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White House Wants Devastating Cuts To NASA's Mars Exploration 422

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the carl-sagan-grave-spin-powerful-enough-to-drive-generator dept.
The Bad Astronomer writes "The White House released its proposed NASA budget for FY13, and while much of it remains the same from last year, one particular program got devastating news: Mars exploration got a crippling $226 million cut, more than 38% of its budget. This means killing two future missions outright and threatening others. The reasons for this are complex, including huge cost overruns on James Webb Space Telescope and the Curiosity Mars rover, but it also points to a political lack of valuing science in America." A followup to news from before the budget was released, this has details on the actual proposed cuts and re-allocations.
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White House Wants Devastating Cuts To NASA's Mars Exploration

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  • by antido (1825442) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:10AM (#39031395)
    Because who needs progress in science?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:20AM (#39031477)

      Because who needs progress in science?

      The 50%+ who are in love with government hand-outs and have forgotten how to provide for themselves are dependent. Cut them off and they're also desperate. Think "political suicide" desperate at best, "rioting in the streets" desperate at worst. So politicians are afraid to cut the real excesses which are the entitlement programs and they are afraid to fix the fucked-up tax code where 46% pay no income tax at all. If you must view that through your political lenses and get offended and hypersensitive, so be it, but it's the truth about why this situation won't change. When a nation gets into this kind of dependency hole for the sake of political power it's hard to get back out, just ask Greece.

      It doesn't matter how you feel about the poor and how to best care for them. It doesn't matter when we can't afford to do it anymore, then no one gets much of anything you see. So they cut science to be seen "doing something" about the ridiculous debt that is now about equal to GDP.

      Politics got us here. After all people will vote for the guy who gives them free money. Then they'll be scared of the guy who says maybe all that free money costs too much and his career goes *poof*. Something more reasonable than politics is the only way out.

      • by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:44AM (#39031663)

        ...afraid to fix the fucked-up tax code where 46% pay no income tax at all.

        Riddle me this, Batman:

        What percentage of the total pie of income does that 46% who pay no taxes make?

        Answer that, and you'll understand why the people who aren't so upset about that particular factoid see you as the one seeing a distorted world through a "political lens". (As it happens -- the Tax Policy Center, who made the 46% estimate, has a much more level-headed assessment [taxpolicycenter.org]).

        • Blugh. Not the same thing at all, as the TPC paper explains.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:30AM (#39032243)

          Oh look it's this lie again. Payroll tax. Sales tax. The "46% pay no tax" myth comes from income tax only.

        • by Jhon (241832) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:30AM (#39032249) Homepage Journal

          "What percentage of the total pie of income does that 46% who pay no taxes make?"

          Riddle me this, Blindman:

          What percentage of that 46% who pay no taxes would have voted differently had they been paying to the system even a MINIMUM of 1% of their income? And what if that 1% were tied to the highest tax bracket at a 1:5 ratio such that if you want to raise the highest tax bracket from 35% to 45%, you'd need to raise the lowest from 1% to 3%?

          Think of how the masses might yowl for more responsible government spending and vote for people who enforced the spending of their money. Think of how differently this huge voting block might vote if it meant THEIR taxes would go up so they could get "more stuff".

          Taxing the "rich" more fairly shouldn't cause us to ignore taxing EVERYONE at SOME rate so we're ALL invested in the system.

          • by jpapon (1877296)
            You need to restructure your argument. Stop saying that we need to tax everyone. We already DO tax everyone.

            It seems that what we need is to clarify what the effective tax rate of everyone is. This is quite difficult to do, due to the Federal nature of the US government. There are many different levels of government (National, State, County, Local) applying many different taxes (Income, Sales, Property, etc...).

            I agree that knowledge of their exact total tax rate (and the rates of others) would affect v

        • by rickett81 (987309) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:42AM (#39032417) Homepage
          You took one piece of what the parent said focused on that.

          Yes, the 46% who pay no taxes don't make much at all. So? That isn't the underlying issue.

