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NASA Government Mars Space Science

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

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

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  • by muttoj ( 572791 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:13AM (#39031413)
    This means that the joint venture between Europe and the USA will be cancelled. The next mission will be a joint venture between Europe and Russia? Or perhaps the Chinese?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:20AM (#39031477)

    Because who needs progress in science?

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

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

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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:28AM (#39031531)

    Honestly a lot of what private sector has done comes on the back of NASA engineers but companies like these are able to do it many order of magnitudes cheaper. If it was 20% you wouldn't hear much about it... but they are able to do it upwards of 80% cheaper so far. Lets assume they are way off their numbers (which so far it doesn't look so) they still can do it half as cheap. The reasons for this is that NASA has gotten comfortable with the outsource this, or throw money at it method for it's large projects (not insulting the good projects here). Government contractors charge so much more for things the costs explode.

    It's time to lean up NASA and it's going to hurt but if we want to get to Mars some day, then we need to make that big machine vastly more efficient. This is the first step.

  • Budget Overruns (Score:2, Interesting)

    by olsmeister ( 1488789 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:28AM (#39031535)
    Unfortunately, I hate to say I agree with this. The scientific community needs to figure out a way to generate realistic budget predictions AND STICK TO THEIR BUDGETS. If you cannot do this, nobody wants to risk funding future missions / projects. I get the distinct feeling that they lowball their estimates intentionally upfront, knowing that they will be able to go back to the trough later on once the government has that initial investment made. Private business has learned throwing good money after bad is rarely a good idea; government is apparently just now getting the idea. The scientific community needs to become more responsible in this regard.
  • by PortHaven ( 242123 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:52AM (#39031751) Homepage

    We need to get off this planet...

    Seriously, if we moved most of industry to the Moon. We wouldn't have the environmental poisoning we have now.

    If we had small colonies elsewhere, we could re-populate the earth in case of a cataclysmic impact.

    We spend trillions on welfare and war, and how meaningless will those expenditures be if the human race goes *poof*

    Just saying...

    Oh, it's not a matter of if, only of "when" a big asteroid will hit the earth. Our excuse is "it only happens xxxxx number of we're safe".

    Well, it could happen tomorrow. And in truth, we're probably closer to the end of that xxxxx number of years.

  • The biggest problem (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Pengel the squib ( 300408 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:02AM (#39031867)

    The problem as I see it is that Americans, or at least American politicians, would rather pander to the portion of the religious right who claim that evolution isn't real, the rapture is near, the Bible contains everything man is meant to know, and science is an instrument of the Satan. It isn't just the right either. The only way I see the US getting into science is if there's money in it. We have been shutting down basic science for years in favor of things like biotech that make big money for business. Not that I have a problem with biotech but come on, if the basic science is done elsewhere then the engineering will follow. You can't just keep suing everybody for "stealing" your 20 year old ideas; you need to keep coming up with new ones. That's where basic research comes in.

  • Re:Confused (Score:5, Interesting)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    So then we're getting into expenses vs handouts.

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

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

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

    Answer: How to survive on REALLY limited resources!

Each new user of a new system uncovers a new class of bugs. -- Kernighan