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Space United States Science

Bush To Announce Manned Trip To Moon, Mars 1595

edmunz writes "Foxnews just placed an article on their website saying that Bush is expected to make an announcement towards the middle of next week, proposing a manned mission to Mars as well as a return to the moon. Bush hopes to spark a renewed public interest in space exploration. No mission would happen any time soon, rather a preparation of over a decade would take place before the first men/women set out to explore Mars."
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Bush To Announce Manned Trip To Moon, Mars

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  • by ( 156602 ) * on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:31AM (#7924641) Homepage Journal
    It's too bad there isn't a "Survivor" series in the works: "Who Will You Vote off the Planet?"

    "Survivor Planet Wide Edition"
    • by madmancarman ( 100642 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:36AM (#7924702)
      It's too bad there isn't a "Survivor" series in the works: "Who Will You Vote off the Planet?"

      Can we start with people on this planet?

    • by ad0gg ( 594412 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:36AM (#7924709)
      Better yet based off the "Joe Millionaire" show, Send a bunch of people too the moon with one "pilot" and 1 return space craft that has room for 2 people, the pilot and someone else. They have to win the pilots choice to who goes home. Jokes on them since the pilot is really just a construction worker from LA.
      • by Dukeofshadows ( 607689 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:11AM (#7925053) Journal
        First, it's about fu*king time we went back to the moon and Mars. We need to get to the Asteroid Belt and secure access to the resources out there. New technologies will surely result, perhaps even fusion with the help of He-3, and the ultra-pure manufacturing possible in zero-g are only immediately obvious commercial benefits.

        Seriously, the people we send to the moon and especially Mars need to work as a unit and either get along or be married couples. People who are cramped in a pressurized metal tube for days on end will start having problems, especially if the didn't like each other in the first place. Assuming it will take at least 7 days to get to the moon, do research, and get back, the strain is tremendous when it's all done in 1000 cubic feet or less. If Mars is involved, the travel time could be just over 6 months (ideally with a plasma drive system and only 2 weeks at Mars, 3 months there and back) to just over a year (advanced chemical drive system). The wrong combination of people could cause unprofessional attitudes among other things. Also, how big is the proposed Mars craft? And will it have artifical gravity?
        • by TexVex ( 669445 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:31AM (#7925215)
          Yeah, and then two of of these married couples who are not married could have a bastard son and name him Michael. Then, when the mission falls apart and everybody winds up dead, the boy will be raised by Martians and eventually return to Earth to bring us back to God, Martian style.
        • by uncoveror ( 570620 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:44AM (#7925315) Homepage
          I don't know what Bush hopes to find on Mars, but he wants to go back to the moon for the green cheese. []
        • by ( 629916 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @02:12AM (#7925484) Homepage
          "We need to get to the Asteroid Belt and secure access to the resources out there."

          What? Are you saying the resources out there are insecure now? By the way you don't need to send people there in order to take the resources.

        • by jacksonh ( 721732 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @02:52AM (#7925722)
          get along or be married couples because you cant have both.
        • by sterno ( 16320 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @04:36AM (#7926136) Homepage
          We aren't going to Mars or the moon. This is election year politics. He's trying to look like a visionary leader, by boldly setting forth to conquer the universe (or is that liberate?).

          This will all get killed in budget negotiations after the election. He'll be able to look like he's fighting for it, but ultimately his own people in congress will cut the budget. Kinda like no child left behind. Yeah, real leadership there, except that the budget isn't there to run it properly.

          So, for now, just whip out your 3D glasses and check out the photos coming back because that's as close as we are getting for a very long time.
          • by Dusabre ( 176445 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @06:14AM (#7926469) Homepage
            This will all get killed in budget negotiations after the election.

            As happened with the Moon shot? If this Bush makes a declaration, he will try and keep it. Otherwise he'll end up compared to his father. Jr. wants to be a JFK and Reagan in one compassionate conservative package.

            As for the budget - the money will be found - since it'll all go to the aerospace/defence industry.
            • by Slack3r78 ( 596506 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @09:11AM (#7927085) Homepage
              The difference is, when Kennedy announced the moon shot, we weren't running by far the largest deficit in the history of the nation. It really amazes me that the federal government is losing a half TRILLION dollars per year right now and people seem to think there's plenty of money to throw around. Some deficit spending is OK, massively driving up the federal debt is not.
          • by ishmalius ( 153450 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @06:24AM (#7926501)
            This is yet another of those long term goals that the president will not need to deliver in the short run. There will be no money, no manpower, no political arm-twisting.

            If you recall, he promised a renewed emphasis on space after the shuttle crash. This is probably a gentle way of telling NASA that this will not happen, that any new programs will be deferred to another president.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 09, 2004 @08:50AM (#7926980)
            Politics is always about politics, so if it appears as science it is really science as a political factor. Space is always good for grand vision and bold declarations with litle need of following up. This is one reason why NASA is in its current shape; sending manned missions now is just an expensive, all payed for suicide trip.

            Now move 10 years forward and imagine China or Japan on the moon. One of the two Japanese space agencies, NASDA, stated about 10 years ago that they would go to the moon if there was water to be found since that would make the project actually economically viable, and likely profitable.

            Add to this that there is one piece of valuable real estate known today, a mountain on the lunar south pole that has direct view of Earth far more frequently than any other place on the moon. Sure, land on the moon cannot be claimed but just already sitting there is in practice controlling it, much as the South Pole cannot be claimed yet the US base (McMurdo Base) on the very Pole gives real control.

            Under such circumstances it is likely the US will follow. That is follow, not lead; the current NASA is in no shape to lead anywhere today. It is horrific as it is with shuttles blowing up and investigative boards showing that little was learned. Imagine astronauts fighting for their lives with no hopes over a foreign planet. That would surely be the Vietnam of US space explorations.