          The parent nailed the underlying issue: People are addicted to government handouts and would rather say "To hell with Mars" than try to do something for themselves. The majority of the people reading/posting on Slashdot are going to be able to fend for themselves and would rather see our tax dollars going to something useful rather than 'entitlements.' But until 50% of the nation thinks in this way and they vote with that in mind, things aren't going to change for the better. At best, we will keep the status quo and at worst, the US will be another Greece in a few years.

          • Most people at some time in their lifetimes will accept some kind of assistance from the federal government. You seem to think that because you have a job, you can "fend for yourself" and everything the government does is a sponge off of your effort. "Something useful rather than 'entitlements'". At some point in your life, your parents are going to need their social security. Your aunt is going to need Medicaid or Medicare. Your neighbor may need SSI. Your co-worker is going to need short-term disabi

          • Re:Underlying Issue (Score:4, Interesting)

            by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @12:22PM (#39033717) Journal

            Hmm, this is a slightly strange thread. Several of the key comments are AC.

            Trying to be clear - we're talking about why we can't go to Mars, because it's "too expensive", right?

            So then we're getting into expenses vs handouts.

            So has no one noticed the *other* two colossal drains of money? The Security Theatre (Now Playing!) and the Big Brother Engine. We're spending money to watch ourselves not-spend-money. (Copyright)

            What happened is that we have decided/proved we are not socially mature enough to avoid the Eternal Paranoia trap of the Post-911-World - on land!

            Can you imagine how tight the conditions are on a Mars mission? All the AC's keep saying "what would a Mars mission teach us?"

            Answer: How to survive on REALLY limited resources!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jellomizer (103300)
          46% not paying taxes is a HUGE percentage and a huge problem.
          Yes the poor pay a smaller percentage tax then the rich. However with 46% not paying tax combined with the fact that they are also recipients of extra services is a problem.
          I am not some raving republican stating that we should remove welfare, because we need it, without it the poor will do whatever it takes to survive and whatever it takes will be highly criminal. However if close to half the population isn't paying their share for services then
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @11:17AM (#39032877)

        The 50%+ who are in love with government hand-outs and have forgotten how to provide for themselves are dependent.

        Have you looked at the actual breakdown of that segment of the population?

        Take how many of them are senior citizens, who previously paid in taxes, but are now in retirement/subsidence mode. Take how many of them are disabled who can barely tie their own shoes, or the parents/caretakers of such. Take how many of them are children. Take how many of them are barely adults.

        Yeah, your picture isn't so easy to condemn when you actually look at the people, not your manufactured strawman of people who you think are lazy pond-suckers.

        Tell me it's wrong to be dependent when you're past your prime, when you're just a child, or where through, more than likely no fault of your own, you can't manage much of anything in life?

        Tell me how you think you're going to change that, and why.

        Cut them off and they're also desperate. Think "political suicide" desperate at best, "rioting in the streets" desperate at worst. So politicians are afraid to cut the real excesses which are the entitlement programs and they are afraid to fix the fucked-up tax code where 46% pay no income tax at all.

        And you want them to be desperate, because you believe in a survivalist mindset...but tell us what their income is. Please tell us what taking 100% of what they have would mean.

        If you must view that through your political lenses and get offended and hypersensitive, so be it, but it's the truth about why this situation won't change. When a nation gets into this kind of dependency hole for the sake of political power it's hard to get back out, just ask Greece.

        Yeah, ask Greece how they feel about the international bankers dictating their national policy.

        If they were really smart, they'd say "Screw this" and cut themselves off from the foreign system. Of course, they know they're too small to make that viable, but they should do it, just because the austerity measures forced upon them are going to cause the same harm.

        It doesn't matter how you feel about the poor and how to best care for them. It doesn't matter when we can't afford to do it anymore, then no one gets much of anything you see. So they cut science to be seen "doing something" about the ridiculous debt that is now about equal to GDP.

        Ridiculous debt? Right. Because debt is something you pay off in a year of your entire income for some reason. Stop buying into the fallacy of large numbers, it looks scary to you the individual, but you know what? I know folks who have a lot more debt than the average spread about per person. Somehow they realize, that's ok, they got it for a reason, and they realize what they get from it.

        The problem is they can't see what they get from government spending. It's just beyond their notice.

