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NASA Mars The Almighty Buck Science

NASA Finally Admits It Doesn't Have the Funding To Land Humans on Mars (arstechnica.com) 247

For years, NASA has been chalking out and expanding its plans to go to Mars. The agency's Journey to Mars project aims to land humans on the red planet during the 2030s. For years, the agency has been reassuring us that it will be able to make do all those audacious projects within the budget it gets. Until now, that is. From a report: Now, finally, the agency appears to have bended toward reality. During a propulsion meeting of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics on Wednesday, NASA's chief of human spaceflight acknowledged that the agency doesn't really have the funding it needs to reach Mars with the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft. These vehicles have cost too much to build, and too much to fly, and therefore NASA hasn't been able to begin designing vehicles to land on Mars or ascend from the surface. "I can't put a date on humans on Mars, and the reason really is the other piece is, at the budget levels we described, this roughly 2 percent increase, we don't have the surface systems available for Mars," said NASA's William H. Gerstenmaier, responding to a question about when NASA will send humans to the surface of Mars. "And that entry, descent and landing is a huge challenge for us for Mars." This seems like a fairly common sense statement, but it's something that NASA officials have largely glossed over -- at least in public -- during the agency's promotion of a Journey to Mars.
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NASA Finally Admits It Doesn't Have the Funding To Land Humans on Mars

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  • And we'll have the best space program in the world.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The US got its ICBM delivery system in the 60s, no more need for government funded space I guess

    • by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Thursday July 13, 2017 @09:59AM (#54800531)
      What am I missing. Who thought we already had funding in place to go to Mars?
      • This may be the first time a senior NASA official has really acknowledged that there wasn't enough funding. Official statements and releases usually just ignore the whole question of "how do we pay for it" and jump straight to the "look how big our rocket is" part.
      • I thought the same thing. All of the stuff NASA has been testing out and all of the concept work has been just that. Hopeful preparation. Even the SLS is a tool that might be used for trips to Mars. Or for when the Falcon Heavy doesn't have enough Shit 'n Git to put something big and heavy into orbit.
      • by aevan ( 903814 )
        The same people who think they'll be setting up a colony on mars in the next few years and are competing to go. That'd be my guess.
      • by imidan ( 559239 )

        Nobody who actually knew what was going on thought the funding was in place. But this article isn't really about that. Look at the way NASA is described: "NASA Finally Admits" and the curiously phrased "[NASA] appears to have bended toward reality." The article ends with a quote from Mike Pence, "The truth is that American business is on the cutting edge of space technology." This is a hit piece on NASA written to support private space exploration.

    • And we'll have the best space program in the world.

      Everything we have is the best. We have teh best people, the smartet people, and we're winning, goddammit!

    • by whitroth ( 9367 )

      But, but tax cuts for the rich! And money into NASA doesn't give ROI in the next quarter or two!

      The GOP don't give a shit about NASA, or the citizens of the US, or the US; the wealthy own them, and they pay them back munificently.

    • DoD's military (non-VA) budget is ~$600B. .5% is $3B. NASA's budget is $18B so while an additional 3 is a tidy 16% boost.

      HHS's budget is ~$1,100B so .5% of that would be even better, ~$5.5B for NASA which is an even nicer 30% boost.

  • .... the color black is found to be darker than most others.
  • but not enough to keep the humans alive during or after
  • by evolutionary ( 933064 ) on Thursday July 13, 2017 @09:51AM (#54800459)
    Folks, the little data we have (compared to those who have all the data), it was becoming obvious. Only recently it was revealed that Mars' surface has a cocktail of substances that would "wipe out living organisms" (see this link https://www.theguardian.com/sc... [theguardian.com] ). The length of time, the sending of supplies, and trying to terraform, it's undertaking that would take an incredible amount of resources. And that is assuming the first manned mission even got there (which is question). I think many, many people questioned whether we would actually go to Mars in spite of all the hype. Funny enough the hype have information suggesting more and more that this is harder than anybody thought. So...we'd better start taking better care of our planet because it all likelihood, we aren't going anywhere. Perhaps like the North American expedition, someone will hock "The Queen's jewels", but save a few insanely rich tycoons sending a bunch of "serfs" on a possibly doomed test mission, this Mars dream, I suspect will postponed for a LONG time.
    • Only recently it was revealed that Mars' surface has a cocktail of substances that would "wipe out living organisms" (see this link
      https://www.theguardian.com/sc... [theguardian.com] ).

      So we know ancient Martians used herbicide to prevent weeds growing. This is proof Mars is a fertile land ripe for the taking.

  • 1. Tell Trump there's coal on Mars - jobs for coal miners!
    2. Start a rumour that Mars has no vaccination regulations - kills 2 birds with one stone as all the antivaxxers pour their money into a modern version of the B Ark.
    3. Flatly declare that it is impossible. Someone will come along to prove you wrong
    4. Tell the MRAs about the martian slave women. Then tell the SJWs about the MRAs wanting the martian slave women. See who gets to Mars first.
    5. Tell the Christian and Muslim Taliban about the martian slave women walking around "all bare neked".
    6. Tell the GOP that Martian women have multiple pussies to grab.
    7. Tell the states that have passed bathroom bills that there is no such thing as a Martian male, so there's no such thing as a martian transsexual wanting to pee in their women's toilets.
    8. "Gotta build a wall on Mars to keep the illegal aliens at bay."
    9. Get Alex Jones and Breitbart to say that NASA doesn't lobby for enough money because Mars is full of Republican martians and refusing to go to Mars is a democratic plot to suppress voters.
    10. "Russia and China and even India are all going. There's going to be a "planet gap" between the US and those countries that makes the missile gap look like a blip in history."