        • by rctay ( 718547 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @07:37AM (#7926722)
          I over heard a conversation yesterday about the recent Mars Mission. To sum it up the comments where, " All that money for pictures of a bunch of rocks? You could get that in any dessert for nothing". You expect the general public with notions like this to support a multi-decade effort to Mars? This isn't TV or game console instant gratification and special effects. This is decades of hard work and trillions of dollars.
    • Scrapping shuttles (Score:5, Informative)

      by DonGar ( 204570 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:54AM (#7924909) Homepage
      Here's an article with more information here []

      Amoung other things they are saying that they plan to scrap the shuttle fleet after ISS is finished.

      It also says that NASA will be the only department other than homeland security and the military to get a budget increase. Personally, I'm not sure this will really happen, since they are planning through 2013, which is (including the current) four presidential terms away. The US goverment isn't very good at sticking with one plan that long.

      • by skimitar ( 730902 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @02:05AM (#7925452)
        A cause for concern is in the last paragraph:

        "Sources said Bush will direct NASA to scale back or scrap all existing programs that do not support the new effort"

        What about the exploration of the (possible) oceans on Europa? The rest of the solar system? The Terrestrial Planet Finder? []

        There's more to space than Mars.

      • by tealover ( 187148 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @02:10AM (#7925481)
        The US goverment isn't very good at sticking with one plan that long.

        In 1961 Kennedy said we'd make it to the moon by the end of the decade. They seem to have stuck through that plan.

        • by DonGar ( 204570 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @02:43AM (#7925676) Homepage
          That's true, but it's more of an aberation than the norm.

          More money was spent redesigning the ISS to meet the continually changing requirements from congress than was in the original budget to complete and launch it.

          NASA has wasted stupendous amounts of money over the years by starting projects and expecting congress to deliver the additional money (promised by congress) needed to complete them. Congress changes their minds, cuts and changes the budgets, and generally screws things up. The end results generally mean a lot of money spent, but little accomplished.

          Part of the reason that NASA has been more effective over the last few years was that a new director came in (I forget his name), who understood what was happening and starting planning for it.
  • by kippy ( 416183 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:32AM (#7924654)
    There are a number of common arguments against sending humans to Mars. I thought I would address them up front before too many people put forth incorrect claims.

    - Mars exploration is expensive

    Not so. The best estimate I've heard is a 20 billion startup cost spread over 10 years with a 2 billion cost per mission. Sure that's a lot but it's well within the current NASA budget if you take away ISS and the Shuttle program. Neither of those are of much use anyway.

    Also, If you take a look at the federal budget [], you'll see that the NASA budget of around 17 billion is an order of magnitude cheaper than either the defense budget, or health and human services (wellfare). Even Veterans affairs gets about 3 times that money. It's a small part of the national budget if done right with large rewards down the line.

    - Mars exploration is dangerous

    True to an extent but nothing work getting is without risk. NASA will run out of hardware long before it runs out of volunteers. That's not to say that we'll be killing most people we send up, but rather than there is no shortage of people willing to take the risks. Oh, and if you're going to bring up the old "too much radiation" argument, see this []. There are lots of things more dangerous on Earth than going to Mars. My morning comute is probably more risky.

    - There's nothing to gain from going to Mars

    Where do I even start? New home for humanity. Unprecedented Scientific discovery. Easy access to the asteroids ($trillion apiece in ore!). Tech jobs at home. Youngsters inspired to go into science and engineering. Plentiful fusion fuel (this will be important in the next 10-20 years). I could go on.

    Going to Mars and taming space is the only way forward for humanity as a whole. For a better description of this and more please check out Entering Space [] and The Case for Mars [].

    Lastly, I would urge everyone who is enthused about this to take action and write your representatives. I cannot stress that enough. Papa Bush made a call for this but backed out when it looked too hard because of a falsely inflated sticker price. We have to make sure that he sticks to his guns. We have to make sure he does it write and we have to make sure that he has the backing in Congress to make it work. Check out this [] for a primer.

    • by Frymaster ( 171343 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:36AM (#7924704) Homepage Journal
      why spend money and time going to mars?

      nasa has a plan for a lander on europa [] complete with a sub-ice probe that's been sitting on the backburner for years.

      if dubya is going to spend money on the space program that's a worthwhile project!

      • by Aardpig ( 622459 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:41AM (#7924776)

        nasa has a plan for a lander on europa complete with a sub-ice probe that's been sitting on the backburner for years.

        I wouldn't even call these plans; at the moment, the only Europa-relevant mission currently under consideration by NASA is the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter [] (JIMO). Unfortunately, as its name implies, JIMO won't have a lander facility. The mission, if it goes ahead, will be launched no sooner than 2011.

      • by Pseudonym ( 62607 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:44AM (#7924811)

        Didn't you get the memo? "All these worlds are yours except Europa."

      • 2004 (Score:4, Insightful)

        by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:12AM (#7925071) Homepage Journal
        A robot probe to a minor moon nobody's heard of? That isn't gonna help get Dubya re-elected. It's like sitting in the left-hand seat for that carrier landing -- it doesn't actually make any sense, but it looks good on TV.

        I tend to suspect that this "leak" is a way to test the water. Some people will say it just what the country needs, others will whine about the cost. If they flag wavers seem to predominate, he'll make the actual announcement. If the whining is louder, he'll say that it was just a tentative plan that the media blew out of proportion.

        Either way, this just isn't going to happen. I mean, where's the money supposed to come from? And Dubya knows this, of course. He hopes to commit a few billion on "plans" that will come to nothing. But by the time this is obvious, somebody else will be President.

