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Space Science

USA To Return To Moon By 2015, Then Mars 1480

securitas writes "This afternoon George Bush announced space exploration plans for the USA to return to the Moon by 2015, the design and construction of a new space vehicle fleet by 2014 (called the Crew Exploration Vehicle) to replace the aging space shuttles which will be retired in 2010, and the construction of a permanent Moon base, followed by manned missions to Mars. The initiative begins with a $1 billion increase to NASA's budget and $12 billion in new space exploration money over next five years. However Congress is concerned about how to pay for the new space policy initiative in the face of a $500 billion national budget deficit. AP via Yahoo has a Moon/Mars/space policy FAQ, and there's more at NASA and the New York Times among others."
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USA To Return To Moon By 2015, Then Mars

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  • by holzp ( 87423 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:19PM (#7980030)
    And if a married couple goes up together NASA gets $1.5 billion more []!
    • And there's even more money comming for the first couple to concieve and give birth in space!

      On a serious note, I wonder if I'll live to see the first conception on the moon/in space.

      (Yes, I meant both on CNN and in low quality bootleg form from BitTorrent)
  • by kippy ( 416183 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:20PM (#7980036)
    This argument never fails to frustrate me and I'm sure it's going to come up in this discussion.

    Here's the thing, the federal budget [] is well over a trillion dollars. NASA's budget is around 17 billion. It's roughly 1 percent of the national budget. People get so scared about the word billion that they forget the scale of cash that the US has to allocate.

    Does anyone honestly think that putting that bit of money elsewhere would solve whatever domestic problems you want fixed? Have we yet cured hunger, poverty, or undereducation? No? Well, we've been throwing billions at them so far. If you're looking for funds to cut and inefficiencies to uproot, look in defense and welfare. Diverting funds from NASA to domestic programs will not change anything except to kneecap our development as a multi-planet species.

    Another misassumption is that if money is cut from one department, it automatically gets redistributed to others. That's not the way it works. And yes, I know we're running a deficit but a 1 billion increase over the next 5 years isn't going to contribute significantly to it. And IIRC, every administration except for 1 (maybe 2) has run a deficit and the country has not yet fallen.

    But won't this cost a trillion dollars? No, not if done right. Father Bush's plan was scrapped because the estimate he was given was based on an outmoded model for Mars exploration. On top of that, it was subjected to a committee that took it as a chance to write themselves a blank check with their 90-day report []. Bust the first was ignorant to any alternatives so he abandoned it. Read up on Mars Direct []. It's a plan to do Mars missions on the same budgetary scale as the Apollo missions. Those were done for about the same budget that NASA currently gets. NASA doesn't need more money, just proper direction and it looks like they're finally getting some of that.

    See my other post [] for more on the case for Mars and space exploration.

    • Budget (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AtariAmarok ( 451306 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:27PM (#7980137)
      Now, I'm strongly in favor of the program. However, about your statement " NASA's budget is around 17 billion. It's roughly 1 percent of the national budget."

      The entire budget, and debt and defecit mess is made up of nothing but "oh, it's only a few billion. It won't matter." That's what everyone says about their favorite pet spending program.

      It does make a difference.
      • Re:Budget (Score:5, Funny)

        by bakes ( 87194 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:38PM (#7980283) Journal
        That's right. A few billion here, a few billion there. Pretty soon, it starts to add up to real money.
        • Re:Budget (Score:5, Insightful)

          by LnxAddct ( 679316 ) <> on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:03PM (#7980559)
          That's right. A few billion here, a few billion there. Pretty soon, it starts to add up to real money.

          It's sad that some people really think like that and ironic how we take such things like this for granted. Some countries would kill for a 50 billion or even just a one billion dollar national budget, and in many countries (i.e. Japan, America, Germany, England...) your not even considered a major contender as a company unless your bringing in a billion a year. Just something worth thinking about that most people don't.
    • by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:29PM (#7980166)
      And people need to remeber how big the American economy is, even during a dip in the economy.

      $10.45 trillion (2002 est.) k/geos/ us.html#Econ

      The money Bush is proposing, even if the amount goes up is minute compared to the Federal Budget and the GDP of the US.

      • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:08PM (#7980607)
        Another way to look at it is that this additional $1 Billion could come from pulling out of Iraq ONE week early. That's right the cost of operations in Iraq not including one time costs like moving the troops to and from the country is aprox $4 Billion per month. I am all for what we accomplished in overthrowing one of the most evil men of the last two generations but we should find a way to quickly return the country to self rule and withdraw our troops before it becomes a significant drag on the economy and the loss of troops becomes a long term weakener of military moral.
    • by mellon ( 7048 ) * on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:33PM (#7980215) Homepage
      Funding for welfare, etc., isn't designed to wipe out poverty. You can't wipe out poverty. It's designed to mitigate the damage caused by poverty, to wit, lawlessness, public health (poverty makes life dangerous for everybody) and human suffering (and it's no fun).

      Taking money away from those programs to pay to go to space is dangerous. That's not to say we shouldn't pay to go to space - the question is which budget to cut, and my point is that cutting public service and public assistance budgets isn't likely to be cost effective.

      The place to cut is in military spending. The war in Iraq would have paid for a lot of space travel, unfortunately it paid for blowing up buildings instead. We have lots of highly specialized weapons that are very expensive - millions of dollars per explosion. Military aircraft are not built using standard parts. Everything is custom. So everything is brutally expensive. Cut back on the custom nature of this hardware, and you'd save a lot of money. Cut back on unilateral foreign wars, and you'd save even more.

      We could also eliminate a lot of special-interest tax loopholes that Bush introduced in his "tax cut." But for some reason, it's always public services and public aid that get cut, not corporate welfare, and not military spending.

      • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:58PM (#7980512)
        > Funding for welfare, etc., isn't designed to wipe out poverty. You can't wipe out poverty. It's designed to mitigate the damage caused by poverty, to wit, lawlessness, public health (poverty makes life dangerous for everybody) and human suffering (and it's no fun).

        Like crack, the first hit is free.

        Funding for welfare, etc, isn't designed to wipe out poverty or mitigate its effects. It's designed to perpetuate poverty, because a permanent underclass of non-producing food tubes dependent upon the government to steal wealth from the producing food-tubes can be relied upon to always support the government.