    • 8. "Gotta build a wall on Mars to keep the illegal aliens at bay."

      That one is easy. Just put Mars behind the asteroid belt [wikipedia.org] and make the Martians pay for it!

    • 11. Mars has the most friendly media in the solar system (no fake news here).
    • 9. Get Alex Jones and Breitbart to say that NASA doesn't lobby for enough money because Mars is full of Republican martians and refusing to go to Mars is a democratic plot to suppress voters.

      No, tell Alex Jones and Breitbart that proof of the moon hoax is on Mars and NASA doesn't want anyone to go there because they would find out the truth that man can't travel to other planets. The irony would be lost on their supporters.

    • Actually, I thought they were building a military branch in charge of space? If they get any significant slice of the military budget they could actually do some cool stuff.

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      In the past, oil on Mars. That didn't happen. :(

  • We're going to Mars... on a shoestring budget... that gets smaller with each passing year.
    • We're going to Mars... on a shoestring budget... that gets smaller with each passing year.

      Like much of Obama's administration, it was just a continuation of Bush's policies. Bush particularly liked to call out a manned mission to Mars in every State of the Union address.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        But there was the Orion program. Sure, he talked a lot about it but he also tried to accomplish the rhetoric and directed NASA toward it. You can argue it was the wrong way for NASA or w/e but to say Bush didn't do anything to try and get NASA further along is wrong. Orion was cancelled by Obama.

        • by painandgreed ( 692585 ) on Thursday July 13, 2017 @02:22PM (#54802747)

          But there was the Orion program. Sure, he talked a lot about it but he also tried to accomplish the rhetoric and directed NASA toward it. You can argue it was the wrong way for NASA or w/e but to say Bush didn't do anything to try and get NASA further along is wrong. Orion was cancelled by Obama.

          It was all just smoke and mirrors. There may have been projects, but even if Orion was a realistic proejct, there was never been any realistic funding. It's pretty much always been like this since Apollo funding was axed, which is why TFA is here, NASA is finally admitting to things we all already knew. Nasa's budget barely does some research, sends a few probes every decade, and keeps the lights on. A Mars mission at best is projected to cost $200 billion and probably two or three times that. Unless Nasa starts getting an additional $20 billion a year, any talk of a Mars mission is just vapor and even then, it won't happen for another decade and we'll see it coming as that decade will be spent actually building stuff. Still, more realistically, we're looking at an additional $20 billion a year and three decades if the government ever wants Nasa to be serious about going to Mars.

  • They cost 1/20th as much as manned missions and do at least as much (arguably much more) science.

    For instance, look at WMAP [wikipedia.org], which contributed massively to cosmology and high energy physics and was launched on time and on budget. The results have been analyzed in thousands of papers, including the three most cited physics papers of the last few decades. It cost $150M (yes, M).

    Meanwhile, the ISS is running about $150B (yes B), and it's absurd to think that somehow it's worth the relative cost. We could have

  • (sarcasm) I think I'm going to have a hear attack and DIE from that surprise...(/sarcasm).

    Not enough funding eh? Tell me something I didn't already know..

  • Perhaps they can focus on making better space propulsion systems to make solar system travel faster. Current tech is mostly chemical rockets and using gravity as a slingshot. What they need to develop is the equivalent of the Star Trek impulse engine. Try hiring more Scottish engineers?
    • the impulse engines were fusion, NASA won't develop fusion reactors. That's tech that might even be impossible to develop

  • They're yet to come up with a way to properly shield any humans on Mars from radiation even in the short term.
  • Pick one, we can't afford both.

  • If we can't even get to Mars, how will we ever explore Uranus?

  • To paraphrase Douglas Adams:

    "Space is a crummy place to live. Really awful. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly inhospitable it is. I mean, you may think things are pretty bad in Detroit, but that's just peanuts to space."

    People keep talking about how we need a backup plan for Earth because we're going to mess it up. I think they're failing to realize that nuclear winter, Chicxulub-like asteroid impacts, ice ages, runaway desertification, a thousand other unlikely extreme scenarios, or

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )

      To paraphrase Douglas Adams:

      "Space is a crummy place to live. Really awful. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly inhospitable it is. I mean, you may think things are pretty bad in Detroit, but that's just peanuts to space."

      I love this, will save it in my Diatribes folder. It does bring up an issue a website called Rocketpunk talked about (too lazy to find URL right now). That site summarized the reason no serious manned Mars missions is it's plonklying obvious there's no good reason to live there. Like there is no land rush to the Gobi Desert even though it's a thousand times easier to settle than Mars. Reason why everybody romanticize about Mars is because it is so far away.

  • Their budget grew 5 times since they landed on the moon. Sure they get less from a "percentage of federal budget" perspective but even the federal budget has ballooned well outside of the feasible limits a government can spend on.

    They said it will cost ~$6B to get 4 humans to Mars. If you get $20B/year with a mandate to go to Mars within 10 years, what would you spend it on in that time?

  • We could send people to Mars today. Granted, their chances of survival would be near zero. It may even be as low as 50/50 to make it to Mars orbit and under 10/90 to manage to walk on the surface before death. But these are much better odds than many past explorers enjoyed.

    Those explorers were usually private explorers who sometimes had government backing. After a brief period in which the governments actually took full charge of the missions and has now allowed the efforts to mostly stall for almost half a century, we are thankfully seeing real explorers return to the advanced exploration game.

    The new explorers will accomplish with vastly less expenditure what NASA will not or perhaps can not. It is far cheaper to follow an incremental path in which people live a bit longer into each mission until we finally achieve success. The cost of trying to reach NASA quality levels on the first attempt guarantees failure of the mission before it even leaves the ground.

    RIP NASA.

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