        Except this might all backfire. This kind of blatant manipulation tends to feed people's cynicism. It's certainly feeding mine.

    • by myc ( 105406 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:38AM (#7924739)
      I agree with just about everything you say, except that I think establishing a permanent moon base first should be a priority. Reasons:

      1. The moon is only 3 days away. Mars is months away. Logistically, it's easier.

      2. The moon gives us an opportunity to work out engineering issues of establishing a permanent base on foreign celestial bodies.

      3. There may be immediate tangible benefits to a moon base: mining, factories, observatories, astronaut training, research.

    • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:44AM (#7924805)
      It cost them more than 3x the original estimate on ISS, and this is after the project was watered down. Your $20 billion number is laughable and I defy you to cite the source as being remotely legit or realistic. Even if a valid scientific method can be attached to the $20 billion number you haven't factored in the absurd cost overruns this project will most obviously experience.
      • by tmortn ( 630092 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:07AM (#7925808) Homepage
        Read up on Mars Direct before you speak to the impossibility. 20 billion is Zurbins most optomistic estimate based on getting away from the absurd cost plus contract system in place.

        If you want to know how much weight his estimate has ponder on this little tidbit. That insane 500+ billion price tag in response to Bush Sr.'s desire for a mars mission is one of the things that got him working on his plan in the first place. Once he had fleshed mars direct out- including a small scale demonstration of his fuel production method- his plan became somewhat co-opted by NASA as their current plan of choice for a mars mission and a lower price estimate for a manned mars mission was revised down from the 500+ price tag to around 60-80 billion as a direct result of adopting some of the ideas he proposed.

        That 500+ billion dollar plan figured on the development of new technology and a massive expedition in the vision of Werner Von Braun, new technolgy everywhere. In short it was A bonaza for space contractors that made the commitee proposal acceptable to all parties that took place in its creation.. ie they all got a nice slice of the pie. Hell its entirely possible the 500billion was a woefully lowballed estimate of what that plan would have ultimately cost had we actually persued it.

        The Zurbin plan uses known hardware. The fuel creation process is a very well established set of checmical reactions that has been in use since the 1800's and as I mentioned already demonstrated ( in martian atmosphere conditions ) by Zurbin. He proposes a return of a heavy lift booster either by reviving saturn V, using the russian energia design or adapting shuttle hardware to lift payload mass rather than a heatshield/landing gear/control surfaces for the shuttle. IE its not new.

        One of two 'new' elements is the length of time. He proposes a 500 day long stay on the surface of mars instead of the roughly two weeks proposed by most other proposals. With roughly 6 months travel time both ways the equipment then has to be sufficiently reliable or backed up by redundancies for a 3-4 year period. The other and probably only truly new element to his plan is to utilize artificial gravity via rotation of the habitat against the counterweight of the final launch stage during the trip to Mars. An element that is optional but desirable to avoid the loss of bone density during prolonged exposure to zero G.

        Lastly he has one very contraversial element and that is a small nuclear reactor as part of the mission. By the way, if you think reactors havn't gotten to space you don't know much about Soviet sattelites.

        Now before you question this price tag again I ask you do two things. One research the proposal ( Mars Direct ) presented as being atainable for 20billion. It has been reviewed enough by those who know their stuff that it has slowly gained acceptance in the space industry. 2, instead of stating that a program will over run because other programs have state specifically why it will happen in this case. Overuns are not mandatory and they are not magical. They happen for a reason.

        As a side note I will simply say Station is a very poor example for you to use as a program that suffered over runs. If all you know about the station program is that it suffered over runs but not WHY you need to look into what happend, and you need to dig deeper than the generally shallow and politically motivated attacks on stations budget overun.
    • by Myrmidon ( 649 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:28AM (#7925192)
      I don't have any idea how to go to Mars efficiently, so I'm not going to bother arguing with your $20B budget... except to point out that with George W. and NASA running the show, and with NASA based largely in Texas, I wouldn't expect a lean and mean operation. For every $1 spent, you'll get 10 cents worth of spacecraft and 90 cents worth of pork.

      Now let's get down to it:

      There's nothing to gain from going to Mars
      Let's take these one at a time.
      • New home for humanity.
        Dude, I hate to be the first to tell you this, but humans breathe air. This means that, from a pure economic standpoint, Mars won't be settled until Antarctica is full. Since I think the planet Trantor is more fun to imagine than to actually live on, I think we'd better find a solution to the population problem that takes effect before Antarctica is full.
      • Unprecedented Scientific discovery
        They're called "robots". You may have heard of them, since one is on Mars right now. NASA designed and launched two of them for $860M, less than the estimated cost of three shuttle flights. We could and should build a lot more of them, at very reasonable cost. They're fun, they're cheap, they work pretty well, and even if they occasionally blow up... nobody dies.
      • Easy access to the asteroids ($trillion apiece in ore!)
        I'll bite. Which ore is this, exactly? Dilithium? Here's a homework assignment: after you realistically estimate the cost of mining an asteroid and shipping it back here, tell us which asteroidal element could be mined profitably. And please don't try and pretend that humanity hasn't invented recycling.

      • Tech jobs at home
        I can't argue with this, I guess. Pass the pork! All I can say, though, is that you can generate gratuitous tech jobs with useful projects (zero-pollution cars?) as well as you can with useless projects.

      • Youngsters inspired to go into science and engineering Sorry, you can't have it both ways. Which do you think we need: more tech jobs, or more unemployed techs?