        If you're at the top of the food chain, the more poor, and the worse off they are, and the faster they breed, the more power you have over producer and parasite alike.

        Consider the relationship between shepherd, sheepdog, and sheep. Sure, the sheepdog gets to have lots of "fun" by running circles around the flock. The "fun" the sheepdog has is immaterial to the farmer's purpose for the sheepdog, namely to have a few animals running freely enough to keep the flock in a predictable state, grazing contentedly until harvest time.

        • by Dolly_Llama ( 267016 ) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @03:13AM (#7983055) Homepage
          I'm going to guess that you've never been on welfare. Maybe you can't empathize with what it is like to be seven years old and living out of a car with your mom and your sisters because your dad took off and mom couldn't cover the rent. Or maybe the years after that on government cheese and food stamps because mom's waitress job could barely keep a roof over our head.

          Welfare is a *SAFETY NET* for *REAL PEOPLE* It's not the stereotype of cadillac driving welfare queens or the projects that has been forced in to your skull. If you think the tax burden of social programs is too great, imagine the nation without them. Imagine soup kitchens and Hooverville shantytowns.

          Non-producing food tubes my ass. Eat shit and die. Please. Now.

      • by thales ( 32660 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:46PM (#7980933) Homepage Journal
        " Funding for welfare, etc., isn't designed to wipe out poverty. You can't wipe out poverty. It's designed to mitigate the damage caused by poverty, to wit, lawlessness, public health (poverty makes life dangerous for everybody) and human suffering (and it's no fun)."

        No, it's designed to purchase some people's votes with other people's money. The art of governmet consists of taking money from those who aren't going to vote for you anyway, and using those fund to purchase votes.
    • by tipsymonkey ( 710561 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:38PM (#7980286) Homepage
      Just give me $200,000 to help out my state and keep my public library open 7 days a week. Or how about just a few hundred thousand to keep my fire station open [].
      I mean that's nothing compared to the billion or trillion dollars right? Its chump change.
      Why do I suddenly feel like a beggar asking for pennies....
      • by KalvinB ( 205500 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:57PM (#7981051) Homepage
        not federal problems.

        Every town in every city has problems like yours that just take "a little bit."

        It's your city/state's job to bring in enough money to fund local problems like yours. The Federal government can't. If they help one city in such a way they have to help every city.

        You're barking up the wrong money tree.

        "It's a new budget-saving pattern for the Bay Area's fourth-largest city. Starting this month, whenever three firefighters can't work because of illness, the city will close one of four fire stations to save $400,000 in overtime costs and prevent firefighter layoffs."

        So by closing one firestation because the people who work there are wasting money they save $400,000 they can use to fix other problems.

        There's your money for the library.

        Fix your city's budget problems before you start pretending it's the federal government's job.

        You think Uncle Sam is going to bail out CA? What makes your problems more serious?

        You're in the Bay Area. I'll willing to bet there's another library that's open 7 days a week. If not, get your stuff done when it is open. What's more important to you? The money that can be put towards more important things or convienence?

        It's certainly not worth $200,000 to staff a library an extra day if nobody is visiting. That's generally why they close one day. It also allows for fewer full time staff (which allows for higher wages) while still giving them a day off every week to keep them sane and happy.

    • Simply Put (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:41PM (#7980329) Homepage Journal

      The program is the right thing to do.

      It should have been started long ago, it's overdue.

      Now is a bad time to do it, thanks to reckless spending and slashing revenue.

      The motivation isn't purely political, it's because China and India are expressing interest and it 'looks bad' if the USA lets anyone get a leg up, in short it's for selfish pride.

      This isn't the leader to kick it off, but he's the only one who has.

      I feel the same frustration and exasperation, it comes with being educated.

      • Re:Simply Put (Score:5, Insightful)

        by shanen ( 462549 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:08PM (#7980610) Homepage Journal

        This isn't the leader to kick it off, but he's the only one who has.

        No, the leader who kicked it off was JFK. The last White House resident who sort of made big mumbles about it was actually Poppy Bush--but most people don't even remember his Mars by 2035 mumble. Dubya is just trying to get it back on Daddy's schedule.

        In terms of doing something useful in space, probably the strongest claim would be the international space station--but Dubya is destroying the international cooperation that depends on. Only natural, since Dubya's real motivation for supporting space flight is military dominance.

        Actually, I'm a big supporter of real science, including the space program. However, you also have to deal with the economic realities, and if Dubya keeps losing 20% of the dollar's value every year, the US won't be able to afford anything remotely resembling a real space program.

        • Re:Simply Put (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @11:16PM (#7981689)
          "In terms of doing something useful in space,"

          Why does it always have to be "useful?"

          No, I'm serious. I've been really disturbed by some of the things I've read from people who are against the idea and words cannot describe the pity I feel for those that are incapable of understanding the "Because it's there" argument.

          Are we that incapable, as either a nation or a species, of having big dreams and pursuing them every once in a while? Do we always have to wait for something to be practical before we get around to doing it? Yes, we have war, famine and pestilence. Yes, this will probably take away some funds from fighting those scourges. Whether or not that loss of funds will be noticable is another issue but ultimately the whole thing is a red herring. We're trying to feed people and save lives for... what exactly? So that future generations can also try to eliminate them better than us, feeding the cycle? What's the point in saving and lengthening lives when nobody's actually living?

          Sure, there's the "practical" argument that we could always wait until all these problems were solved and then we could follow our dreams of going out there. So we wait and wait and wait and before you know it we're all pensioners in retirement communities still waiting "just another ten years..." If waiting until everything is "just so" isn't a vague, amorphous, intangible and ultimately hollow goal to work towards, I don't know what is.

          The moon. Mars. They're right there. We can go there. Now. That stirs up passions even in me, and I'm a jaded, cynical bastard.

          If we as a culture and a species are that incapable of dreaming, even about something so utterly attainable as the moon, then maybe we shouldn't be going up there. We deserve to chase our tails over "standards of living" until the sun goes nova. Heck, maybe that's the solution to the Fermi Paradox; they're not here because they had more important things to do or they simply couldn't be bothered...

