks going like paying one person to work on something that benefits two programs, but who is officially working on the other program. Could the Mars Rover program be kept alive with assistance from other programs inside NASA that need to maintain 'shared infrastructure'?
  • Priorities? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wangf00 (901609) on Monday March 24, 2008 @07:36PM (#22851330)
    Why is it that we can't support cheap science that provides valuable insight into our solar system and neighboring planets, but we can find hundreds of millions of dollars to piss away on some congress critter's self named statue and bridge? Is it really possible that not one person in congress can be asked to not screw us over for self gratification?
    • by Kamokazi (1080091)
      Exactly...they should be running those rovers until they melt down...they are STILL discovering new things. I would challenge them to find 8 millions dollars that is going to produce more scientific discovery than the rovers.
    • by j1m+5n0w (749199)

      Is it really possible that not one person in congress can be asked to not screw us over for self gratification?
      Lawrence Lessig [slashdot.org] doesn't think so [change-congress.org].
  • Sell one (Score:5, Funny)

    by victim (30647) on Monday March 24, 2008 @07:36PM (#22851334)
    They should sell one of the rovers to any institution willing to pay for it rather than let it die a slow death of neglect. A deployed rover with a proven track record is better than an $800 million shot that might arrive and land successfully.

    I'm sure non-scientists could find a use. Use it to write messages in the sands of mars.
    Maybe some Slashdotters could pool their money to write "First Post" on mars.
    • by Tackhead (54550) on Monday March 24, 2008 @08:11PM (#22851668)

      They should sell one of the rovers to any institution willing to pay for it rather than let it die a slow death of neglect. A deployed rover with a proven track record is better than an $800 million shot that might arrive and land successfully.

      The Planetary Society [planetary.org] immediately comes to mind as a serious buyer. They launched the Cosmos 1 Solar Sail [wikipedia.org] on an all-private budget of $4M. The mission failed due to hardware problem (hey, it really is rocket science), but it proved that private charitable organizations are quite capable of raising $4M for space exploration.

      The Planetary Society was also instrumental in getting the word out (and raising funds to rescue the data) regarding the Pioneer Anomaly [planetary.org].

      More important than the funding angle is the political one, but the Planetary Society has worked extremely closely with NASA over the past 30 years. The collaboration has been sufficiently close that they've actually flown hardware on the ill-fated) Mars Polar Lander [planetary.org]. The Society's work with NASA on Spirit and Opportunity goes all the way back to when the rovers were named [planetary.org] in the first place, as well as the calibration target" [nasa.gov] for the rovers' cameras.

      In other words, $4M isn't just a business possibility, the handover of a rover from NASA to the Planetary Society is a political possibility too.

    • Hell... they should let folks pay $100K an hour just to DRIVE the thing! I'll bet that you could get a good rivalry between the technology billionaires to see who could drive the rover the furthest during their rental :)
  • So in twenty years, they expect to just hit the start button again?

    In that case, we can rename it Rip Van Winkle

  • Maybe Next Year? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by anti-human 1 (911677)
    That's nice and all, but aren't we lucky to have had the landers last longer than their original expectations to begin with? Now that we can't come up with pocket change (in comparison to Iraq, for example), we're expecting them to work when we 'get around' to reactivating them?
    • by tomhudson (43916)

      Now that we can't come up with pocket change (in comparison to Iraq, for example), we're expecting them to work when we 'get around' to reactivating them?

      No. the idea is that they won't work, so that the program can be quietly killed off completely. Science is a threat to your faith-based overlords.

      • As someone above you pointed out, Bush is the president to enact a plan for getting men to Mars. Perhaps you need to actually look at budgets, because as someone else pointed out, NASA's budget has grown by a billion dollars this year. Spew elsewhere.
        • Re:Maybe Next Year? (Score:5, Informative)

          by tomhudson (43916) <.barbara.hudson. ... bara-hudson.com.> on Monday March 24, 2008 @08:29PM (#22851818) Journal

          As someone above you pointed out, Bush is the president to enact a plan for getting men to Mars. Perhaps you need to actually look at budgets, because as someone else pointed out, NASA's budget has grown by a billion dollars this year. Spew elsewhere.

          Perhaps YOU should look at NASA's budgets:

          NASA budget: 1997: 14.358 Billion
          NASA budget: 2007: 16.250 Billion

          This is not an "inflation-adjusted" figure. Over the last 10 years, NASA's budget has grown by a total of 13.177%. Over those same 10 years, inflation totalled 27.23%. (and that's only using the "core inflation" figures that don't take into account housing, food, or energy).

          Adding a billion still leaves it short by $2.017 Billion.

  • Let me know (Score:5, Funny)

    by WarJolt (990309) on Monday March 24, 2008 @07:37PM (#22851346)

    Squyres says the money will mean job cuts in the staff of about 300 scientists that operate the rovers and analyze the science findings. Those staff reductions likely will mean that they have to suspend science operations for one of the rovers, and Spirit is the likely candidate because it is currently riding out the Martian winter in a parked position.

    What I want to know is how 300 scientists manage to take turns operating because one time me and my brother tried to share a video game and it didn't end well.

    • by rkanodia (211354)
      Whatever story you have, I can top it: my dad put my Nintendo in the garbage compactor so that my brother and I would stop fighting over it.
  • by stranger_to_himself (1132241) on Monday March 24, 2008 @07:39PM (#22851352) Journal
    Now Spirit is out there, how much does it cost to run on a day-by-day basis? Surely there are enough scientific groups around the world with the money and the projects to buy time with Spirit to keep it running. There's no way we should be even contemplating new missions to Mars if nobody can find a use for the perfectly good and proven rover that is already there.
  • The article mentions that funding is being reduced for the current mission, but that decision is being made in the context of (cost overruns) with the upcoming "Mars Science Laboratory, a follow-on rover set to launch next year". So while they are cutting funding for the current rovers, it's not as if they're stopping the Mars science-based mission overall?
  • by kramer2718 (598033) on Monday March 24, 2008 @07:55PM (#22851524) Homepage
    I just called mine and told them to fund the rover.