        There are already plenty of inspired youngsters. They become postdocs. For every scientist with funding, there are 10 scientists working as postdocs, or accountants, or cabdrivers. Instead of spending billions of dollars trying to put spam-in-a-can where no spam has gone before, how about if we give that money to actual scientists? So we can cure diseases, or reverse-engineer the brain? Or even... build robots?

      • Plentiful fusion fuel (this will be important in the next 10-20 years). I could go on.
        Please, do go on. I can already hear the violins, warming up to play the Star Trek theme.
    • by YouHaveSnail ( 202852 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @02:52AM (#7925727)
      Going to Mars and taming space is the only way forward for humanity as a whole.

      Humanity as a whole has problems a lot more serious and significant than finding new sources for iron oxide and colonizing a planet that lacks a breathable atmosphere. We'd be much better off, for example, pushing hard to find ways to make sure that the atmosphere of the planet we currently inhabit remains breathable.

      Despite the fact that more than half of Earth is covered in water, we're currently unable to provide enough clean water for our population to drink.

      Good news! We now have the technology to manipulate the climate of an entire planet! Bad news: we can only move it in one direction.

      Future space travellers will be happy to learn that Earth can produce more food than its population requires, but they may be dismayed to realize that we haven't yet figured out how to distribute it to the Earthlings that need it, let alone a Martian colony.

      Would humanity as a whole be better off sending a man to do a robot's work on Mars, or spending an additional $20 billion on reducing AIDS, TB, SARS, etc?

      Would Americans be better off sending a man to Mars, or spending money to provide drugs for those that need them, and getting those who abuse drugs to stop?

      Honestly, I think space exploration is a great thing, and something to which we should aspire. Spending a few $billion to do it makes sense. And yeah, it'd be a really, really cool thing to be able to visit Mars in person, even if 6 billion of us have to do it vicariously through a lucky two or three astronauts. But if you think that this is the most important thing we should be doing, or even that it's just very important, I think you should take a long look at the world around you.

      Let me tell you what's really going on with this proposal. Through a series of tax cuts and spending increases, the current administration is doggedly pursuing a "starve the beast" [] strategy that will ultimately require a huge decrease in the size of the federal government, and a corresponding increase in the power of the states. Which, essentially, is what Republicans have been trying to accomplish for years. The more money the Bush administration commits us to spending over the next decade or two, the greater the pressure to reduce spending in other areas such as Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, education, and social services. And the cherry on top is that Bush gets to announce popular new spending programs to dupes like you who'll eat it up.

      So yeah, by all means write to your representatives. But first think long and hard about what you want to tell them.
  • by bc90021 ( 43730 ) * <bc90021 AT bc90021 DOT net> on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:32AM (#7924656) Homepage
    While we can practice (as this [] version of the story at Yahoo! suggests) a possible Mars mission by going to the moon, we have already done that! We did it in the 60s... that was almost 35 years ago!! What's on the moon? While a nice place for an observatory, we should go straight to Mars.

    Everyone today wants to be "safe". And while there is certainly no justification for recklnessness, this country didn't get to where it is today by being overly cautious. I hope that President Bush has the courage and conviction to challenge America to take our space program to the next level and plan a mission direct to Mars.

    For those of you that don't know, Dr. Robert Zubrin, in his book "The Case for Mars" has shown that a mission to Mars is not only feasible, but that it is feasible with much of the technology that existed in the 60s! For more information, see here []. With the technology we have today, and the ingenuity, fortitude, and bravery that America has demonstrated for almost 230 years, we should go straight to Mars!
    • by myc ( 105406 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:48AM (#7924846)
      I think sending manned missions to Mars directly is a tad bit over-ambitious. For starters, isn't it true that the 60's technology that got us to the moon is largely lost? I remember reading somewhere that the plans for the Apollo missions were lost in a sea of red tape somewhere. Look at the failures of unmanned Mars spacecraft. Even if we had the technology, you would expect a few human-less dry runs first, much like the Apollo missions. Even then you would want to send astronauts to Mars orbit without landing (like Apollo 10). With Mars being months away, and with essentially untested technology, establishing a moonbase seems a more realistic and attainable goal.
    • by dekashizl ( 663505 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:15AM (#7925095) Journal
      Re:Skip the moon! Go straight to Mars!

      At the time that our solar system is greatly developed and colonized, you will find that the Luna (our moon) has become a major transport hub, and that the Earth is a very lush residential garden planet.

      Luna's lack of gravity makes it easier to land, refuel, refill, maintain, take off. It is an excellent storage post for mined resources and medium-scale manufacturing.

      We will get to Mars, and we will live on Mars, but I can guarantee that there will be a grungy little spaceport dive bar on Luna before the first permanent residence is even attempted on Mars.
    • by vik ( 17857 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:35AM (#7925243) Homepage Journal
      Do we really want another flags & footprints Mars mission? If so, go there first, get it over with and then we can all forget about interplanetary travel for 50 years like we have with the Moon.

      I suggest a more thorough approach, which incidentally gets around the problems associated with a quick and dirty Mars mission.

      Establish a lunar manufacturing base, and build what is essentailly a moveable space habitat, say, 400 metres in diameter. Shield it with a fixed shield of several metres of lunar-derrived material. Fill large storage tanks with more lunar material. Establish a known working, self-sufficient, rotating habitat inside the shielding. Build a solar-powered mass driver pointing out the back. Fire lunar material out the back, taking large numbers of colonists and thousands of tonnes of materiel for colonisation to Mars nice and slowly.

      It won't run out of food as the habitat is self-sufficient. Psychological stress is minimised because of the habitat's large size. Gravity is sustained, and a full medical team can go out to maintain health. Shielding removes the radiation issue totally. Journey time becomes irrelevant.