        Politics got us here. After all people will vote for the guy who gives them free money. Then they'll be scared of the guy who says maybe all that free money costs too much and his career goes *poof*. Something more reasonable than politics is the only way out.

        Great, now we see your motivations. You want to make the people lose their bread because you think it's all circuses. Too bad you don't realize where the real money is going. The sums that go to the poor are not the majority share of government spending on special interests, they aren't even a plurality. They're a drop in the bucket.

        But ok, let's say you take away the welfare. You know what happens? People realize they are going to starve. That's your intent, right? To give them the impetus to get out and do something. Nevermind the fact that many of them are senior citizens or disabled, you'll push them all the same.

        Guess what? They aren't going to do what you think. They're going to go out and take what they want, because you know what

        • by roman_mir (125474)

          Tell me it's wrong to be dependent when you're past your prime, when you're just a child, or where through, more than likely no fault of your own, you can't manage much of anything in life?

          - sure it's wrong. It's not a 'collective' problem that forces individuals into becoming slaves to that system for no fault of their own.

          Vote with our feet, that's what we must do to avoid being put into this position of perpetual slavery by the socialist propaganda.

      • the fucked-up tax code where 46% pay no income tax at all.

        Hey, only 54% more to go.

        No, but really, your statement is false. Income taxes are part of the cost of goods. On an average basis, 22% of the price of good you pay in the store goes to pay the income taxes of those in the product stream.

        If your taxes went up $10000, you'd want $10000 more from your employer (with a small margin of elasticity) and your employer would raise his prices to cover that. By time the income taxes of the farmer, the fertil

        • by SpryGuy (206254)

          Do you want the society of China or Mexico here? The dramatic air pollution and water pollution of China, or the slums and crime of Mexico?

          You DO realize that with our taxes, we buy civilization, right? We buy clean air and water, peaceful neighborhoods, and other basic quality of life.

          What we really need to get rid of (after fixing the tax code so that the wealthy are returned to paying their fair share) is all the corporate welfare and tax-breaks for highly profitable businesses, as well as trimming som

    • No kidding. I mean that 225 million savings is going to go oh so far!!! As somebody who tends to be in the center of politics I have to say that I am completely disappointed in Obama. He has turned out to be a poor example of a president. Yes yes blame the congress and house as well. I think what bothers me the most with him is his lack of leadership. Yes you can argue that the Republicans are trying to call him out. BUT a great leader like Regan, or Clinton just stared down other politicians. Obama makes bold statments and then backs off in a major way. There is compromise, but there is also taking a stand and setting a clear path.

      • by postbigbang (761081) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:27AM (#39031527)

        Maybe you think this about a luddite Obama, but it's more about the fact that the government is squeezed in all quarters. The deficit roars, pension and public programs liability soars, there are huge pressures to keep taxes down in the face of an economic recovery, and it's not a wonder that Mars trip funding gets a heel on the garden hose.

        This isn't about leadership, this is about revenue. Go tell your friends that the government is nearly broke and needs real funding. Then, bills assuaged, we can dream about Mars and beyond. Until then, the piggy bank is empty, as in no dough.

        • by Baloroth (2370816)

          It isn't about revenue, either. The government has... lots of money.

          It's about spending. I.e. the government having absolutely no self-control over it. Spending went up 16% from 2008 to 2009, and in recent years has been nearly a quarter (~24.4% of the US GDP), compared to closed to a fifth over the preeceding 40-odd years (~20%). A government that spends 3.5 trillion doesn't have a revenue problem.

          • Sadly, you're wrong. There's a Libertarian-ish meme out there that purports this, but indeed, there's a revenue problem of horrific size. The outflows of money are huge, despite how much money the Fed has printed. There must be real work done to surfeit the GDP; raw materials and work applied is the crux of the economy. From there, it becomes more complex.

