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Mars United States Government Moon NASA Space

U.S. House Wants 'Sustained Human Presence On the Moon and the Surface of Mars' 285

MarkWhittington writes "Politico reports in a June 18, 2013 story that House Republicans have added a Mars base to its demands for a lunar base in the draft 2013 NASA Authorization bill. Both the Bush-era Constellation program and President Obama space plan envisioned eventual human expeditions to Mars. But if Politico is correct, the new bill will be the first time an official piece of legislation will call for permanent habitation of the Red Planet. The actual legislative language states, 'The [NASA] Administrator shall establish a program to develop a sustained human presence on the Moon and the surface of Mars.'"
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U.S. House Wants 'Sustained Human Presence On the Moon and the Surface of Mars'

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  • Unfunded mandate? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jandrese ( 485 ) <kensama@vt.edu> on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:07PM (#44052861) Homepage Journal
    I don't suppose the house is planning to actually pay for the enormous expense of putting a permanent human colony on a different planet? They just want NASA to stop everything else that they're doing and start making manned Mars rockets? Is it any wonder NASA struggles with long term projects, with Congress meddling every year with crazy ideas and budget uncertainty?
  • by tpjunkie ( 911544 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:18PM (#44053001) Journal
    Not only that, but the funding level for NASA is actually lowered by 5% to boot. I suppose no one should be surprised that the people who seem to have difficulty with science also have difficulties with math. Unless they think going to Mars is going to be a cheap proposition.
  • Re:no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:25PM (#44053095)

    Encouraging children to get into STEM Degrees. The moon landing back in the 1960's but a large boom into these careers. Although a small portion of them will be working on the space missions. The interest in these things as a kid will make them far more interested in the topics. Getting kids interested in Science Technology Engineering and Math, will help them get off their butts go to college and get in less serious trouble.

    Our Environment. Sure launching a rocket into space take huge amounts of carbon. But to figure out how to get people to survive and thrive on the Moon and Mars (extremely harsh conditions, and little energy sources) will create technology that we can use here on earth. Hey that solar panel on the moon can keep a small city running with a half a month of darkness, means on earth we could at least get it to run half a small city. Plus it will need to be small and light to get there. Extracting Drinking water out of the brimy pools on mars, would help us get drinking water out of our oceans and deserts.

    Agriculture, these people will need to be self sufficient, in a bubble, imagine what we could do with these ideas on earth.

    Health Care. The people in colonies on the Moon and Mars can get sick, we will need to find new procedures to fix these problems. They can be transferred back to earth as a cheaper solution to many problems.

    Those are just a few.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:26PM (#44053103) Homepage
    1. insist the US Postal Service implement pension funding 75 years into the future with no known revenue source to do so, as we cannot directly defund it. pretend companies like UPS and FedEx actually want to deliver bulk mail in place of the postal service but are in fact incumbered by its existence.
    2. insist NASA pursue permanent manned installations on the moon and mars despite the fact its orders of magnitude more expensive than current unmanned operations. pretend companies like SpaceX are somehow encumbered by the existence of NASA.
  • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:27PM (#44053113) Homepage

    I want to see mankind spread out into the solar system, and ideally I'd like to see the USA at the head of it all. So I'm not unsympathetic toward the idea.

    But I really want to see the space program get done correctly. So far, every trip to the moon has been via a single-use rocket, completely used up for the one trip. It made sense when we were trying to win a race, but it also meant we hadn't built out the infrastructure.

    The right way to do things: build a truly reusable space vehicle, often called a "space pickup truck". Proposed heavy lift vehicles are more like a "space moving van", and they will have their uses, but what we need more than anything else is a spacecraft that can fly and fly and fly some more with minimal maintenance.

    We want a craft that can fly to orbit, return, and then go again tomorrow. It might need some maintenance overnight but it should be as little as possible. The space shuttle needed man-centuries of work between flights... we can do far better than that.

    Single-stage would be ideal, but two-stage might be easier to get going... just make sure both stages are reusable and don't need too much maintenance. Cargo capacity need not be huge... it would be cheaper to fly things up in multiple small loads on a truly reusable craft, than to build, launch, and use up a single heavy-lift vehicle.

    Once we have the "space pickup truck" we need to build a transportation hub in Earth orbit. It would have emergency Earth return vehicles docked, would have lots of supplies (fuel, water, oxygen, food, etc.) and would have staff on board all the time.

    Once you have all the above? The moon becomes trivial. Build a "moon shuttle" that could be basically a couple of fuel tanks and engines bolted to a frame, with some sort of shielded crew compartment and a lunar lander docked to it. It need not be pretty and it need not be tough because it will never land anywhere.