      What's more, the vessel is completely reusable so rinse and repeat. Refuel from Phobos/Diemos and go back to the Earth/Moon system or head on out as far as the asteroids. Any further and the solar panels will have difficulty powering the mass driver.

      There's an old joke related to this:

      An old bull and a young bull are at the top of a hill, looking at a herd of young, healthy, and dare I say attractive cows in the fields below.

      "Let's run down and do a few," suggests the young bull.

      "Let's walk down and do the lot," replied his elder.

      There's an immoral moral there.

      Vik :v)
    • by Julian Morrison ( 5575 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @02:14AM (#7925501)
      The moon has half the space station problem licked. Physical containment and radiation-shielding? Just dig down into rock. Supplies? Mine for them. Storage space? Plenty going begging, on the surface or dug down into rock, and no atmophere to blow stuff around or rain on it.

      Its low gravity and lack of atmosphere make cheap slow-acceleration launch tech like linear motors perfectly sensible. It's ideal as a place to build spacecraft or spacecraft parts, to launch things into earth orbit, to park and refuel spacecraft, and to land, warehouse and refine things mined in bulk from elsewhere in the solar system.

      Seeing the moon as a planetary colony is IMO the wrong model. Seeing it as the ultimate ready-made orbital space station makes much more sense.
  • Huh? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:33AM (#7924666)
    So did we find oil on the moon and on Mars or something?
  • by Cyno01 ( 573917 ) <> on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:33AM (#7924671) Homepage
    "Hate bush so much but want to find hot alien babes someday..."*head explodes*
  • by the_mad_poster ( 640772 ) <> on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:36AM (#7924707) Homepage Journal

    Bush hopes to spark a renewed public interest in space exploration.

    Bush hopes to spark renewed public interest in his re-election campaign....

    It's campaign season, folks. I'd love to see it happen, but let's save the Huzzahs! until it actually does, hmm?

    ...Bush wants to aggressively reinvigorate the space program, which has been demoralized by a series of setbacks, including the space shuttle disaster last February that killed seven astronauts.

    Funding and realistic goals. Reusable craft and cheaper delivery methods to space and blah blah blah. You know the drill.

    Or, we could just throw money at the problem and pretend it will go away that way. Actually, I'll chip in to a fund for an X-Ray machine for the NASA managers' and directors' skulls in case someone's actually looking for the source of the "setbacks".

  • by Chuck_McDevitt ( 665265 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:38AM (#7924737) Homepage
    using conventional rockets, a mars trip would take at least 2 years. During that time, NASA has estimated the crew would be irradiated at such a high level that every cell in the body would have received some damage. There are few solutions to this: 1) Go faster. Requires nuclear propulsion. Not going to happen in my lifetime. 2) Use lots of sheilding with high density materials (e.g. Tungsten). 10x more weight than we can currently send to mars and back. 3) Some new thing nobody has thought of yet. It's nice to think it's just a matter of money, but it really isn't.
    • by Hollins ( 83264 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:51AM (#7924876) Homepage
      This is certainly a significant technical hurdle, but it does not merit discounting the proposal.

      If we look at similar projects, such as building the atomic bomb in WWII, or the Apollo program launched by Kennedy, equally, if not greater, technical challenges had to be solved under intense scheduling goals.

      The question is not whether we can accomplish a mission to Mars in the next decade. The question is whether we are willing to expend the resources to make it happen.
    • Most of the radiation comes from periods of sunspot activity. These can be detected and the crew given a warning so they can get into a radiation shield area for a few hours. All this would require is a small lead coffin/shield at some point on the ship. In addition, the water supplies can be arrayed to provide protection as well.

      Yeah, it's not perfectly safe. I (and I'm sure many others) would be willing to take the risk, though.
    • by SWPadnos ( 191329 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:25AM (#7925163)
      Try Orion.

      The propulsion is nuclear, but the technology was largely invented between 1958 and 1965. It's a bomp-propelled ship. Of course, most of the project documents are still classified, because they deal with small size/yield nuclear bombs and their effects.

      The original plan was for several ship sizes, the largest being a 10,000-ton ship that could carry a 5300 ton payload (yes - that's 10.6 million pounds) from Earth launch to Mars orbit and back to Earth orbit. The transit time would be 258 days each way, with a 454-day stay, for a total trip duration of about 32 months.* And that's a "minimum-energy" plan - the trip could be shorter, or not dependent on the Earth-Mars alignment, if the payload is reduced (ie, more fuel)

      There are some engineering issues to work out, but the science is sound.

      * from the book Project Orion []

  • Can we say... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Burdell ( 228580 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:39AM (#7924749)
    Election year grandstanding?

    What this really means is that NASA might see a 1% budget increase instead of a budget cut next year, and after that (after Bush is re-elected or someone else is elected), it'll go back down.

  • by Greeneland ( 598616 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:42AM (#7924782)
    here []. They have links to other news sites. In particular, the UPI article [] has a mention about a presidential commission to review Nasa's plans. Interesting...

    I am not particularly happy with the statement that all other Nasa programs that do not support the new effort are to be scrapped. Indeed. Perhaps this whole proposal can be amended to include a peer review of top scientists in reign in some of this...
  • by mabu ( 178417 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:43AM (#7924796)

    Halliburton has just started a new manned-space-exploration division.