          Prersonally, I'd rather live in a country that bankrupts itself trying to get to Mars than what I seem to be living among today. Hell, set up a "Mars or bust!" fund at NASA and I'll gladly start tithing to them. Anything but this malaise.
      • Re:Simply Put (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DoraLives ( 622001 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:35PM (#7980840)
        Now is a bad time to do it

        Now is always a bad time to do it.

        Do it anyway.

    • by Wakkow ( 52585 ) * on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:49PM (#7980425) Homepage
      As a comparison, 3.5 Billion dollars [] were spent on ring tones last year.. Personally, I think that money would be better spent by NASA.
    • by Dukeofshadows ( 607689 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:49PM (#7980426) Journal
      Two scenarios:

      1) Issue bonds with the return being first access to a space outpost at a later date or something like that. This would be like the Pan-Am sale of tickets to the moon, but these bonds have government backing as to avoid bankruptcy and gain interest when not used (2-3%?). If NASA gives up the initiative, the government bonds still have value. I'd buy quite a few and be happy to contribute to the program over the long term.

      2) Lots of space technologies are dual-use for civilian and military, so why not get the DOD to help fund it? Insight into orbital mechanics and practical space vehicles would allow us a decent chance (better than 40%) to shoot down ICBMs and other long-range missles before they reached the US. Also, there is territory on the South Pole of the Moon that gives great visibility to most of the planet, so it is in their best interest to participate and lend a few billion to the plan.

      (On the other hand we could always falsify reports that oil or Osama could be found on Mars/the Moon and get up there much sooner without having to worry about how it gets paid for...)
    • by SpacePunk ( 17960 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:09PM (#7980619) Homepage
      "Does anyone honestly think that putting that bit of money elsewhere would solve whatever domestic problems you want fixed? Have we yet cured hunger, poverty, or undereducation? No? Well, we've been throwing billions at them so far. If you're looking for funds to cut and inefficiencies to uproot, look in defense and welfare. Diverting funds from NASA to domestic programs will not change anything except to kneecap our development as a multi-planet species."

      I've been saying this for years. The increasing expendature on domestic issues will increase exponentially untill there are no money and/or resources for any real space program. It's got to be done now. The 'public' might think that the money should be spent on domestic issues, but the 'public' is full of complete fucking morons.

  • Mars (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EinarH ( 583836 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:21PM (#7980048) Journal
    Strange. He did not mention what this would cost. Yes, he mentioned an initial $12 billion investment, but 11 of those are in the budgets already as far as I know.
    I have seen price tags from NASA people and other space scientists for the whole expedition fluctating from $60-175 billion.
    It's probably difficult or impossible to make an accurate estimate of total cost this early in the process but nevertheless the current estimates deviates much from each other.
    $60 billion is one thing, but $175 billion?

    Yes I know going to Mars might create some jobs and promote technology and development but I would like to know the price tag anyway.
    And with a $450 Billion budget deficit already I'm not so sure that this is a good idea.

    • Re:Mars (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Witsu ( 741228 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:50PM (#7980436)
      Going to Mars would probably cost far more than that. considering all the new tech than has to be developed, such as the new crew module, the lunar base, and whatever other vehicles it would take to go and land on Mars. From what i've heard it takes 9 months each way to get to Mars, plus they need to stay on the surface for around 2 years to wait for the next launch window to open. That's 3 1/2 years worth of food, water, and air they will need to either haul with them or figure out how to grow.
  • 4 years? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EvanED ( 569694 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [denave]> on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:22PM (#7980068)
    "the design and construction of a new space vehicle fleet by 2014 (called the Crew Exploration Vehicle) to replace the aging space shuttles which will be retired in 2010"

    Anyone else concerned about the 4 year break from the retirement of the shuttle to the *planned* launch of the new craft? The last time we'll have stayed out of space for so long is before the shuttle launch (assuming we get back there following Columbia anywhere near NASA's schedule). There are already problems with the ISS given the shuttle's current grounding...
    • Re:4 years? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sdriver ( 126467 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:35PM (#7980245) Homepage
      They will begin testing the Crew Exploration Vehicle in 2008, and will start using it by 2010 if it is ready. 2014 is the deadline to get it ready and doing maned missions. The old shuttle fleet may be used thru 2014 if the new one is not ready.

      ISS is supposed to be done by 2010 and moon base in 2015.

      The bummer part is redirecting 11 billion of the current budget todo this. That means about 6-10 other missions will be canceled. Maybe it will be the Hubble space telescope replacement JWST []. :(
  • by A nonymous Coward ( 7548 ) * on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:24PM (#7980090)
    First lunacy: waste money bringing the space station up to snuff, then abandon our part in. That's one hell of a message to send to future prospective partners.

    Second lunacy: only add $1B to NASA's budget. They will have to gut every other program to fund this return to the moon, and they appear to be eager to do so.

    Third lunacy: nothing in this proposal has anything to do with making access to space cheaper.

    What ought to happen is tell NASA to get out of the way of independent private companies who are trying to get into space for much less money than NASA spends just thinking about it. That's the key. Let NASA build satellites and telescopes and whatnot, but make it law that NASA has to go with the cheapest launcher of reasonable reliablity, and if that means going with some private company who can do it for 1/10th the cost of Lockheed or Boeing or Ariane, so be it.
    • by soft_guy ( 534437 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:49PM (#7980955)
      He doesn't have any intention to go to the moon, or mars. He'll be out of office by then even if he gets elected. His dad suggested the same thing and it didn't happen. It isn't going to ever happen. We don't have the money and it isn't worth it anyway. Congress is never going to vote for it.
    • NASA good programs (Score:5, Informative)

      by wass ( 72082 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @11:55PM (#7981975)
      Second lunacy: only add $1B to NASA's budget. They will have to gut every other program to fund this return to the moon, and they appear to be eager to do so.

      Unfortunately, this seems to be what's happening.

      My girlfriend works for the Space Telescope Science Institute [] (ie, the group that controls the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as planning for the James Webb Space Telescope, etc).

      The 1 billion increase in NASA's overall budget is good thing. But this increase is totally dwarfed by 12 billion funding re-allocation that also accompanies the budget increase. And they're really worried that alot of that funding will be taken away from the hard science missions (Hubble, Chandra, etc).