            We are a larger, and more complex economy than most people realize. We have far too many US corporate products sequestered offshore, instead of being taxe

            • Actually it is absolutely true that its ONLY a spending problem. Saying otherwise is like saying we have to "pay for tax cuts". Absurdity in the extreme. Every strata of income, be it the poor to middle class to high earners to large Government revenue, overspends...we shouldn't have a [rising] spending budget and work out how to raise the revenue to match it, but instead see what our income is and work out what we can spend from what we get. What do you think happens to those that live their lives by s
      • by atrizzah (532135) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:29AM (#39032225)
        There's only so much a person can expect Obama to do. The reality is that there is a massive movement in this country that is opposing social investment (taxes) for any purpose. If we're not willing to pay extra to balance the budget and increase our investment in our own future, then the real funds we can invest in ourselves decrease as more of our tax revenue is devoted to servicing the debt. I don't think Obama ramming any sort of increased spending down the GOP's throat is a winning strategy, and without tax increases or spending cuts on untouchable programs, there's really no other way. He could stare the GOP down, as you say, but the GOP's politicians have no incentive to back down. Their sole goal is to set the man up to lose the re-election bid, and failing that, they're at least going to stonewall everything he does to make him appear ineffective.
      • by dave420 (699308)
        Put anyone in the White House and it'd be just as much of a clusterfuck. The real disappointment is how fucking stupid US politics has become. It's embarrassing. From the declaration of independence to the current shit-pie? What a fall.
    • by na1led (1030470) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:34AM (#39031567)
      It's more lucrative to blow people up, than explore our solar system.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Spinnakker (2574173)
      ... that's right, because NASA is the only group that creates technology useful to the general public. Oh wait, I think a few people ride jet airliners, watch TV or receive phone calls distributed by satellites and use called the Interweb or Webernets... I forget exactly what that last one is called...
    • by bjdevil66 (583941)

      Doesn't the military drive some science/research forward?

      Yes, the military needs to be trimmed back SOME (including some overseas base closures that should've probably happened when The Wall Fell over 20 years ago, but the military should remain strong.

      This whole cutting rinky dink Mars programs is a waste of time. The real issue is cutting back on the trillions going into social services (social security, medicare, etc.) while not raising revenue. The social programs were started when we had a huge industr

    • by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @12:37PM (#39033959)

      It's a good thing the military is still funded... Because who needs progress in science?

      It's stunning that this post made it to plus five, and shows just how insidious misinformation can be.

      Obama's budget CUTS military spending. Not reduces the growth rate. CUTS. By tens of billions of dollars. The DoD budget in 2012 was $671 billion [deathandtaxesposter.com]. Obama's proposal for 2013 puts it at $620.3 billion [nytimes.com]

      If you follow that second link, you can see the cuts/increases broken out by department. You'll see that the biggest cuts hit the military, the Department of Homeland Security (especially hitting the TSA), the FBI, and the ATF. There are also big scary red circles on the DOL (but that's due to decreasing unemployment and thus decreases in unemployment benefits paid out) and Federal Student Aid (but look closely and you'll see its a reduction in mandatory spending offset by a matching increase in discretionary spending). And finally, there's NASA, being cut by a whopping 0.3%.

      This is like a Slashdotter's dream budget. Cuts to the military and the TSA and all the other three-letter bogeymen, increases to science spending, and a reduction in overall spending. But by focusing one single tiny program, just 0.006% of the budget, the article submitter was able to masterfully manipulate scores of people into thinking that this budget is bad and anti-science.

  • Confused (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrgnDancer (137700) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:11AM (#39031399) Homepage

    Didn't we just read a story yesterday that indicated some fairly substantial increases in overall research funding? It seems to me that this indicates a preference for certain research programs over others, not "a political lack of valuing science in America." I mean, you can quibble about which programs got the axe, or say that the overall raises in funding were insufficient, but to point at one research project among the hundreds or thousands that the federal government funds; and use that alone as evidence for a failure in will hardly seems reasonable. It sounds to me more like "My favorite program got cut! Americas hates teh sciences!!!1!one!"

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Or he could have simply cut some entitlement program and left NASA's budget intact. But that would make too much sense.

      • Re:Confused (Score:5, Informative)

        by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... org minus author> on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:45AM (#39031669)

        NASA's budget was left close to intact, at $17.7 billion, down from about $17.75 billion this year. The main change wasn't overall funding for NASA, but reallocating where the money is spent within NASA.

