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Mars Science

71 Percent of U.S. See Humans On Mars By 2033 266

astroengine writes "In a recent poll funded by the non-profit Explore Mars, 71% of respondents agreed that the U.S. will send a human to Mars within the next two decades. Unfortunately, on average, the sample of 1,101 people surveyed thought the U.S. government allocated 2.4% of the federal budget to NASA — in reality it's only 0.5%. With this in mind, 75% of the respondents agreed/strongly agreed that NASA's budget should be increased to explore Mars through manned and robotic means."
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71 Percent of U.S. See Humans On Mars By 2033

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  • And... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @06:18AM (#42869597)

    76% of the U.S. population believes an invisible guy in the sky watching them all the time too.

    Unlikely doesn't get more likely just because you got the majority to believe it...

  • Re:Mad skillZ (Score:5, Insightful)

    by neyla ( 2455118 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @06:54AM (#42869745)

    I think the trend is to overestimate the short-term changes, while underestimating long-term actually.

    And long-term gets shorter all the time. We've made more technological progress in the last 50 years than we did in the 100 before that, or the 200 before those, or the 500 before. (i.e. 1963-2013 has seen more technological progress than 1163 - 1663 did.

  • by cshotton ( 46965 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @07:05AM (#42869791) Homepage

    What those 77% of people fail to realize is that we can no longer organize ourselves well enough to accomplish this sort of task. NASA, as an institution, long ago stopped being about technical successes and exploration. During my years working with NASA, I discovered that a NASA manager's career success is measured solely by the number of people they manage and the size of the budget they control. Not by how many successful missions they achieved, not by the technology breakthroughs they fostered, and not by any other rational measure beyond their org chart success.

    So we have no government agency capable of focusing on such a complicated goal as landing humans on Mars. They immediately get distracted with project management issues and politics. If private industry were to try and undertake this effort, there would have to be some financial incentive for our largest private spacefaring corporations to try and cooperate, since none have the resources alone to achieve the goal within 20 years. And the only model they have for organizing themselves is NASA today. No one still working in the industry knows how NASA of the 1960's worked, and society has changed to the point that the technical people required for such an effort are no longer motivated to make the selfless sacrifices needed to achieve such a goal. All the good engineers left aerospace for the Dot.Com world in the '90s. Those remaining few are motivated by commercial and personal financial success, and that requires a much shorter planning and gratification cycle than 20 years.

    Sorry, we won't be going to Mars. We're a bunch of greedy, self-absorbed, small-minded apes that have reached the pinnacle of our organizational skills at the bottom of our gravity well.

  • Re:In related news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by backslashdot ( 95548 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @07:13AM (#42869829)

    We had the tech, but not the money. Are we going to have the money by 2033? I sure hope so, but it looks iffy. A Mars shot would probably take 20 years nowadays (the moon shot took 20 years too if you count the time that the Saturn V engines were in development when Kennedy announced it). That means it would have to survive 4 presidential elections and 8 congressional elections. Space is one of the easy budgets to raid money out of. In essence we'll need 20 years of sustained prosperity. It will probably be 2020 that a Mars shot will be announced. Probably around the time China announces a moon shot. Or maybe their own Mars shot. I hope they announce it. Maybe we need that to get up off our butts. There's no way in hell we're gonna watch someone else get there first.

  • Re:Mad skillZ (Score:4, Insightful)

    by locofungus ( 179280 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @07:35AM (#42869899)

    Getting someone to Mars (and presumably back again) is an engineering problem. We know how to do it in theory - we know multiple ways it could be done and all that remains is to decide the "best" way to do it and find the funds to achieve it.

    But "the funds" will be eye watering sums to the average man in the street and the payback is hard to define, certainly in the short term.

    We can't even find the funds to seriously research nuclear fusion. That is currently a physics problem rather than an engineering problem, we don't currently know how to build a working commercial fusion power plant but it seems likely that one should be possible and the payback is pretty obvious.

    I don't foresee a man on Mars or a working commercial fusion power plant in my lifetime - I'm just old enough to have been alive when there were men on the moon but not old enough to remember it. I've some hope that China might spur on the US and EU eventually but I think there's another 15-20 years before Chinese accomplishments go beyond the "well we did it in the past and we could do it again now if we really wanted to but there's no point" attitude of the majority of the electorate in the West.

    So I don't see a man on Mars in 20 years - just possibly I see the start of a race to put a man on Mars in the next 20 years.


  • by osu-neko ( 2604 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @07:35AM (#42869905)

    We're a bunch of greedy, self-absorbed, small-minded apes...

    ...with a bad habit of glorifying the past and forgetting that there's never been a time where this was even one iota less true than it is today. "The pathetic culture we've devolved into today could never even accomplish today the great things our ancestors did, much less progress even further." This has been the common wisdom since... at least since we've been capable of writing it down. It was certainly the common sentiment among the Greeks (well before they actually accomplished the things we know them for today).

  • Re:In related news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @07:40AM (#42869921)

    Half the population believes in creationism and alien abductions.

    I'll pass on putting any stock in their predictions or beliefs.

  • humans on mars (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @07:45AM (#42869949)

    if any humans get to mars by 2033 they wont be american, theyll be chinese.

  • by CaptainLard ( 1902452 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:45AM (#42870139)

    The latest Mars rover benefited from a lot of hype. Unwarranted hype at that. It's just a rover, it's not doing anything new, only something old and a little extra.

    I don't think I'm supposed to respond to AC's but...what we got with the MSL is a small car sized (car analogy eh?) robot that can largely think for itself placed on another planet by the world's largest supersonic parachute, a set of rocket engines used to hover for several seconds, and a crane capable of gently lowering this giant robot from said rocket hover ship without damaging what is by far the most sensitive equipment ever to leave orbit. Oh yeah, all of that was operated by 70+ explosions that all worked exactly as intended. Streamed live for the whole world to see. The fact that jerks in basements can bemoan that as hype shows how many great engineers there are working today. If you spout out "it's not doing anything new, something old and a little extra"* to a feat of that magnitude, it means that there are so many engineers cranking out awesome shit everywhere that you're numb to the amazingness of human achievement. If you think that was easy, but a microcontroller dev kit, switches and motors for under $20 (a miracle in itself) and try and do a simple project like a garage door opener or anything interacting with the physical world and see how long it takes you. Is there a problem with bureaucracy? Sure but don't use that as excuse to spit on all of the greatness that is still currently being accomplished. You guys are as bad as hollywood when they brush off all of human invention as being given to us by aliens in whatever stupid scifi movie because thats easier to comprehend than "smart people exist".

    *This deserves its own rant because its 100% bullshit. MSL is doing plenty of new things and the "a little extra" approach is ALL OF SCIENCE...see the development process from mecury to gemini to apollo. Cause really that was nothing new either. I mean the Chinese had "rockets" ~800 years ago.

  • Re:Mad skillZ (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cheesybagel ( 670288 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @09:17AM (#42870299)
    Depends on how you measure progress. Transportation is not any faster. Energy is not any cheaper to generate.

    The computers are better and communications are more pervasive and ubiquitous.

    It is laughable to dismiss the Renaissance and the Age of Exploration like that.

  • We could get there (Score:4, Insightful)

    by medcalf ( 68293 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @10:17AM (#42870743) Homepage
    But NASA can't. If we do get to Mars in that time frame, it will be the Chinese or, more likely, one of the New Space companies like SpaceX.

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?