      This is what alot of people, even here on /., don't realize when they bash NASA. NASA doesn't only fund the space shuttle and ISS and Mars rovers. There's a whole slew of astrophysical observational experiments, both earthbound and in orbit, that are contributing hugely to scientific research.

      This funding shift implies NASA will be shifting it's focus, away from science and towards engineering. While the budget increase is good for the space travel programs and probably ISS, it's not so good for the pure science and observational programs.

      Just my two cents.

  • by josefcub ( 212738 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:24PM (#7980092) Journal
    Or did President Bush say "Crew Expiration Vehicle" three times during his speech, and made reference to "expiration that will inspire today's students"?

    I've been around Texas, and I tell you I've never heard a native Texan mispronounce a word like "exploration" so obviously, repeatedly, and to me, ominously.

  • Timeline hole (Score:5, Insightful)

    by doorman ( 61472 ) * on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:24PM (#7980094) Homepage
    IF we retire the shuttle fleet by 2010 and bring the new vehicle on by 2014, what exactly do we do for the grounded four year? Don't see any other option offered, and hitching a ride with the Russians only goes so far.

  • How to pay for it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:24PM (#7980095)
    Well, stop bombing people would be a good start.

  • by hirschma ( 187820 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:24PM (#7980102)
    Let us not forget that the first President Bush suggested much the same thing: let's go back to the Moon, let's get ourselves to Mars, etc. He did it in the waning days of his presidency, to help boost his decreasing popularity, and to take attention away from the declining state of the economy.

    Now, Bush II does the same thing. First, he tried the immigration proposal, and that went over like a lead balloon. Now, he's throwing the next shiny toy in front of us, hoping that we'll forget the issues that his administration are glossing over.

    This is not a Kennedy-type announcement. We are not going back to the Moon, we will not be going to Mars, and more than likely, we will not be replacing the space shuttles.

    Headline from 2012: President Jeb Bush announces that we're going back to Moon, and then on to Mars...
    • by Atryn ( 528846 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:35PM (#7980246) Homepage
      I cannot agree more and this is precisely what I thought upon hearing this announcement. The fact that he doesn't anticipate a moon landing until at least 12 years after the end of his NEXT term indicates that he could probably care less if this ever actually happens... What is frustrating though, is that in the meantime we will see the gutting of projects we have huge investments in (with our allies).

      The other piece I don't understandf is, if we have been to the moon before, why will it take us 16 years to return? I'm sure by then the Chinese will have landed.
  • by Dirtside ( 91468 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:24PM (#7980104) Journal
    Hooray, if it happens. As many people pointed out when this announcement was, er, announced a couple weeks ago, this is basically a no-lose proposition for Dubya. Even if he actually does approve a massive increase in NASA's budget this term, and even if he does win a second term as President, there's no guarantee that the subsequent administrations (or Congresses) won't reduce NASA's budget or otherwise do something to kill the project.

    So Bush gets to look good to everyone who like space exploration -- which is most people -- without having to necessarily live up to his promise. Given Bush's track record as president and as a human being, I'm inclined to believe that he doesn't personally give a rat's ass whether we get back to the moon or Mars -- he knows that this is a simple campaigning trick (make a fantastic promise that you can't be held accountable for).

    Yeah, I hope it does happen -- but I'm still not voting for the guy.
    • by Un pobre guey ( 593801 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:05PM (#7980574) Homepage
      Given Bush's track record as president and as a human being, I'm inclined to believe that he doesn't personally give a rat's ass whether we get back to the moon or Mars -- he knows that this is a simple campaigning trick (make a fantastic promise that you can't be held accountable for).

      That's it. That's just about all there is, and yet millions of Americans are going to run around cheering at what a great idea it is. It doesn't matter how realistic a project it is, or whether there is any point in doing it. Nor does it matter that it will take money away from successful and cost-effective unmanned projects, let alone that we're already hundreds of billions of dollars in the red every year.

      There is one more key reason for this proposal, aside from it being an electoral politics trick: it will pump hundreds of billions of dollars towards the same "defense" and aerospace companies that are currently being subsidized with the conquest of Iraq, itself a gift to energy trading companies looking to control the world petroleum market.

      The American public, in the eyes of our heavy-hitting political elite, resembles the Roman public in the film Gladiator. Just provide enough circus, and the public will approve or believe anything, and apparently that means anything. For example, the alleged economic recovery we've been going through. Yup, nothing like prosperity. Pretty soon we'll all be rolling in the dough. Any minute now, yessir, the big economic indicators prove it! Don't pay any attention to the whiners and unemployed losers, they don't know what they're talking about. If there was no recovery, "they" wouldn't "let" the government say there was, right? Right?

  • by Omega1045 ( 584264 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:25PM (#7980110)
    Whatever you may say Bush's motivation is or what you think of Bush, this is a great announcement! I don't care if we are in a deficit. I don't care how much this costs. We MUST boldly go where no one has gone before, for the rest of the time our species exists.

    How many technologies we are using toady are based (somewhere in their roots) on the Apollo missions or shuttle missions? What a great advancement for mankind!
    • by Anonymous Squonk ( 128339 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:44PM (#7980373) Journal
      Whatever you may say Bush's motivation is or what you think of Bush, this is a great announcement! I don't care if we are in a deficit. I don't care how much this costs. We MUST boldly go where no one has gone before, for the rest of the time our species exists.

      This isn't mankind's idea, this is the idea of a United States president searching for ways to get himself re-elected without actually having to do anything, by setting crowd pleasing goals decades in advance that he will ultimately have no responsibility for.

      How many technologies we are using toady are based (somewhere in their roots) on the Apollo missions or shuttle missions? What a great advancement for mankind!

      The problem is that there is still no person or organization that is qualified to speak for mankind, nor does mankind have an unified message it wishes to convey to the universe. Mankind's current technological maturity is already thousands of years more advanced than its social maturity, causing all sorts of problems from the vast inequities in use of the earth's resources, to the constant threat of planetwide annihilation. Unless we spend the next few hundred years building a more mature society that is capable of handling the technological advances it has brought upon itself, mankind is going to burn out (figuratively and literally) much sooner than you expect. You might even live to see the end yourself...