    Get their info here [votesmart.org].
  • by Landshark17 (807664) on Monday March 24, 2008 @07:56PM (#22851538)
    "No one is any hungrier because we went to the moon, no one is any colder and certainly no one is any dumber. Why go to Mars? 'Cause it's next. 'Cause we came out of the cave and we looked over the hill and we saw fire. And we crossed the ocean and we pioneered the West and we took to the sky. The history of man is hung on a timeline of exploration and this is what's next."
    • by Dunbal (464142)

      "No one is any hungrier because we went to the moon, no one is any colder and certainly no one is any dumber. Why go to Mars? 'Cause it's next. 'Cause we came out of the cave and we looked over the hill and we saw fire. And we crossed the ocean and we pioneered the West and we took to the sky. The history of man is hung on a timeline of exploration and this is what's next."

      No, sadly what's next is mummy government smothering its children in a perpetual embrace, unless of course mummy w

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The current burn rate is over $100B (that would be 100 billion dollars) per year for the war in Iraq. Simple math shows that we could fund the Rover program for about what we're spending in 20 minutes in Iraq.
  • Cassini was supposed to be NASA's last Battlestar Galactica. But Mars Science Laboratory is scope creeping and soaking up much of the Mars funding these days. As smartly designed and surprising as the previous Mars Rovers missions have been run, the most successful planetary missions of all time, Mars Science Laboratory is a bloated monster. For the same $1G+ we could have had 4 improved rovers of the earlier model covering the planet. The new rover had better cover a lot of ground and land in an interestin

  • This just in: older programs often must be cut to provide money for newer things. More on this strange "economic" theory at 11.
  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Monday March 24, 2008 @08:10PM (#22851662) Journal
    I find this sadly typical of the kind of defective fiscal NASA-think that emerged when the engineers running things were replaced by professional administrators (and the political thinking that made that happen). The rovers are the single most successful high profile mission since the Apollo 13 rescue. The good PR generated is worth the budget. Witness the persistence of positive media reports about the success in excess of the intended mission, and compare with the other long term, ongoing mission ISS and the positive reactions of those who see those reports. (Not to compare with long term, punctuated missions, such as the Voyagers' fly-bys with long absence of reporting in between). NASA has people whose job it is to keep people engaged. Were they included in this decision?

    In any case, I'd think it more productive to hibernate the two rovers alternately, 20% of the time each. Or even 25% each, to make up for the additional shut-down and start-up costs. Both regions get 75%+ of the exploration and science done with only about half the ground personnel at the consoles and performing analyses. Hopefully some one or more group like The Planetary Society or the Mars Society will collect donations to make up for the cut.

    We hatessss adminimonstersssss, don't we my precioussss roverssss?
  • I'm boggling at the number of scientists. 300? Just what sorts of new and phenomenal information are the rovers sending back that 300 people are needed to run them? I cannot imagine why they'd need 300 people. Best guess I'm making is 45 or 55 people, depending on if they have some people dedicated to one rover or another.

    • They probably DON'T need all 300, and my guess is they could continue to run both rovers on the reduced budget. Saying that they might have to suspend operations on the rover that's already in hibernate mode is just clever PR to get public pressure to restore funding moving.
  • What if they spent 5 years or however long it would take for getting these two robots to get within spitting distance of each other, then had them attack each other Battlebots [imdb.com] style [wikipedia.org] while recording the encounter with whatever orbiters Europe and the US have circling Mars?
  • School budgets are being cut.

    Pick your poison. Would you rather search Mars for 'cool pictures', 'colored rocks' or enable entire states to give their elementary school students paper/pencils and books?

    With finite budgets, someone has to lose.
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      Yet somehow the US can afford to keep 1% of its adult population (over 2M people) in jail - not counting the court costs and processing costs. The actual number of VIOLENT criminals is far less, but hey, don't copy that floppy.
    • by dangerz (540904)
      I'd rather stop spending billions of dollars on a war that has no end in sight.
  • Why continue to spend money on probes that are already in place and working reliably, when that money could be spent getting more probes ... possibly ... built and ... possibly ... there?

    That must be the question that was answered with "out with the old, in with the new."
  • Can't they cut the funding until after both rovers become useless? Or cut when one breaks down to be useless? Very bad news indeed. :(

    I wonder if both rovers know about the bad news. They haven't updated their blogs for ages (Spirit's [livejournal.com] and Opportunity's [livejournal.com]). They must be hibernating. :)
  • Bush's posturing on a manned mission to Mars pisses me off. And it pisses me off even more when people claim they think he's sincere. By my estimation there is no way in hell we will manage to be first to return to the Moon, and an approximately equal chance of making it to Mars.

    I've got a hell of lot more faith in China, or even a reformed USSR's ability to reach either goal first, and that depresses me immensely. The USA just ain't what it used to be.

  • by PPH (736903) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:01PM (#22852450)
    I heard that Opportunity had to take a second job as a Roomba.
  • Privatize. (Score:4, Funny)

    by PinchDuck (199974) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:52PM (#22852838)
    Seriously. This would be a huge PR boost for some company. Having "Coca Cola" written in the Martian soil is a small price to pay for funding the mission.

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