      • by fedos (150319)
        Such as corn and oil subsidies.
      • by atrizzah (532135)
        Yes...cut the social safety net that millions of people rely on to fund pet projects for engineers. What could be bad about that?
    • Re:Confused (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GreatBunzinni (642500) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:32AM (#39031553)

      Didn't we just read a story yesterday that indicated some fairly substantial increases in overall research funding? It seems to me that this indicates a preference for certain research programs over others, not "a political lack of valuing science in America."

      My thoughts exactly. This post sounds too much like partisan drivel intended to smear Obama. I mean, it may be a shame to cut spending on a specific space exploration program. Yet, to go from some spending cuts to it also points to a political lack of valuing science in America, even after Obama asked for increasing public investment on research [slashdot.org], is a bit too much to swallow.

      • by will_die (586523)
        The summary is far from partisan it is written from someone who wants mars exploration and does not want the funding for it cut. That some other project got funding does not matter if it is not something you value.
        • Re:Confused (Score:5, Insightful)

          by GreatBunzinni (642500) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:29AM (#39032217)

          The summary is far from partisan it is written from someone who wants mars exploration and does not want the funding for it cut. That some other project got funding does not matter if it is not something you value.

          It's one thing to criticize how a specific project is being funded. It's an entirely different thing to claim that reducing the funding of a specific project "points to a political lack of valuing science in America." One someone accuses the administration responsible for this specific spending cut of being responsible for "a political lack of valuing science", while ignoring historical funding increases in other areas, then we are way beyond criticizing a specific project and well into dishonest partisan bickering.

    • Re:Confused (Score:5, Insightful)

      by john82 (68332) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:36AM (#39031581)

      Keep in mind that this is the President's proposed budget. It's up to congress to actually spend money. And although they haven't got off their collective lazy butts to pass a budget, they've had no trouble spending (or wasting) money.

      What we do have is direct evidence of the President's lack of commitment to a manned space program. He doesn't want to come right out and say that given the romantic attachment Americans have to the history of the program. Still, at every turn this President has paid lip service to the notion of a manned program and then cut the legs off when he thought no one might be looking.

      And to the parent, this isn't quibbling. It's a statement of fact.

      • by PlatyPaul (690601)
        Is this a bad thing? I mean, romanticize how you will, but is it really better to put human (or even robot) footprints on Mars than to push the telescope programs? 225,000,000 km or 2.25 x 10^20 km - we can't live there (yet).
      • by LehiNephi (695428)
        It's also worth pointing out that the House of Representatives has passed a budget. It's the Democrat-controlled senate that hasn't taken up a budget for about three years now. Proposing a budget in today's political climate is just an invitation for your opponents to demagogue you in the media. Easier to threaten to shut down the government and then pass a Continuing Resolution rather than the constitutionally-demanded full budget.
      • Re:Confused (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Coriolis (110923) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:21AM (#39032117)

        Manned space exploration != Mars. Obama wants industry to handle LEO, and NASA instead to focus on solving the hard problems of manned deep space exploration (with the implication that he expects industry to ride their coat tails to the Asteroid Belt). This is perfectly consistent with his stated goals.

        To put it another way, if we needed to leave the planet in a hurry, Mars is utterly impractical. It will take centuries to terraform it, if it's even feasible. On the other hand, if industry can be persuaded to work out how to knock the kinks out of ground to LEO travel, and to learn how to build safe long-term habitats (for instance, hotels) with materials gathered from deep space, then we might just stand a chance.

    • Re:Confused (Score:4, Informative)

      by zrbyte (1666979) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:59AM (#39031837)
      This [sciencemag.org] and this [sciencemag.org] should clear up the confusion. NIST got a huge boost of funding, as well as renewable energy programs at the DOE.
    • by hey! (33014)

      Didn't we just read a story yesterday that indicated some fairly substantial increases in overall research funding? It seems to me that this indicates a preference for certain research programs over others...