  • by telstar ( 236404 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:25PM (#7980117)
    Jeez, just yesterday I read about how they were searching for water on Mars, now we're looking for Bushes on the Moon? They aughta start with that young one ... I bet Jenna's fallen over and seen stars a bunch of times...
  • by ParadoxicalPostulate ( 729766 ) <saapad AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:26PM (#7980125) Journal
    Eh, in my opinion its all a ploy to get people hyped up for the elections. Sure, you may argue its a little early but I will just say "NO."

    I'd say its pretty damn obvious he has no interest in the space program itself. Besides, it seems like a really bad time considering the economy + iraq + afghanistan. Then again, since most of the Iraq/Afghanistan money was conveniently left out of the budget, I could see how Bush plans to pay for this.

    What saddens me is that, even though the majority of informed individuals can see right through this, there's not a damn thing we can do. There's no powerful candidate to oppose him. Odds are that he will win, and that'll serve as a pat on the back for all the stuff he's done since he entered office (in his mind and that of his administration).

    Anyway, I would welcome a space program if it was sincerely intended. But I don't think this particular thing will amount to much - its very easy to plan something that'll cost hundreds of billions of dollars in the future, because you're not the one who's gonna be in office when the time comes to commit resources!
  • by Ryan Stortz ( 598060 ) <> on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:26PM (#7980129)
    $12B is chicken scratch compared to all the revenue NASA's advances will create. If you compared NASA's budget from it's inception until 1980 againist the money made by all their advances. The price would be moot. The companies who NASA outsourced to are now using what they learned and discovered to create newer and better products.
  • by finelinebob ( 635638 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:26PM (#7980132) Homepage

    The way he pays for everything else ... by cutting taxes, of course!

    • by StefanJ ( 88986 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:46PM (#7980390) Homepage Journal
      He's counting on our aerospace industry locating overseas, where engineers work for $15 a day, thus cutting development and construction costs to the bone!

      The Mars ship may not be made in America, and the crew will be Dynagen contractors, but we can take pride in the fact that exclusive broadcast rights of the landings will belong to American big media companies.

    • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:17PM (#7980684) Homepage Journal
      He won't. Read up a bit on his history, both as Texas governor and as US president.

      His MO is to announce big, impressive new government efforts, get them passed - and then block their funding.

      If his history is any guide, here's what he'd planning: He will get bills passed declaring missions to the moon, Mars, whatever. He'll get lots of publicity from this. Hidden in the bills will be the elimination of existing NASA programs. Then, when the funding bills come up, he and his cohort will work hard to make sure that the funding isn't passed.

      The end result will be to terminate most existing NASA programs, and fund no new programs. But he'll talk loudly and often about the great space programs that he has established.

      For further details, google for the phrase "starve the beast".

      (But the US military will get funding for an expanded space effort. That should reassure everyone in the world.)

  • Progress (Score:3, Funny)

    by kels ( 9845 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:28PM (#7980147)
    In the 1960's, it took us under 9 years from Kennedy's pledge to land on the moon.

    Now we can do it in 11!
  • NASA Lottery (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mathetes ( 132911 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:28PM (#7980148)
    I propose that NASA be authorized to create a lottery for supplemental funding. It could either be a traditional cash lottery, or perhaps they could make the prizes NASA related, such as getting your name on a space probe, or give away some NASA merchandise. The "Big Jackpot" could be a trip to the International Space Station valued at $20 million. If the eligible person can't qualify for health reasons, he/she could sell the spot.
  • It sucks. (Score:5, Funny)

    by TheOnlyCoolTim ( 264997 ) <> on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:29PM (#7980169)
    In 1961, when shit wasn't invented yet and people fought bears for vital food, President Kennedy had the balls to give NASA less than nine years to get to the moon.
    In this day and age, when there's metric shitloads of technology all over the place and the internet makes valuable porn as free as air, President Bush gives it twelve years. What a tool.

    Now I am reading more, and the deadline is actually 2020. That's seventeen years.

    See, Kennedy had the balls to lay a firm deadline down. "You bitches will put a man on the moon before January 1, 1970 or I will come back from the grave and kick your ass," he said. He knew he was going to get shot. That's how hardcore he was. He also got crazy laid by Marilyn Monroe.

    President Bush says, "You ought to think about just possibly putting a man on the moon sometime during this five year period."

    President Kennedy showed us that you have to slap NASA around a little bit to get them to do anything worthwhile with manned space exploration. You can't be all lovey-dovey and set long gradual timetables.

    And Bush mentions "the goal of living and working there for increasingly extended periods." So we'll have another Skylab ISS, but on the moon. The only differences will be that it won't crash into Australia like Skylab (it will crash into the Moon instead - that might sound hard to acheive since it would already be on the surface of the moon, but they will find a way to do that), it will leak more than ISS, and since it won't even be international we won't be able to bum rides from the Russians.

    If Kennedy was alive in this day and age he would have said, "Fucking NASA, I am still alive in this day and age so you assholes better have a self-sufficient Mars base by the year 2013. Also make me a space elevator. And resurrect Marilyn Monroe." Then NASA would complain that it is not their job to resurrect people and Kennedy would punch NASA in the eye.

    I bet the "Crew Exploration Vehicle" is going to blow the fuck up about twenty times too. You can probably trace the suckiness of manned space exploration to the decision to switch from cool names like "Mercury" and "Apollo" to crappy names like "Skylab" and "STS." When the Apollo blew up they fucking fixed it and came home, but when the Space Shuttle gets fucked up they make Powerpoints about it and ignore the problem.

  • by Leebert ( 1694 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:29PM (#7980170)
    OK. So here's the 86 billion dollar question: Who is going to pay for all of this? I'm as much for space exploration as the next guy (Heck, I *work* for NASA), but let's be honest: BUDGET DEFICIT

    Here's the scariest part of Bush's speech: "NASA's current five-year budget is $86 billion. Most of the funding we need for the new endeavors will come from re-allocating $11 billion from within that budget." Hey other NASA folks out there, you know what this means: The return of the "ISS Tax".

    Developing a new vehicle, returning to the Moon, going to Mars... This is all going to cost a lot of money, will it be fully funded? Part of the reason that the Space Shuttle is such a failure is the fact that it was not adequately funded*. One of the contributing factors to our ability to go to the moon the first time was that NASA had a blank check.