  • Here's a summary. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Visceral Monkey ( 583103 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:45AM (#7924814)
    Regarding the forthcoming Bush announcement on space policy: From the various sources reporting on the subject, here's what the Presidents plan will look like. 1. Manned space flight will be NASAs only priority. Almost all non-manned projects will done away with or rolled into the manned program if appropriate. 2. The space shuttle fleet will be retired. Done. Finished. They will stay in service long enough to finish construction of the space station in the next few years. 3. A new space vehicle, the CEV (Crew Exploration Vehicle) will be built and rolled into production in place of the shuttle. The era of winged spacecraft is over for nasa, the CEV is akin to a large Apollo capsule, only able to carry up to 6-8 crew. The CEV is usable in earth orbit AND lunar orbit. The shuttle was only capable of reaching earth orbit, the CEV will be able to leave earth orbit and fly to the moon! 4. Europe's Ariane rockets and Russia's Soyuz capsules will be used to access the space station until the CEV in finished and ready for use. 5. The hierarchy of NASA will be changed so that the Defense Department is now included in the planning and future use of future technology. Expect big stuff from this. Having the military involved is a GOOD thing. 6. The first return trip to the moon is planned for 2013 and the following missions will begin the process of building a permanent, manned presence there. 7. Also starting in 2013, NASA will end almost all involvement with the ISS. Expect this to possibly become a private venture. 8. The CEV and moon base construction will be a test-bed for the Mars missions that will follow. 9. MARS 10. After mars, there will be manned missions to the asteroids. NASA will become one of only 3 federal agencies to get a spending increase (5%) in its budget over the next 5 years. The other two being the Department of Defense and Homeland Security. In 2005 a lump sum of $800 Million will be awarded to NASA. If this is indeed the Presidents plan, it is nothing short of remaking NASA in the image of what it once was in the days of Apollo. Manned space flight with a purpose, the days of space truckers in orbit is *over*.
  • by shubert1966 ( 739403 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:51AM (#7924874) Journal

    I got first dibs on the cryo-unit next to Sigourney Weaver!

    "Yes Dave."
    "Tell Houston we're a little behind." :)!

  • by azpenguin ( 589022 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:53AM (#7924897)
    This might be a case of NASA unintentionally catching lightning in a bottle. First you have China sending a man into orbit, and also announcing aggressive plans for space and possibly the moon. Then you have the success of the Spirit landing, especially so soon after what's looking like a big setback for the ESA on a similar mission.
    We really can't afford to be passed up by China in the space programs. The implications on many fronts, from technological, military, and national stature are too important. As the wars of the 20th century were swung by air superiority, a future war bewtween the US and China could easily be swung by space superiority. (Imagine how blind our forces would be if our satellites were disabled or destroyed.)
    And we've proven we can get craft to Mars and land them safely. Granted, there have been some spectacular failures, but the US is the only nation to put functioning equipment on the Martian surface. With humans at the controls we would dramatically lessen the risk of a crash on the surface. There wouldn't be anxiety over whether the airbags were deploying or what petal the ship was landing on. The biggest issue would be getting supplies there ahead of time and being sure they landed. We'd have to send supplies and a means of getting off the surface ahead of time. Astronauts would be spending several months on the surface, and there is no emergency return, so we'd need to be sure that everything is in place.
    I think those two factors - a space race with China and our ability to get craft to Mars - came together at the right time. A successful manned Mars mission would be a stunning success for mankind, and if we're going to do it, now is a good time to start the planning process.
  • by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @12:55AM (#7924919) Homepage
    Yes. Let's colonize mars.

    Hmm... this sounds awfuly similar to an awful mistake made in the past. Spain reluctantly sends Columbus to America. Before you know it, they've colonized much of central/south America. This leads to a series of wars which has yet to end.

    Seriously. If you look back, every war to this date can be traced back to some form of colonization or another.

    Even the war in Iraq can be traced back to colonization. As the European empires are beginning to implode on top of each other, WWI breaaks out. Once it's over, the empires are desparate to keep what little land they have left, and hastily write the Versailles Treaty which causes WWII, sets borders in the arab states (creating political instability in Iraq and Iran), and prompts for the creation of Israel.

    It seems that now we've learned our lesson, and that the countries of the world are not willing to expand or colonize. They know the consequenses all too well. Sure, war will always happen, but I just can't see the US, china, or India becoming expansionist nations.

    Now we bring another planet into the equation. Mars will soon become the next fronteir. Bush wants it to belong to America.

    Just as it was Europe's destiny to colonize America, it seems like it will become our destiny to colonize Mars. If the Earth's population continues to explode at the current rate, the survival of our race may depend on an interplanetary colony in the future.

    Do you see the dilema we have? If America colonizes Mars, we will create a conflict which may never be ended. If we don't, another country will. Either way, the world will fight over the control of Mars.

    It's sad to think that our future seems destined to hold both great discovery and great war.

    A new epoch is about to begin.
  • by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:04AM (#7925007) Journal
    With the ISS serving practically no purpose, and the shuttle fleet's reevaluation after Columbia was destroyed, there is no better time than now to redirect NASA and give them a real goal. This gives NASA an excuse to stop funding the ISS money pit and mothball the shuttles.

    If the resources spent on those two projects could be diverted to a singular goal, such as sending people to Mars, then we should have the ability to accomplish it.

    Oh, and this leads me to another thought. One way trips to mars. One way as in a volunteer(s) that go to Mars, explore, and when resources run out they die. Step back and take a look at our planet. It is covered with several BILLION creatures with the capability to do amazing things. MILLIONS of us die a year under the most trivial and wasteful circumstances. Sending a few of our kind to explore a whole new world (literally) at the cost of their "premature" deaths is an extremely trivial thing in that light - if the rest of us could stomach it as individuals.

    Dan East
  • by Saeed al-Sahaf ( 665390 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:15AM (#7925092) Homepage
    Bush hopes to spark a renewed public interest in space exploration.

    Bush has no interest in men on Mars, this is a political statement designed to make him look "presidential" in the JFK way, a la Apollo. What he hopes is people will rally around and say "this guy Bush, he has VISION! We need VISONARIES like George Bush!" It's all fluff and spin, no substance.