      It's the James Webb telescope. The program was initiated in 1997 with an estimated budget of $0.5 billion and a launch date 10 years in the future. In 2002 when the telescope got its name, the program cost was estimated at $2.5 billion and launch date 8 years in the future. As of 2011 the cost estimate is $8.7 billion and launch date 7 years in the future. If we'd been able to hold the program costs at 2010 levels, that would be a lifetime cost difference of $2.2 billion. That could easily have funded al

  • by muttoj (572791) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:13AM (#39031413)
    This means that the joint venture between Europe and the USA will be cancelled. The next mission will be a joint venture between Europe and Russia? Or perhaps the Chinese?
  • by VinylRecords (1292374) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:21AM (#39031481)

    California taxpayers alone are on the hook for $21.8 billion for the fiscal year of 2011 for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I mean really...we can't find $226 million from all national the taxpayers to fund cutting edge science? Science that will have an everyday impact on our lives once NASA's technology becomes consumer grade. But we can steal $21.8 billion in one year from one state alone to fund the wars? Wonderful.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Why waste money on science that Americans will ignore anyway?

      • They'll stop ignoring it once it turns into the next must-have appliance, like a refrigerator or microwave oven.

    • by wbr1 (2538558) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:27AM (#39031519)
      There is nothing to shoot at and no people to make enemies of on Mars. Launch a radio transmitter their that broadcasts fundamentalist Islamic hate messages back at earth and we will be on Mars inside of 2 years.
      Sadly my cynicism seems to think that as a species we are going to sit here in the grave of a planet we are digging, kill each other, and slowly be choked to death from our own shit and effluent which we so handily ignore.
      • Nice thought, you are quite right though. Either that or put a torrent site up there, thirty days and the lawyers would invade. Mars habitat... done. All it will take is a few MP3s and a movie or two.

      • There is a time for everything. Getting off this planet is a long way off, and delays to the first manned mission will be a blip in comparison. We might not have a suitable colony for large population transfers for hundreds of years, regardless of when we do the first launch.

        For that reason, I support focusing on problems now, and let the universities/private funding mature/progress the technology to get to Mars reliably in the mean time.

        It is very much the computing/long thought problem. We progress in tec
    • by Anonymous Coward

      we can't find $226 million from all national the taxpayers to fund cutting edge science?

      As a long suffering taxpayer and patriot, the answer is clearly no. If you want to fund a mission to mars, go ahead and write a check, but stop stealing from the mouths of me and my children to fund an incompetent government that just claims the innovations made by PRIVATE individuals as its own. In the future, you should do some basic reading [amazon.com] before asking such questions.

    • The short answer is yes we can afford it but the current climate of unnecessary and dangerous austerity just to make small numbers even smaller is not going away any day soon. Those on the other side have to pick their fights and decided that for a number of reasons "Mars Exploration" isn't one they can back.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Honestly a lot of what private sector has done comes on the back of NASA engineers but companies like these http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_private_spaceflight_companies are able to do it many order of magnitudes cheaper. If it was 20% you wouldn't hear much about it... but they are able to do it upwards of 80% cheaper so far. Lets assume they are way off their numbers (which so far it doesn't look so) they still can do it half as cheap. The reasons for this is that NASA has gotten comfortable with the

  • Budget Overruns (Score:2, Interesting)

    by olsmeister (1488789)
    Unfortunately, I hate to say I agree with this. The scientific community needs to figure out a way to generate realistic budget predictions AND STICK TO THEIR BUDGETS. If you cannot do this, nobody wants to risk funding future missions / projects. I get the distinct feeling that they lowball their estimates intentionally upfront, knowing that they will be able to go back to the trough later on once the government has that initial investment made. Private business has learned throwing good money after ba
    • "Unfortunately, I hate to say I agree with this."

      You think that's bad? You should be he one who has to read it!

  • Ok, so I want to see us explore mars and space in general. I want this a lot. I think it's important, interesting, exciting, and more. And I really wish we weren't in the financial situation we are in the US, but we are. I don't think this is a matter of the administration valuing space exploration less, but more of a reflection that we can't continue spending recklessly forever.

    Mars, space exploration, and science in general are very important for the human kind and the US' wellbeing in general. But w

    • One of the keys to debt reduction is focusing on cutting big ticket items first. If you're living beyond your means, chances are it's because of your housing costs. If you are renting a $3,000 apartment, it doesn't make sense to try to balance a $1,500 budget deficit by cutting out 1 $10 cup of coffee every week. And it makes even less sense to cut out your $10 birth control medication or something like that.

      Likewise, if your nation is spending $3,000 billion on social programs and military spending, and th

  • by PortHaven (242123) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:40AM (#39031621) Homepage

    I always find it sad that people cannot see both the benefits of space exploration/colonization, and the need for it.

    Seriously, one errant asteroid and all those trillions spent on welfare and war seem pretty stupid.

    Human Race....R.I.P.

    10,000 B.C. - 2012 A.D.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      The downside is that Newt would also spend trillions on war. In the actual event, the space-travel funding would probably be cut to pay for invading Iran or something.

    • by roman_mir (125474)

      Tell me something - why should ANYBODY give a shit about the human race becoming extinct that way?

      It's not like majority of the actual living people would personally benefit from a small group of individuals making it through a catastrophe. 99.9999...% of people would still not benefit from funding anything that allows "human race" to survive. It makes no difference to almost every single person on the planet whether the human race survives with a few hundred of a thousand individuals that would be say sent

  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:54AM (#39031777)

    ...but it also points to a political lack of valuing science in America.

    Or it could mean that the government is finally trying to be fiscally responsible and cut this portion of NASA's budget to deal with the "huge" cost overruns on the James Webb Space Telescopen and the Curiosity Mars rover mentioned in the summary.

  • by Squidlips (1206004) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:57AM (#39031815)
    This is just another attack on the highly successful robotic missions of JPL by the fly-boy, mannned-mission bureaucrats in Houston. Manned mission are expensive, pork-barrel stunts that have achieved almost nothing scientifically while the JPL robotic missions have been hugely successful (Voyage, Cassini, Opportunity, etc.) and, compared to manned missions, inexpensive. So guess where the cuts are to be? The robotic missions, of course. That is because NASA is run by ex-pilots / astronauts who think Star Wars was a documentary. The Planetary Society was created to stop such bleeding of robotic mission to pay for cost-overruns of manned missions; I just re-upped my membership. Join is you want to stop this insanity.
  • The country has three concurrent wars for oil going on, and to fund it they probably spend more than NASA's entire yearly budget in a few months. Add to the mission goals the intent to research and build a giant continent-vaporizing laser, or allude to the presence of crude oil on Mars, and watch your funding skyrocket.

    In all seriousness though, there does seem to be a significant lack of interest in the sciences whenever there isn't a clear end result of return on investment. It's no big secret that the

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      About 1.5 months of one war is equal to a year's NASA budget, given reasonably conservative estimates of direct costs only.

  • The problem as I see it is that Americans, or at least American politicians, would rather pander to the portion of the religious right who claim that evolution isn't real, the rapture is near, the Bible contains everything man is meant to know, and science is an instrument of the Satan. It isn't just the right either. The only way I see the US getting into science is if there's money in it. We have been shutting down basic science for years in favor of things like biotech that make big money for business. N

  • Yesterday there was an article about the budget expanding it's investment into science. Today, we report that NASA funding is being cut. So the conclusion is the US hates science?

    I don't get it... Hate on them all you want for cutting NASA funding. But it's not a blanket "We hate science" thing...

  • Whenever a story like would come across /. 4 years ago, we would have endless posts about Bush being an idiot, etc. Now, I can't find a single one saying anything about Obama.....

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:15AM (#39032047) Journal
    In fact, Obama calls for spending a lot more money on NIH and NAS. The issue here is that republicans have called for cuts to private space development in hopes of pushing the monster SLS. To do that, the neo-cons will fund russia to the tune of .5B a year from 2015-2018 as well as pay 20-30B for SLS development which will finally launch 70 tonnes to LEO in 2020 (yes, it is already 2 years late).
    OTH, NASA wants the economical approach so that they can make a great deal more launches in the future. As such, NASA is cutting several missions that will cost billions, but is spending money on getting human launch going by 2014. However, with that, they will also be able to put red dragon (spaceX's dragon) on Mars with a 1 ton payload of equipment for .5B. So, should NASA spend several billion to get one mission to Mars, OR should they spend money today to be able to get a number of CHEAP missions to mars a year earlier?

    I do not like seeing NASA's budget cut, HOWEVER, kudos to Bolden. He is doing the right thing in getting ECONOMICAL private space going.
    • by alispguru (72689) <bane&gst,com> on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @11:40AM (#39033191) Journal

      In NASA funding, it seems the best you can hope for is that the politicians do the right thing (encourage private space transportation) for the wrong reason (it's cheaper). Obama is doing the right thing - the problem is Congress.

      SLS funding enthusiasm is not so much partisan as it it regional. The NASA centers in Florida, Texas, Alabama, and California want SLS to continue so the jobs in their states/districts will continue. Those states may look like they're solid red or blue, but if you look at their representatives on the House Space subcommittee, they're surprisingly balanced - typically one D and one R.

      • by roman_mir (125474)

        Obama is doing the right thing - the problem is Congress.

        - so you say, so he says. He is a wannabe dictator, a king, he just found out that he can't rule like a king, but he still does everything to try (NDAA and all the wars he started, those are good examples).

        The government is supposed to be near impossible to move, that's a feature, not a bug.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:58AM (#39032651)

    Question: If there's life on Mars and we find out in 50 years instead of 20, what are the practical implications?
    Answer: Nada. Zip.

    Question: If we can't figure out how to reversibly cool the planet, or get enough concentrated solar energy to use as a substitute for oil an coal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cubic_mile_of_oil), what happens?
    Answer: A great unpleasantness (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_depletion#Implications_of_a_world_peak), possibly fatal to 5 out of every 6 people or more by the end of the century.

    Near Earth orbit efforts have to take priority over exploratory efforts for a while. There's time for exploration after we've averted our own self-made disasters.

    • I wish I had mod points!
      I'm so sick of these religious like responses from scientists; it's as if they made abortions free and all the jesus freaks said we don't value life anymore. (The lack of respect for science IS a problem in the USA; part of the anti-intellectualism movement but being anti-Mars is not really part of it.)

      We have HUGE problems here on earth that are not being solved. Hell, one reason Bush pushed the Mars program was to retask NASA away from planetary science; a clever move for an idiot

  • True colors come out (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lawrence_Bird (67278) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @11:05AM (#39032729) Homepage

    The reasons for this are complex, including huge cost overruns on James Webb Space Telescope and the Curiosity Mars rover, but it also points to a political lack of valuing science in America."

    Anytime there is any cut to a program, however dubious the scientific merit, that is what you will hear. And that is a perfect example of what I spoke of in the previous posting on this subject. We have created a situation where scientists are now a welfare group on the government dole. There is no 'oh my god if we dont get a man to Mars by XXXX we are doomed!!!' about this. JWST, LHC, manned space missions - all these giganormous projects are more about keeping the scientists employed than any attempt at a rational trade off between ability to fund and desirability of outcome.

    So as not to just pick on our Martian overlords, Suppose Cern never built the LHC, what would have happened? Fermilab probably would have run a couple extra years before shutting down. Other smaller labs would continue and other new experiments might come on using the existing infrastructure. Any discovery of Higgs would be delayed. Outside of the HEP/cosmology community how would that delay affect anyone on planet earth?

    However, there almost certainly would have been a large excess of high energy physicists and associated professions. Some will say what about grid computing or this or that. While true that the demands of Tevatron and LHC pushed the envelope on some computing technology, those advances were near certain to come not long after without the HEP leadership.

    Bottom line is that there needs to be a long hard look at how science is done not just in US but around the world. The way science is funded is certainly broken but it goes well beyond that and reaches into tenure, publishing and other areas.

    • by roman_mir (125474)

      Well, obviously. All this stuff that is done not for any reason but just because there is money to throw at it (until there is no money), it's all BS.

      Science didn't progress quickly within the last 300 years because of government, it progressed despite of government and because of free market capitalism and industrialisation. Those are the actual primary movers of engineering problems and of all of the science that goes around it. Scientific funding is a side effect of industry trying to make a buck, noth

We warn the reader in advance that the proof presented here depends on a clever but highly unmotivated trick. -- Howard Anton, "Elementary Linear Algebra"

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