    * This is addressed in the CAIB report, if you haven't read the section on the history of the politics of the STS, it's worth a glance.
  • by Quirk ( 36086 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:31PM (#7980197) Homepage Journal
    ...Bush's space exploration initiative is a deflection of media attention away from a steady diet of the overall cost of war and occupation.
  • by cheezus ( 95036 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:33PM (#7980214) Homepage
    Yes, going to the moon again is a GREAT idea. Building a moon base is a GREAT idea. Going to Mars is a GREAT idea.

    This is something that looks good in a 30 second spot, but falls apart when you look at it. How is Bush going to pay for it? Answer: He's not. The 5% increase is a joke - it's not going to get a man on the red planet. But we can pretend for the cameras.

    See, he doesn't want to get caught like poppy lacking the "vision thing". So he comes up with this vision of a moon base that seemed cool when he was a kid and tells everyone we're going to do it.

    Kind of like No Child Left Behind. All those reforms sounded pretty good too. Who knows, they might have been, but Bush didn't fund it. Still, it made him look good, just like this NASA announcement does.

    I applaud the Bush for being the first President in a long time to get us excited about space exploration again. I just wish he really meant it.
  • by hirschma ( 187820 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:39PM (#7980299)
    1989: President (George H.) Bush announces that we're going to Mars by 2020.

    2004: President (George W.) Bush announces that we're going to the Moon by 2020. Then to Mars.

    2013: President (Jeb) Bush announces that the Chinese have agreed to allow us to send an American astronaut to their new moonbase, but only if we abandon all remaining manufacturing efforts.

    2022: President (Jenna) Bush sadly informs the country that the Moon has come to us - the Chinese are dropping asteroid sized chunks of lunar debris on us, a new weapon that even our not-yet-deployed Star Wars program can defend against.

    2034: An American finally lands on Mars, although only symbolically. A statue of the last President of the United States, Jenna Bush, is erected in the new Martian People's Republic History Museum.

  • by kotku ( 249450 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:44PM (#7980367) Journal
    Future Washington Post Headlines Read.

    Beagle Discovers Life On Mars

    Beagle Discovers Oil On Mars

    Bush anounces "Operation Martian Freedom"

    Martians wellcome troops but "alien terrorists" from Neptune skirmish with coalition troops.

    President Yaxcbat ( Neptune ) announces "Operation Freedom Earth"

    Neptunians arrive at Earth and kick some Dubya butt

    Neptunians introduce foolproof ballot punching machines using superior alien technology

    Republicans thrown out of the Green House ( As the aliens renamed it )

    Earth is happy.

  • by B.D.Mills ( 18626 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:46PM (#7980395)
    It is a bold initiative to announce a return to the moon and then go on to Mars, but it will be expensive. It might turn out to be too expensive for one nation alone.

    To save costs, China, Russia and the ESA should also be involved in the missions. China has announced its own plans to go to the moon in a similar time frame. Russia has some lunar experience, especially with their robotic craft in the early 1970s and their sample return missions at about the same time.

    Joint missions to the moon are not a new idea. The Soviet Premier Khrushchev proposed a joint effort to go to the moon with the Americans in 1961 and 1963. It was rejected by JFK in 1961, but JFK was more willing to consider the idea when it was proposed again in 1963. Had JFK not been assassinated a few weeks later, a Russian might have walked on the moon in 1969 with an American.

    If Bush is talking about "humanity", he needs to involve more of humanity in this new space exploration initiative than just Americans.
    • by demachina ( 71715 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @10:23PM (#7981288)
      Making it an international program would be another disaster just like the ISS. Instead of one set of politicians to keep in line you have 10 who randomly fund and defund their part of the program. You get massive infighting just like the ISS where the Russians are of the opinion the Americans dont know what they are doing and the Americans dont think the Russians know what they are doing and you spend all your time traveling half way around the world trying to make peace and get something done.

      If you are serious about this set up a lean, mean organization like the old Lockheed skunkworks and tell them to go out and hire the best engineers they can find wherever they can find them, and put them all in one place (unlike NASA with a center everyplace a powerful politician managed to put one). I'm certain a whole lot of Russians, Indians and Chinese will flock to US payscales, except where their government stops them( and I imagine only China would successfully stop them). They would also be diverted from making ballistic missiles.
  • by ljavelin ( 41345 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:53PM (#7980468)
    I'd rather see a couple small teams be organized to pull off incremental science missions. When their work looks promising, and we have the technology and reason to sit on Mars or the moon, great!

    If we spend $1 billion this year on this goal, then I want SOMETHING that we can show for it. Either a fleet of moon landers that do real science, or a working, low-cost rocket system that can carry nice sized payloads outside of earth orbit, etc.

    I just don't want to spend $1 billion for a bunch of soon-to-be-obsolete technical drawings of a prototype lander that'll bring 2 guys to poke around the moon for a few days and then call it quits.

    In other words, this should be about the science of it FIRST. We need practical deliverables OTHER THAN just being able to watch TV on Mars or the Moon.
  • by Pyromage ( 19360 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:09PM (#7980614) Homepage
    What the hell kind of name is the "Crew Exploration Vehicle"? At least the shuttle didn't have some crazy name; it was the shuttle. And it is a shuttle, so that was an OK name.

    Then you had the Apollo landers. The name of a *god* who rode through the heavens in a flaming chariot. Now *there*'s an appropriate name. Or the "Saturn V". Named after another god (or a planet, but whatever). Still better than C.E.V.

    Has anyone tried to *say* CEV? Chev? Chevy? How are we supposed to pronounce it? I swear, it sounds like a suppository.

    This is a sign of bad leadership somewhere. It has to be. No one but a comittee would call a Mars craft the "Crew Exploration Vehicle". I don't want to explore the crew! Eck!

    Oh well, I guess some old-timer there has some strange fetish... it is the end of all hope.
  • by Luscious868 ( 679143 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:17PM (#7980680)
    Ladies and gentleman, one way or another we as a species are going to have to band together and figure out how to get off this lovely little rock we call Earth or our species will eventually go bye, bye. Granted we have billions of years before the sun engulfs the Earth in flames but it's eventually going to happen. The Sun won't last forever, all stars die. When the Sun enters it's latter stages it's going to expand and engulf the Earth, killing everything on it. That is, if we can even make it that long without a really big asteroid heading our way and colliding with our planet taking us all out first.