    What would really impress people is if he came out and said "I am nationalizing the pharmaceutical industry, and the world will no longer need or want for the meds that will stem world suffering."

    Or, he could say "I have decided to walk the walk, and get rid of all the Weapons of Mass Destruction that the United States has both developed and proliferated to mankind."

    Or, he could say "I have decided to fund new technologies that will free us from the chains of fossil fuels, and bring about a new era in sustainable energy."

    But no, instead he will wax wildly about Man's need to discover new frontiers, to extend Man's reach into the universe. Look for wild ideas about multinational corporations mining minerals on the surface of Mars, polluting it just as we have done here on our own planet.

    • by freeweed ( 309734 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @02:57AM (#7925757)
      Bush has no interest in men on Mars, this is a political statement designed to make him look "presidential" in the JFK way

      Well, JFK didn't really mean it either. He had no interest in the moon, and it never would have happened except for one thing: he got assassinated.

      So here's the deal. Those of us that actually want to see a Mars mission, let's wait. If Bush makes his announcement, we ice him a few months later. The nation can then spend the next few years trying to "honour the vision of a slain president".

      And hopefully, it'll give you something to smile about, instead of whining about every possible thing you can think of :)
  • by rufey ( 683902 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:17AM (#7925115)
    NASA needs something to help it change, and providing it a vision besides LEO would be a vast improvement. I don't know how many times I read that NASA starts a project to design a replacement for the Shuttle and then it gets cancelled. The Shuttle was designed in the early 1970s. And they want to keep flying it for another 10+ years?

    Before we can go to Mars, however, there are some issues we need to figure out. A Mars mission (round trip) is expected to be somehwere in the neighborhood of 2 years. Thats 2 years without the possibility resupply from Earth, or the ability to quickly return to Earth should a serious problem arise, not to mention you simply can't land on Mars and expect to live off the land.

    What I'd like to see is a Moon base be built and have some volunteers provide the proof of concept that a 2 year mission without Earth's help (except for remote control where needed) is doable. Its easy to send up a few barrels of water to the ISS every few months. Its quite another problem when your talking about sending it to Mars. We didn't go land on the moon wit the first Apollo launch. At least one (I can't remember how many) Apollo missions circled but didn't land on the moon prior to Apollo 11, taking the incremental approach to what would turn out to be a very successfull project.

    Sure you can send stuff on ahead of the humans (which is what some proposals I've seen suggest), including habitation modules and equipment that can manufacture the needed fuel to return home, before the humans even leave Earth, but none of this has been proven to be practical for a Mars mission yet. We have a hard enough time sending unmanned missions to Mars to help understand what is and isn't on Mars.

    Personally, I see a human Mars mission being an international effort. After all, the USA isn't in a space race against any other country humans to Mars first (okay, maybe China is thinking about it, but Russia definatly isn't).

    The ISS and Shuttle were great concepts when designed and planned, but frankly, both of them keep us chained to LEO with no place to go. And the ISS isn't even close to living up to what it was supposed to be.

  • by Jorkapp ( 684095 ) <> on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:23AM (#7925154)
    The only ISP would be -Earthlink-
  • by Nucleon500 ( 628631 ) <> on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:31AM (#7925211) Homepage
    While many of us think manned missions to the Moon and Mars mars are a great idea, it's also election year, and Bush's motives in setting this goal are clear. So what if he isn't re-elected? Which other candidates are in favor of these missions?
  • by Timbotronic ( 717458 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:50AM (#7925359)
    Military spending is a very effective form of public subsidy. Why? Because the economic effect of funding the defence industry is a more highly skilled workforce and support by proxy of other high-tech industries with civilian applications eg. Aviation. So funding for a Mars program isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I'd like to see the money come out of the defence budget to fund it.

    Personally, I think the money would be best spent on fusion research first. There are several reasons:
    1. The urgent need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, the middle east, reduce global warming and pollution in general
    2. We obviously have to get fusion working before even thinking about mining the moon for fuel. And once on the moon (or Mars) fusion would be an excellent power source
    3. Fusion powered rockets will get us to Mars and elsewhere in the solar system much faster than chemical rockets

    Another thing we've gotta get right first is closed ecosystems or biospheres. eg. Growing food, recycling air and water etc. They had a pretty good crack at it a few years ago with Biosphere 2, but IIRC there were problems with oxygen being absorbed into the concrete foundations. So again, they've got to get that right before sending anyone out to the moon or Mars to live on a base. You could do a nice simulation by putting a biosphere underwater, far enough down to reduce the sunlight to the same intensity as Mars. Then check which plants are best able to grow and produce oxygen.

  • Whoop, sign me up! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shimmer ( 3036 ) <> on Friday January 09, 2004 @02:02AM (#7925429) Homepage Journal
    Folks, take a step back and absorb this:

    Manned exploration of Mars.
    Permanent human presence on the Moon.

    This is probably the most exciting news I've ever seen posted here at Slashdot. When do we leave?
  • by Graabein ( 96715 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @02:25AM (#7925574) Journal
    There's a more detailed UPI article [] up on Interest!ALERT and I quote:

    "The administration examined a wide range of ideas, including new, reusable space shuttles and even exotic concepts such as space elevators" (my emphasis).

    A space elevator, now there's a project worth pursuing. If we could only master the technology needed (superstrong materials, read Arthur C. Clarke's Fountains of Paradise or see this site [] for details) a space elevator would pay for itself in a matter of years and open up space for humanity like no other initiave we can even imagine today.

    That aside, I wonder if we will read about this period in 30 years time like we do today about Nixon's deliberations about what to do with the Apollo program, not to mention how special interests got the Space Shuttle funding even though there was little science to gain from the program which basically tied us to LEO for decades? I wonder how much frenzied scrambling has been going on inside NASA these past few months to come up with realistic programs while the Prez is in a benign mood (all part of the re-election strategies, no doubt).

    Whatever comes from this, if anything at all, let's try to make it an international effort. First of all that would be good for international cooperation in general, it wouldn't look like one country was doing this for strategic purposes and it would ease the burden somewhat for the US taxpayer. Fair is fair, the entire human race will (hopefully) benefit from this, so we should all chip in.

  • by whjwhj ( 243426 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @02:27AM (#7925587)
    Dubya is sure trying to put some zap into his reelection campaign with this nonsense.

    Now, back to earth and things that matter: How about a plan to reduce our dependence on non-renewable sources of energy? What I'd like to see is a commitment from our government to reduce our dependence on fossil fuel by ... oh ... 80% over the next 10 years.

    Like the proposed space program, such an effort would produce profound advances in science and technology and create thousands of jobs. In fact, the technological and financial impact of fossil fuel reduction would be far in excess of anything a space program could possibly hope to accomplish.

    But, unlike the space program, our efforts would be spent working on several very earthly problems: climate change and dependence on imported fuel.

    'Impossible' you say? That's what they said when JFK proposed putting men on the moon within the decade. Technologically it's well within our grasp. All we need is the political will.

    We can and should go to space when the time is right. But right now there are pressing matters to deal with here on earth: War, Nukes, Climate Change, War, etc.

    Dubya and his posse are crooks. They could give a flying fuck about Mars or the Moon. They just want to get reelected. Ignore them.

    I find it somewhat ironic that on the very day scientists announce a likely 15% to 37% reduction on plant and animal species due to climate change that Dubya spews forth something like this.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @02:27AM (#7925590) Homepage
    Going to the moon in ten years is a pork program. It only took seven years the first time, after all. It's just a way for Bush to pay off his Texas buddies. Like Reagan and the National Aero$pace Plane.

    Space travel with chemical propulsion is never going to get any better. Chemical fuels are as good as they're going to get. There's been essentially zero progress in thirty years.

    Building more chemically-fueled spacecraft is a dead end. The weight reduction required for them to work at all makes them so fragile that they'll never be reliable. If you could build a spacecraft with the weight budget of an airliner, (40% or so of the gross takeoff weight is fuel) spacecraft would be affordable and reliable. But when you have to build something that's 90+% fuel, (SSTO machines are something like 97%+ fuel, which is why nobody has built one), it has to be a fragile balloon full of fuel.

    Nuclear power, maybe. But chemical fuels? Been there, done that.

    An unmanned lunar orbiter would be worth doing. Last time, in the early 1960s, the US sent five orbiters, which used 70mm film, a chemical film processor, and a scanner to transmit the images back. So they only took 1654 images, and the imagery is only 60 meters per pixel. Putting a modern survellance camera in lunar orbit would get us 1m imagery of the whole moon, if not better. Maybe we'll find something worth checking out.

  • by Mulletproof ( 513805 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @02:52AM (#7925730) Homepage Journal

    I'm serious. All you hardcore space exploration people have one country above all others to thank for this, and it's the one who just recently put their first man into orbit and has been spouting off about a moon base for the better half of last year. And from paranoia's point of view, I can see why. Space is the ultimate high ground and danged if I'd want a nation with China's human rights record dominating it. But regardless of how or why...

    Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a space race! ...And it's all good.

  • Incredible (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cubicledrone ( 681598 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @04:10AM (#7926051)
    The greatest human endeavor in a five hundred years is about to be announced, and almost every message is griping about cost and how "impractical" it is.

    If a man were to step on another planet, it would be one of the most meaningful and inspiring moments in thousands of years. It would change humanity forever.

    The amount of scientific knowledge that could be gained by the research effort to complete this mission is incalculable.

    But to stand around and cynically bitch about trivia before such magnificent sagacity is truly depressing. I thought knowledge, science and engineering were values, not budget categories.

    This idea should be supported.
  • by raytracer ( 51035 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @04:20AM (#7926082)

    Consider this:

    1. George W. wants to be re-elected.
    2. Reactions are mixed on the whole Iraq thing.
    3. He wants to generate some buzz.
    4. He can promise anything ten years down the line, he'll never be held responsible for it.
    5. By refocussing NASA toward this ludicrous (and despite the peanut gallery's comments, at this point it is ludicrous) project to the exclusion of unmanned probes, he sets up NASA's eventual dismantlement for failing to deliver what even NASA must know they cannot deliver.

    Wise up. This announcement has nothing to do with space exploration. It has to do with November, nothing more.

  • Go for it america (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cruachan ( 113813 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @07:07AM (#7926624)
    As Douglas Adams once observed, a growing and confident civilization looks upwards at the stars while a depressed declining one just looks down at it's shoes.

    Since 9/11 America has done far to much shoe-watching. Nothing could be more inspiring than the country pulling itself up and seriously expanding outwards again. This may be at one level bread and circuses, but if it gives Americans (and the West generally) confidence back in themselves, their civilization and it's values then it's a thoroughly good thing.

    As a European there's many, many things I dislike about the USA and particularly it's recent behaviour on the international stage - from Iraq to Koyoto. Nevertheless, the values that America (and western civilization generally), are based upon do represent some of the best that humanity has achieved, and when the chips are down I know where we should stand.

    So, if the USA is about to shake itself out of it's introspective, somewhat paranoid, behaviour and regain it's confidence and enterprise there's only one thing to say...

    God Bless America.

Your own mileage may vary.