    Ideally, also we should build a "space cannon" system that can shoot things into space. This would be the cheapest way to send up inert things like oxygen and fuel, or even dried food and tough electronics. And humans living in space will need serious radiation shielding... the cannon could possibly send up lots of shielding mass.

    Imagine how expensive it would be to deliver cargo from America to Australia if we had to do it by building a single-use cargo missile. With modern aircraft the dominating factor is fuel costs. If we could get space travel costs down to chiefly the cost of fuel that would be a massive reduction in costs.

  • Re:All for it... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ArhcAngel ( 247594 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:30PM (#44053143)
    You're currently modded flaimbait but my first thought was let's do it now. Load up all politicians, attorneys, and used car salesmen and launch em!
  • Pork, Pork, Pork (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Squidlips ( 1206004 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:35PM (#44053195)
    By US House, they mean TEXAS. This is just PORK for Houston and its rocket-to-nowhere--The Space Launch System (SLS). SLS has no mission, but it means money to Houston and therefor they dreamed up this ridiculous objective, And Houston will do anything to get the money, including poaching from the highly-successful unmanned mission from JPL such as Opportunity and Curiosity.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:39PM (#44053253)

    Wow. Let me guess, you are under the age of, say 40? This is the entire arguement for the Space Shuttle that derailed proper space development for over 20 years. FORGET about the whole re-usability thing - it just costs too much.

    Cheap(er), reliable, modular, expendable life vehicles... Like what SpaceX is doing now.

    The rest of the ideas, like a proper transportation hub in orbit, and even to some extent a space cannon, make some sense. But realistically getting into earth orbit is easiest, fastest, and cheapest the same way they did it in the 1960's. One rocket at a time, work out the bugs, and get this shiz movin...

  • by Areyoukiddingme ( 1289470 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:46PM (#44053335)

    Fortunately, that's precisely what Elon Musk is building. The Falcon 9 will be partially reusable sometime next year, and fully reusable probably by 2016. (It's two stage.) A Falcon 9 launch is already an order of magnitude cheaper than a launch from the (illegal monopoly) United Launch Alliance. Once the Falcon 9 is even partially reusable, that price will fall another order of magnitude, making possible all sorts of on-orbit assembly of larger structures.

    Nobody is likely to build a linear accelerator launch system this century. Building one at all is hard enough. Building one that doesn't result in smashing your payload into atmosphere at the end is even tougher.

  • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:48PM (#44053345)

    That's a sure way of making the human race extinct.

  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:49PM (#44053351) Homepage

    Actually, NASA has done a shitload of stuff since Apollo. They have been doing long term, small scale research on a whole raft of subjects including plain ol planes. They've organized some pretty impressive technology for the Mars / Jupiter / Saturn unmanned probes. They've kept the ISS up and running.

    All of this isn't as sexy as the Shuttle or Apollo programs and NASA would be glad to ramp up it's efforts had it been given some decent long term funding and had Congress resisted the urge to micromanage everything. There have been setbacks of course. The James Webb Telescope/a) (successor to the Hubble) is over budget and over time. Sometimes rocket science is hard. [wikipedia.org]

    Given the constraints they have had to work under, I'm surprised they get anything done.

  • by ConceptJunkie ( 24823 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:55PM (#44053405) Homepage Journal

    Well, the first few vehicles might have some glitches. We should probably use Congressmen and Senators until they stop exploding.

  • by Xaedalus ( 1192463 ) <[Xaedalys] [at] [yahoo.com]> on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @04:03PM (#44053497)
    Anonymous, you will NEVER solve the problems you are indirectly referring to. Poverty, war, crime, environmental pollution: those are inevitable byproducts of existence itself. Not to mention that you fail to take into account the greatest random factor of them all: human stupidity. Stopping our march to space and spending money to solve problems here at home is the most futile fallacial notion ever; because you will waste more money trying to correct for human stupidity and the inevitable results of existential chaos than you ever would in building capability to get into deep space. Those problems will never be solved--but putting permanent encampments of humans on the Moon and beyond CAN.
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @04:15PM (#44053635) Homepage

    Too late, they're already full of hot air.

  • by Thud457 ( 234763 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @05:01PM (#44054035) Homepage Journal
    and I want a pony.
    a unicorn pony.
    a well-hung unicorn pony.

    Until these nimrods in congress actually come up with the funding for this, and given their history of cancellations, up front, this is just useless wheel-spinning that might fund a few shoestring studies that go nowhere. We'd get to Mars sooner if we put the project on Kickstarter than waiting for congress to fund it.

The wages of sin are high but you get your money's worth.