    We've got to figure out a way to get people off of Earth and Mars is pretty good way to start. I mean just think of what a great accomplishment it would be for humanity. No human has ever set foot on another planet before and after hundreds of thousands of years humanity is finally very near the point where we are finally ready to do so. What an absolutely amazing accomplishment considering that a few hundred years ago the vast majority of us still though the Earth was flat.

    We finally have a president that is going to set out a proposal for getting us to Mars and half of you poo poo it because you don't like the guy. While I'm no huge fan of Bush, I don't really care who the heck proposes the trip to Mars. At least it's out there now; at least it will be talked about. At least there is a possibility that it will happen. 10 years is a realistic goal considering how much it will cost. Even if it ultimately takes 15 - 20 years, so what? If NASA starts now and plans correctly, there will be plenty of money available. It just won't be there all at once. It will require careful planning and probably scaling back and eventually ditching the aging shuttle fleet, but again, so what? The current shuttle fleet has nearly outlived it's usefulness.
    Perhaps many of you don't like the idea because we've already been to the moon. Well I was born in 1981 and there hasn't been anyone on the Moon in my lifetime, nor in the lifetimes of subsequent generations. I, for the life of me, cannot figure out why, after so many successful missions, we would stop sending people into space with the hopes of going father and farther and exploring more and more. Heck, I would be happy just to see us send someone back to the moon so I could witness it with my own eyes (via TV that is). Think of all the good things that could happen if we do send someone to Mars. Think of all the technological advances that are sure to arise as a result. Think of all of the children that might be inspired to become engineers and scientists.

    American scientists and engineers are a dieing breed. There were very few from my graduating class in high school that planned on studying science or engineering when they went to college. A manned mission to Mars could provide an inspiration to all of the young kids out there to become interested in science and engineering. Hey, it happened during the space race in the 50's and 60's and it could certainly happen again.

    In short, don't shoot down the idea because it comes from Bush. A manned mission to Mars wouldn't require a huge increase in funding if it is something that NASA starts planning for and funding now with the goal of getting someone there in say 10 - 20 years. We have absolutely nothing to lose by trying to go and we have quite a lot to gain. With all of the things that presently divide this great nation, a manned mission to Mars is something that almost every single American man, woman and child could get behind and be excited about regardless of who the president happens to be and regardless of what other circumstances we may find ourselves in. In my humble opinion, something like that is definitely worth pursuing, no matter the cost or the time it actually takes to get it done.
  • by NeuroManson ( 214835 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @10:05PM (#7981125) Homepage
    All the guys at JPL have to do is fake some soil sample results from Spirit, claim to have found oil, and we'll be landing on Mars within 5 years.
  • Bush v. Kennedy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by istewart ( 463887 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @10:41PM (#7981448)
    I'll probably get modded through the toilet or flamed in the replies for this, but oh well.

    I'd like to lift a 2-paragraph or so quote from the CNN article [] on JFK somebody linked to earlier:

    "Some derided the dream as lunacy. Others viewed it as just another strategic move in the Cold War chess match between the United States and the Soviet Union.

    Kennedy had just been humiliated in the Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba, a communist ally of Moscow. In his speech, he called for many measures to combat communism, requesting billions, for example, to stop red insurgencies in Southeast Asia."

    Now granted, in this day and age it's going to be pretty damned easy to beat the terrorists (in place of Communists) to the moon if the terrorists have no intention of going there in the first place. But still, both administrations had a chosen enemy: Kennedy the Communists and Bush Muslim extremists. One could argue that Bush also has an enemy in red China (and that they are the space program's intended target), but that seems less likely considering our trade volume.

    Also, both presidents were coming off a controversial military action. America had the need for the containment of Communism drilled into its collective skull ever since Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech (if not before), and America has had the "War on Terrorism" drilled into its collective head ever since late 2001. Both presidents were realizing that military action was losing popularity, and both needed something to invigorate the national imagination (to paraphrase the CNN article's title). Now, I'm too lazy and this forum is too casual for me to research specifics of federal budgets and electoral politics during the Kennedy administration, but there may well be some similarities there, too.

    In summation, my basic point is that it's possible Bush's intentions may be no less pure than Kennedy's were. Bush is certainly a popular target now, but he's still a part of current events and we don't have 20/20 hindsight through which to evaluate his actions. Current politics taint (or add flavor) to any discussion of this space plan, but only time will tell how it will be remembered.
  • by Hawthorne01 ( 575586 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @10:49PM (#7981508)
    Years of posts on how woeful the US space program is, and then something like this happens, and there's 600 posts of how Bush is just doing to distract us from Iraq/look for oil/shovel money to Haliburton.

    Unfrickin' believable. You want Star Trek to happen for real? It has to start somewhere, and here comes the best thing to help that along, and all you can do is bitch

    • by mooredav ( 101800 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @11:19PM (#7981716)

      You want Star Trek to happen for real? It has to start somewhere, and here comes the best thing to help that along

      No, Bush's proposal will not help you get Star Trek technology faster.

      Star Trek occurs several centuries into the future. In the meantime, we will deal with ordinary issues like rising retirement and health care costs. We need a balanced budget, a sustainable environment, and peace. Otherwise, you may end up with NO space program.

      The key word here is "sustainable". NASA may get an extra billion $$$ now, but what will happen to that Star Trek future when the deficit gets out of control?

  • One glaring problem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Gudlyf ( 544445 ) <> on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @11:27PM (#7981767) Homepage Journal
    One problem I'm sure someone at NASA has an answer for is the simply insanely cold temperatures on the surface of Mars -- how can humans be expected to endure temeratures that average -76 degrees F?! On nights like this in New England, where the wind chill is -25F, you can surely appreciate that number.

    I found an interesting link while looking for temperatures of the moon and mars called The Artemis Project []. I didn't look at it much, but they seem to indicate we'd have to build an underground habitat in order to endure those cold temps for long perids. Another good point they bring up is how the cold temps will simply cause tools to break down with use more easily.

  • by tmortn ( 630092 ) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @03:28AM (#7983103) Homepage
    I think Zubrin does a good job of prooving the moon a rather poor choice as a stepping stone to MARS.

    Moon has almost no gravity, Mars is 1/3 earth normal which is a serious problem for long duration habitation. Moon has 28 day cycle of day/night, mars has almost a 24 hour day. Moon has no atmosphere to provide UV filtering Mars has a substantial atmosphere by comparison which significantly (along with greater distance from the sun ) reduces cosmic radiation exposure. Also mars atmosphere means suit designs for Lunar surface exploration and Martian surface exploration are very different. One similarity however may be longevity regarding dust wear and tear on the suit joints/seals.

    One of the biggest fallacies is that the Moon is easier to reach. It is in some ways more difficult due to its lack of gravity/atmosphere. The moon offers little to help you slow down. The delta V needed from your engines to reach the lunar surface is actually more than that needed to reach the surface of mars thanks to gravity capture and aero breaking avaialble at mars. Thus total delta V to the surface is in the 6k/s. Hohman transfer delta V to mars is 4.5km/s and Mars slows you down, thus you actually have greater delta V on the mars mission but less of it is supplied by rockets which require fuel which is heavy.

    In otherwords the reality of orbital mechanics and checmical rocket technology means it takes more gas to go from the earth to the moon than it does from the earth to mars. In simpler terms refuling on the moon is like driving from Atlanta to new york to get gas for a trip to D.C. Duration is longer, but energy expended is greater.

    The other problem is the lunar refuling proposition still has not acounted for both elements of the rocket fuel. Oxygen is bound up in the regolith in large quantities.. 50% or more by mass in many cases. But you need something to burn with it and that is not as easily found. The best hope for this is finding ICE gathered in the craters. Otherwise you have to process regolith for elements found in the parts per million range rathere than signifigant portions. That takes some serious equipment, all of which takes more energy to land on the moon than it takes to land it on Mars directly from earth. Or of course you could lift it from earth. Thus if your reason for a lunar base is a staging point for Mars it dosn't make a whole hell of alot of sense. You could have put all that mass on Mars to begin with if you had enough energy to land it on the moon. Not to mention making rocket fuel on Mars is a hell of alot easier than making it on the Moon.

    Don't get me wrong. The moon is a good destination for exploration in and of itself. I just want to point out the 'common sense' idea of using the Moon to get to mars is flawed.

    Lets go to the moon to go to the moon and go to mars to go to mars. One does not require the other. I for one would love to see the plan of establishing an observatory ( a telescope or series of scopes ) on the moon. In such a mission there are some mission elements that would be germain to both ventures ( habitats, shielding, some elements of long duration mission suit design ). SO going to the moon could provide some insight for a mars mission but its not a pre-requisit by any stretch of the imagination.
    • by TomRC ( 231027 ) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @12:29PM (#7986355)

      If we want to get humanity permanently into space, we need to stop thinking in purely engineering and short term economic terms.

      One of the reasons North America got settled relatively quickly, IMO, was that kings passed out huge chunks of land to cronies so they could set up colonies to profit by shipping goods home.

      With space it's harder. Information is the main thing valuable enough to ship to earth - and the value of scientific information will decline rapidly after the first few missions to any place. (He3 may be worth shipping from the moon to earth - we'll see.) So we need to quickly bootstrap space settlement off of the value of scientific exploration, but rapidly reduce the costs of getting there and staying there.

      Zubrin's plan is elegant and far cheaper up front - and does establish some infrastructure on Mars. But the cycle time of growth is very slow, not concentrated in any one location, and doesn't do much to reduce the cost of subsequent Mars missions. Maybe we'd keep that up for 10 years before deciding we weren't learning enough to bother maintaining the program. On to Titan, abandon Mars!

      But if we build up a base on Luna - whatever the up front cost - it will make economic sense to maintain and expand it - initially as a much cheaper source of LOX for rockets, later for other exports supporting space exploration and settlement.

      So - call it a con job if you wish (well, please don't tell the politicians), but taking the slower, more costly Moon-first approach seems more likely to get us permanently into space. I prefer to think of it as an investment in humanity's future.
  • by Catbeller ( 118204 ) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @10:15AM (#7984897) Homepage

    This is the wrong way to go to space again. The nadir, the opposite, the way it shouldn't be.

    I've been a space fanatic for 35 years. And emulating the Apollo model of spectaular and ultimately useless manned shots was proved a dead end thirty years ago. It is a dead end now.

    We should go to the moon, but to establish mining and material processing plants. We should use mass drivers on the moon, rather than rockets, to move material into L2, L5, or earth orbit for contruction purposes. Using the moon for a launching platform for Mars is a terrible idea -- if you are in orbit, in zero G, you can use an ion engine to get to mars in weeks. But to launch from the moon, you have to use a high energy rocket, which actually gets you to Mars more slowly than the high-efficiency and always-on ion engine.

    Build in space, not on the moon. Move lunar materials to Earth-moon space using an electric mass-driver on the surface, and make aluminum, steel, and titanium by the thousands of tons in lunar orbit or L5.

    If you want to go to space as a nation, you go BIG, which means you proceed deliberately. No spectacular space shots of interest to geologists only. You build up industrial capacity in orbit and on the moon, and after that you can go anywhere at a much cheaper cost than lifting tons of miniaturized and fragile components from Earth, because you simply make what you need at the launching complex from raw materials. It's more expensive in the short term, but it the long term it pays for itself in materials and energy (powersats), AND you get the solar system as a bonus for cheap.

    Additionally, if you industrialize near Earth, it means normal people could go and live off planet, because there would be enough resources to actually build habitats, regular shuttle services, make powersats for selling juice back home. Launching it all from Earth guarantees that although the "mission" of landing some miltary pilots on Mars would be accomplished, that no one else could go, and ultimately the whole program would be shut down because,and it pains me to say this, all we would have for our money would be some rocks, some video, and a small cadre of semi-military men who actually got to go to another world. It didn't work for Apollo, and it won't work here. This idea is pure Old NASA, and should be stopped immediately. Space should not be the province of ultrahealthy supermen who go up and come down. It should be about resources, economically sound exploitation, and the ability of a normal human to participate someday.

    And finally, Bush's (Old NASA's) dream is a crock. The money will not be there after Supply Side 2, the Looting. The old dream will die again as the neocon party ball goes dim in the next ten years and all the bills come due.

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes