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Subcommittee Stops Human Mars Mission Spending

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the who-wants-to-go-there-anyway dept.

Space 343

An anonymous reader writes "Last week's House Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, and Science FY08 budget markup would prevent work on programs devoted to human missions to Mars. According to a House Appropriations Committee press release, the markup language states that NASA cannot pursue "development or demonstration activity related exclusively to Human Exploration of Mars. NASA has too much on its plate already, and the President is welcome to include adequate funding for the Human Mars Initiative in a budget amendment or subsequent year funding requests." The Mars Society is already leading an effort to get the language removed."

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HOWLER MONKEYS!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19599329)

HOWLER MONKEYS!!

Slashdot users... (1)

alfs boner (963844) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599331)

I would never socialize with a Slashdot user. Sorry guys!

If you don't want to d/l a PDF for TFA #1 (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19599369)

The first link is to a PDF file. If you don't want to read the whole press release, here is the relevant part:

"The bill language also continues a moratorium prohibiting NASA from implementing a reduction in force and from funding any research, development or demonstration activity related exclusively to Human Exploration of Mars. NASA has too much on its plate already, and the President is welcome to include adequate funding for the Human Mars Initiative in a budget amendment or subsequent year funding requests."

Re:If you don't want to d/l a PDF for TFA #1 (5, Insightful)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599829)

Basically telling the president to pay up.

When Bush first announced this initiative, the director of Nasa was a Bush lackey and immediately moved to cut funding to other Nasa program likes Hubble to pay for it. (Eventhough presidents change every 4 to 8 years and with them their initiatives.) Congress pays for Nasa activities, and usually they have control. It just turned out that their was a Bush lackey in charge at Nasa and he started gutting other programs to pay for all this.

This was just a way to call the president out to have him pay for his initiative. You don't want to start a precedent where every time the president changes then existing programs are all gutted just because the president makes some random policy speech.

DSC-304s (2, Funny)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599875)

They just don't want the general public finding out about our existing DSC-304 [wikipedia.org] shipyard on Mars.

Yeay! (2, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599383)

Yeay -- way to go congress!

This unfunded mandate has been robbing our science for long enough.

Re:Yeay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19599525)

Yes. That's the result of bombs.

Re:Yeay! (3, Informative)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599547)

If read carefully, it does make sense. It says that anything related to ONLY humans on mars. For anything with a dual use, then it gets funding. Basically, the bulk of this is applicable to space, the moon, and/or robotics. Very little is related to just humans on mars. But it would be nice to see funding for NASA increased. I am tired of seeing this admin push a direction and not funding it adequately.

I like the idea of a manned trip to Mars (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#19600013)

However, I completely agree that any such plans should be funded appropriately - and not at the sake of other important NASA missions.

Short-Sighted Bastards... (2, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599393)

Sucks that short-term politics and pet pork takes precedence over the future of humanity itself. (disclosure: I don't give a frig WHICH party is at fault - this simply sucks) :/

If NASA is that busy, then why not offload some of its activities to the private sector fer cryin' out loud?

/P

Re:Short-Sighted Bastards... (2, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599567)

The *future of humanity*?

When the cost to get payload to the surface of Mars is on the order of several to many tens of thousands of dollars per kilogram, and the cost to get it back all the higher, you're not looking at "the future of humanity". You're looking at a boondoggle that's ripping off actual science programs -- not to mention, money that could instead be put into research to reduce launch costs.

At this day in age, a manned Mars Mission is a "feel-good trip". It has nothing at all to do with the future of humanity.

Re:Short-Sighted Bastards... (3, Insightful)

pentalive (449155) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599725)

... a manned Mars Mission is a "feel-good trip". It has nothing at all to do with the future of humanity.
If we can get self-sustaining colonies running on the moon and mars, perhaps we can worry a little less about life-ending-events, like meteor strikes, on earth. Sure it's a long way in the future before a colony on the moon could repopulate the earth - but if we never start, we will never get there.

Re:Short-Sighted Bastards... (3, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599777)

If we can get self-sustaining colonies running on the moon and mars,

And if we had a million billion dollars and a pony, we could fly off to Candyland and have the faeries protect us!

At current launch costs, a "colony" (read: independent, unlike a base) is so far beyond the realm of possibility that it's laughable to even consider.

Re:Short-Sighted Bastards... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19600009)

At current launch costs, a "colony" (read: independent, unlike a base) is so far beyond the realm of possibility that it's laughable to even consider.

Of course your post is modded Troll, but it's one of the most sensible posts I've seen in this thread so far. It's ridiculous how so many people here are taking the "But my scifi books from when I was a kid said we'd be doing this!" Two things: One--that was fucking science fiction (you do know what that word means, right?); two, the task is nowhere near as trivial as you guys or Bush are making it out to be ("Well, duh, we just send some guys up in a ship!"). We are at the close end probably about 50 years from even being able to think about realistically sending people to another planet. In the meantime, we've got a whole lot of legwork that's far closer to home to sort out before we can even think about sending guys up there. Let's focus on the steps involved to get us from Point A to Point Q, rather than just blindly aiming for Point Q.

One Book: (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 7 years ago | (#19600187)

The High Frontier, by Gerard K. O'Neill.

1) it ain't SciFi 2) it is based in solid physics and economics.

I agree that we should focus on the steps necessary to get to Mars, but it appears that Congress is out to cut the funding from even that.

/P

Re:Short-Sighted Bastards... (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 7 years ago | (#19600195)

There is a big difference between sending a ship to some place and starting a colony somewhere. A ship is not that difficult, expensive and likely not all that safe sure but technically feasible. A colony is a whole other beast and so far we've failed to even get self sustaining things working on this planet much less another (*cough* biodome *cough*).

Re:Short-Sighted Bastards... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19599923)

How many humans do you think even a large meteor strike can kill off? Remember, a large percentage of mammals, reptiles, insects, and aquatic life survived the K-T extinction event, and they had ZERO access to technology.

You wouldn't need the hypothetical moon colonies to come back and "repopulate" the earth, as there would be vastly more people still here.

Heck, the day after the meteor strike, it'll be nicer here than on the surface of the moon anyway.

Re:Short-Sighted Bastards... (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 7 years ago | (#19600131)

How many humans do you think even a large meteor strike can kill off? Remember, a large percentage of mammals, reptiles, insects, and aquatic life survived the K-T extinction event, and they had ZERO access to technology.

IIRC, no land creature of over a couple of kilos managed it (though many oceanic creatures of that size did).

The estimated size of the K-T asteroid was roughly 10 km wide. That's considered 'still fairly small' as far as Near Earth Objects go.

/P

Re:Short-Sighted Bastards... (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 7 years ago | (#19600049)

The *future of humanity*?

When the cost to get payload to the surface of Mars is on the order of several to many tens of thousands of dollars per kilogram, and the cost to get it back all the higher, you're not looking at "the future of humanity". You're looking at a boondoggle that's ripping off actual science programs -- not to mention, money that could instead be put into research to reduce launch costs.

Question - how much did it cost to fund Christopher Columbus' initial 1492 expedition? (Considering that it required royal patronage... I'm thinking it was nearly the same order of expense). In retrospect, that cost was paid back and then profited by history (consider the combined GDP's and natural resources found in Canada, the US, Mexico, Central and South America...)

At this day in age, a manned Mars Mission is a "feel-good trip". It has nothing at all to do with the future of humanity.
In 1495, Spain felt pretty ripped off by the lack of all that promised gold, got no shorter commercial route to China, found only indigenous 'heathens' that got in the way of colonization... all they got out of it was a bit of gold and a nasty societal nicotine habit (oh - and Syphilis). Yet for some odd reason it all turned out to be a good thing for human history.

Why should Mars (and the rest of the Solar System for that matter) be any different? We can't simply live here forever, y'know.

/P

Re:Short-Sighted Bastards... (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 7 years ago | (#19600083)

When the cost to get payload to the surface of Mars is on the order of several to many tens of thousands of dollars per kilogram, and the cost to get it back all the higher, you're not looking at "the future of humanity". You're looking at a boondoggle that's ripping off actual science programs -- not to mention, money that could instead be put into research to reduce launch costs.

Columbus, Magellan, and the Mayflower voyage were very expensive trips as well. Today, not so much.

Re:Short-Sighted Bastards... (0)

miskatonic alumnus (668722) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599575)

Sucks that short-term politics and pet pork takes precedence over the future of humanity itself.

I totally agree. However, we should be setting our sights a little closer to home as regards the future of humanity. Terraforming Mars (if possible) and transplanting people (and our problems) there won't fix anything. If we can't solve the problems of disease, war, overcrowding, famine, racial/religious intolerance, etc. right here on Earth, maybe we don't deserve to survive as a species.

Re:Short-Sighted Bastards... (1)

mattpalmer1086 (707360) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599969)

Some of us don't think those problems will ever be solved while we remain in our current form. We're an argumentative, short-sighted bunch of screeching apes (apologies to creationists). We seem to live in a universe that's hostile to life and intelligence, (particularly surrounding the white house event horizon).

IMHO, the sooner we can practically disperse a bit and reduce our risk the better. Having said that, I agree that if we want manned missions to Mars, it should not be at the expense of real, existing space science.

Re:Short-Sighted Bastards... (1)

notea42 (926633) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599629)

NASA specifically implements activities for which it does not make sense for the private sector to pursue. They've been battered by short term budget politics for decades. The big projects need consistent funding over a period of time. If the leadership wants to pursue something on the scale of a manned MARS mission, it needs to pass a specific, multi-year appropriation to do so. Otherwise, it just forces NASA to redirect funds from an already strapped budget which were being spent to support research underway. I think Congress got this right. The president just wants a bullet point for speeches, "I will put humans on Mars by 20XX" without facing the facts that he got to pay for these things as well.

Re:Short-Sighted Bastards... (4, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599639)

Sucks that short-term politics and pet pork takes precedence over the future of humanity itself. (disclosure: I don't give a frig WHICH party is at fault - this simply sucks) :/

I feel the same way, at least about the importance of the ultimate goal -- but I'm not sure that the Human Mars Initiative (or whatever they were calling it) is really the right way to go, and that canceling it is in any way bad or wrong.

Right now, we're so far away from having a self-sustaining (both physically and economically) off-Earth settlement, sending one guy or a few guys out to Mars and back really isn't going to get us that much closer. We have too much basic research yet to be done, in order to make it permanent. And really, non-permanent human exploration doesn't get us that much that we haven't already gotten.

Look at it this way. Imagine that we're some European nation in the 15th or 16th century, and we want to plant a colony on the New World. The Mars project that's on the drawing board now is like sponsoring a long-distance swimming contest. It seems like it's going in the right direction, but really it's not that helpful. It's the wrong set of skills to be developing. Instead, you need to be doing boring crap on shore, building shipyards and learning how to make ships that don't sink.

In terms of progressing towards the eventual goal of a permanent, sustainable, off-Earth human settlement, the money that we're spending pushing a few people to Mars, so they can dig around in the dirt and pose for a photo op, would be much better spent improving our materials science, producing a good reusable launch vehicle, or researching advanced robotics systems. None of those are as sexy as actually putting a person on the surface of Mars, but all of them will bring us closer to actually putting people in space, permanently, than a quick sightseeing trip would.

About the only reason to send a person to Mars and back without a sustainable presence there, is because it would be good PR for NASA and possibly result in a lot more funding for long-term projects. But I'm not sure it would be worth the cost and diverted resources, particularly since it would mean basically setting aside all other projects and priorities in order to work on it.

Re:Short-Sighted Bastards... (1)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599979)

>>About the only reason to send a person to Mars and back without a sustainable presence there, is because it would be good PR for NASA and possibly result in a lot more funding for long-term projects.

I think it would be another moon shot. People would be excited at first, then bored and then "Mission complete. Let's spend money on something else."

(Unless of course we were to "find" some "possible alien artifacts". Then there would be some good Nasa funding.)

I agree with most everything else you said.

Re:Short-Sighted Bastards... (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599665)

Sucks that short-term politics and pet pork takes precedence over the future of humanity itself.


It's been going on for years. The CAIB Report [nasa.gov] even has a side-bar that talks about ear-tags and their overall effect on NASA's budget.

Re:Short-Sighted Bastards... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19599755)

While the future of humanity might *eventually* lie on Mars or other places in our solar system, that isn't going to happen until we develop a propulsion system radically more advanced than rocketry. Until that happens, manned missions to Mars are a pointless waste of money.

If you're really concerned about the "extinction of the human race unless we have a colony on mars", consider that the planet earth could probably be hit by another dinosaur killer-sized asteroid, *and* have all of our nuclear weapons explode at once, and it would *still* be a relative paradise compared to the surface of Mars.

"big picture" people with realistic priorities (2, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599951)

Sucks that short-term politics and pet pork takes precedence over the future of humanity itself.

What are you smoking? Do you seriously believe that "humanity" has any hope of colonizing another planet to "save" itself?

It's been half a century since we first put people in space, and now we're still "just" putting a select elite few up into space to screw around with silly zero-g experiments with little commercial or scientific value.

The suggestion that we will have the resources, technical capability and political unity as a planet to put a large-enough-to-be-genetically-diverse-enough-to-" save"-humanity population not only into orbit but to reach a habitable planet, build a base large enough to house them, grow food, mine raw materials....long enough to either "teraform" that planet or "escape" again to another...

...is absolutely batshit insane. It'd be a hell of a lot cheaper and easier to build protected self-contained habitats on earth.

Re:Short-Sighted Bastards... (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599953)

If NASA is that busy, then why not offload some of its activities to the private sector fer cryin' out loud?

Yeah! They should rely on the private sector, not all of those government agencies like they currently do, such as the United States Department of Boeing, the Department of Lockheed, the Department of Orbital Sciences Corporation . . .

(Were you under the mistaken impression that NASA *doesn't* outsource most of its non-research work to the private sector?)

Bout time (4, Interesting)

riffzifnab (449869) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599401)

Wow I think we just found intelligent life in Washington DC, alert the press. Call the nation guard, they must be stopped before they do other things that actually make sense.

Yes I'm all for space exploration but I think Mars is a little far out there. There are a lot of other space programs that could really use the funding (launching a new hurricane observation satellites and global warming research satellites come to mind). Maybe we should think about a moon base first and once we get that up and running then a president can start talking about Mars.

-RZ

Re:Bout time (0, Troll)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599437)

Yeah, I know... what kind of an idiot would even think about getting to the moon. If God wanted humans to fly, he'd have given us wings. If God wanted humans to fly in space, he'd have given us rockets.

Oh, wait, we're talking about Mars?

Re:Bout time (1)

quanticle (843097) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599549)

I don't think its wise to go to Mars without first learning to survive in an extra-terrestrial environment. The closest extra-terrestrial environment is the Moon. If you compare it to camping, building a moon base first before going to Mars is like camping out in your backyard before going on the week-long camping trip far from home. It lets you sort out your equipment and make sure that you've packed everything. And, if anything goes wrong, your house (Earth) is a quick walk (3 days) rather than a long drive (3 months) away.

Of course the analogy isn't completely correct, as the Moon is actually more hostile than Mars, but I think that only serves to reinforce my point. If we can build a self-sustaining colony on the Moon, then we can definitely set up a colony on Mars.

Re:Bout time (1)

2nd Post! (213333) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599457)

What? If you solve the problem of Mars, you solve the problem of the Moon. Cut spending for one, and you jeopardize the other, too.

Re:Bout time (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599925)

Both of them are shortsighted. Why waste the money to pull materials up out of our gravity well, just to drop them down another one?

Until the space program stops paying over and over again to orbit the same mass (space shuttle I'm looking at you), we're never going to get anywhere.

Re:Bout time (1)

3p1ph4ny (835701) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599499)

Yes, because I'm sure that congress will decide to spend the cut money on other space projects.

Re:Bout time (2, Interesting)

JasonKChapman (842766) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599569)

Maybe we should think about a moon base first and once we get that up and running then a president can start talking about Mars.

According to the most recent road map, a Moon base is/was already the step prior to a manned Mars mission. If that Moon base is interpreted as "related exclusively to Human Exploration of Mars," then we lose that, too.

But you can bet we'll have plenty of funding for peanut museums, bridges to nowhere, and other imporkant projects.

Re:Bout time (2, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599737)

I hope we do.

I'd love to almost nothing given for manned space exploration until launch costs go down**. I'd rather see the money spent on A) robotic exploration, which almost everyone in the field acknowledges is far more cost effective; and especially spent on B) cost-reduction research.

To get off the surface: Nuclear thermal rockets. Scramjets. Rotavators. Advanced reusable rockets. Cost-optimized conventional rockets (say, SpaceX's Falcon series, or even some more esoteric concepts like OTRAG). Advanced captive carry concepts. HARP-style. And so on.

Once already in orbit: Too many to begin to list; here's a start [wikipedia.org] .

Also, in general, materials research would be a very big one that would apply to almost everything (and not just the space industry).

** I would, however, support funding for continued operations of ISS. I think the current plan for ISS is the most idiotic possible: "finish up the last bit of it, only fund it for a few years, then let it reenter". What idiocy -- spend a fortune building it, and then once you get to the point where it would be relatively cheap to keep operating, let it crash. Ongoing operations are the cheap part, and also provide an opportunity to pacify the "no funding for NASA unless there are people in space" crowd.

It's pretty simple, really... (5, Insightful)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599403)

You can either go off starting random wars of aggression, or you can conduct planetary exploration. The American taxpayer, quite rightly, doesn't want to pay for both. Many don't want to pay for either, frankly.

If you would rather support explorers than crusaders, make sure the Presidential candidate you vote for in '08 agrees with your point of view, and hold him/her to it.

Re:It's pretty simple, really... (1, Funny)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599473)

You can either go off starting random wars of aggression, or you can conduct planetary exploration. The American taxpayer, quite rightly, doesn't want to pay for both. Many don't want to pay for either, frankly.

And many of the latter have the intelligence of a tree stump, and the foresight of a drunk gerbil up Richard Gere's asshole. Doesn't mean we should listen to them.

Re:It's pretty simple, really... (1, Troll)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599859)

And many who want to go to space are little more than Star Trek dreamers, who haven't come to the harsh realization that:

A) The solar system, outside of earth, is comprised of uninhabitable sterile rocks

B) The vastness of space and unlikeliness of life effectively means we're all alone.

In essence, we're stuck on this rock we call earth. So how about, instead of wasting all this money so a bunch of scifi dreamers can get their jollies, we spend our money and effort trying to make earth a better place instead?

The American taxpayer *isn't* paying (2, Informative)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599739)

he American taxpayer, quite rightly, doesn't want to pay for both. Many don't want to pay for either, frankly.
Governments don't tax people to pay for wars any more.

 

"Humans on Mars" is an unfunded mandate (5, Insightful)

rsborg (111459) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599749)

You can either go off starting random wars of aggression, or you can conduct planetary exploration. The American taxpayer, quite rightly, doesn't want to pay for both. Many don't want to pay for either, frankly.
Why the hell is this modded flamebait? Despite the fact that the mission is admirable, and that I personally love the space program, if President Bush wants to say "we're going to Mars" he better damn well pony up the cash.

For any of you who aren't aware, the Bush administration is notorious for unfunded mandates [wikipedia.org] . If Bush thinks it's so good as to put it in the State of the Union address, he better damn well find a way to pay for it... otherwise it's just hot air as usual.

Re:"Humans on Mars" is an unfunded mandate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19599959)

You may have been modded insightful, but it's the congress, not the executive branch that funds things. President Bush couldn't "pony up" any cash if he wanted to.

Re:"Humans on Mars" is an unfunded mandate (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#19600093)

1) Who is it who writes the budget that gets sent to congress?
2) Who is it who didn't even ask for said money in said budget?

Re:It's pretty simple, really... (1)

Anonymous Cowpat (788193) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599803)

"and hold him/her to it."

By which you mean "Vote for someone else in 2012"?

Re:It's pretty simple, really... (1)

GodBlessTexas (737029) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599863)

If you would rather support explorers than crusaders, make sure the Presidential candidate you vote for in '08 agrees with your point of view, and hold him/her to it.

How exactly do we hold them to it? Are you going to write strongly worded letters? Call the Congressman, or the Congressional or Whitehouse switchboards? Vote them out of office 4-6 years after they've been elected? Petition for a recall? Pray for an ethics scandal or criminal charges to be filed?

Of that list, tell me which ones are actually likely or effective if pursued?

It's the sad truth, but the politicians (I cannot say representatives) of this Republic no longer represents many of us.

/I'm a conservative, and now neither major party represents me.

Re:It's pretty simple, really... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19600199)

Yada, Yada, Yada....Republicans/Conservatives/Red-staters are evil and *anything* that they do is bad...even saving baby puppies.

It wouldn't matter WHAT it was...if Bush did it Liberals will say its evil.

EVIL!

Is this bad? (2, Insightful)

jswigart (1004637) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599411)

I'm not sure I disagree with this idea that we shouldn't be blowing money with some goal of sending humans to mars. What exactly would we gain of it? I suppose the theory is that we could bring back samples of shit to study, but why couldn't the same be done on an unmanned mission? Seems to me there is little reason a human needs to go there, and doing so is more about proving that they can than getting anything useful out of it. On top of that I would imagine it complicates the mission immensely with additional systems and failure points(life support, how the astronauts stay sane through the trip, etc).

Really, what is the point?

Re:Is this bad? (1)

Chysn (898420) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599501)

> Really, what is the point?

To paraphrase Sam Seaborn in West Wing episode, "Why go to Mars? Because Mars is next."

Re:Is this bad? (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599827)

That doesn't make sense.

Or rather, it only makes sense if Mars is "next" in the "places we haven't stuck American flags on and then left, never to return to" list.

We're not accomplishing anything by going there. Yes, it looks neat, and maybe it'll make space exploration 'cool' again for a while, but it hasn't brought us any closer to the goal of having a sustainable settlement off of Earth. The astronauts would go out there, stand around for a while, and then come back. And it would cost a lot of money and mean a lot of other things wouldn't get done. And at the end of it, what would we have? People would be able to bitch by saying "we can put a man on Mars, but we can't do x" instead of the Moon, but that would be about it. Maybe we'd know a little more about how people exist when in a small, closed environment for a long time, but we can learn that here on Earth for a lot less money. (And there was a Slashdot article yesterday or the day before about how they're doing it.)

Keep going down that path, and once we've put a flag on Mars, then maybe we'll put one on a few asteroids or even a comet or two, and maybe a few trillion dollars and a few generations after that, maybe we'll put a flag somewhere further out, on one of the gas-giant moons. All very nice. But it hasn't gotten anyone permanently off the planet. One good nuclear war, asteroid strike, or widespread pandemic, and there goes civilization, maybe the species. They'll be a lot of flags out there, showing how far we made it, but a fat lot of good it'll do.

Re:Is this bad? (1)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 7 years ago | (#19600021)

So duct tape and Velcro and thousands of other things which became part of all of our lives don't count for anything in the trip to the moon?

Seems like people forget that it's hard to get to some place far away and that the tools you develop to allow you to get there can and often do help out on Earth as well.

Perhaps more to the point it would be be something we do that we can actually succeed at unlike a lot of other things we've been doing lately which are miserable failures. I think this would pull a lot of the country at least together and hopefully get other countries interested in advancing the technology around it. Only war has produced more technology than NASA, to me, NASA makes a hell of a lot more sense on every level.

Re:Is this bad? (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599967)

That's exactly the kind of glib, thoughtless response you would expect from a bad TV melodrama. Too bad real life isn't a TV show.

Re:Is this bad? (2, Informative)

SDF-7 (556604) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599559)

Figuring out how to get people out there and back comes to mind quickly.

Just after Mars (and before Jupiter) is the asteroid belt... and asteroid mining has a lot of potential (if you don't want to maintain scarcity of some minerals by watching the mines here on Earth tap out... or don't relish strip mining/whatnot). I wouldn't say that's infeasible to do via automation, but for that length of mission and with the variables involved, having a human (or a few) on the spot would likely make things easier.

Re:Is this bad? (1)

JasonKChapman (842766) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599667)

. . . doing so is more about proving that they can than getting anything useful out of it.

Maybe. But then again, the same can be said for a great many major technological advancements in human history. Airplanes come to mind. As do automobiles.

Predictable. (-1, Flamebait)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599413)

Anyone surprised?

Priorities seem to be stealing oil and ramping up the Homeland Defense required to do so. Fear, loathing, theft. So much for exploration and making a bigger pie for everyone.

SOP (3, Insightful)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599417)

This is basically a big FU to Bush, one of many that will come out of Congress over the next 2 years. The relative merit of appropriations is irrelevant - this is the "We Hate Bush" congress, and their actions will typically have that as a primary element.

In other words, politics as usual.

My hard realization--NASA is over (5, Interesting)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599433)

As a kid, I dreamed of space and really believed in NASA. I believed that we would soon have moonbases and men on Mars by the 80's, and maybe even start looking out to other stars within my lifetime.

But that was 35 years ago. And the intervening time has been nothing more than a series of disappointments, vast amounts of wasted money, broken promises, contractor giveaways, and harsh realities. A shuttle that was supposed to be like a spaceship turned out to be more like a very expensive splashdown pod with wheels and a hefty refurbishing pricetag after each mission. A space station turned into little more than a low-orbit money sink. Promises of new ships and grand missions were promised--with little more to show for it in the end than some animation and a lot of wasted money.

The height of our achievement was putting a couple of glorified RC cars on Mars and putting a telescope in orbit. And both those missions were a pittance compared to the wasted billions of dollar spent on projects which went nowhere and accomplished nothing.

I've come to accept that man may one day land on Mars. But he won't be wearing a NASA logo on his suit.

Don't get too worked up about this (1)

dtolman (688781) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599601)

This will have no measureable effect on NASA for at least 10 years. Even then it wouldn't have much effect. Any funding for a Mars lander would just be stuck with a label for a future Sample Return mission for testing on Mars itself, or done as part of the Moon landing program.


Also keep in mind that it says that manned Mars missions need to be explicitly funded, and not taken from general NASA funds. So if NASA ever gets to the point that they actually could consider a Mars mission (many years away), this bill won't even get in the way - they'll just fund it explicitely.

Re:My hard realization--NASA is over (3, Interesting)

secPM_MS (1081961) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599713)

When I went to college and studied physics, my interest was in deep space power and propulsion systems. I maintain my interest in space exploration, but I am not as romantically blinded by it. Satellites looking down and up and probes going places have had an enormous information return on investment. Manned space flight and the space station have not. Manned space flight is an entertainment issue, and as such gets the public attention and money. Until we can get the cost of lifting matter out of our gravity well down, long term space occupation is precluded by radiation hazards (even with high field superconducting magnetic shielding). If we are seriously interested in space, I would suggest putting more resources into the following:

Ultra-high strength to weight nanotube cables

1 to enable an elevator to space

2 to serve as a kinetic energy battery for launching and receiving matter transfering through a transfer point. This works by spinning a 50,000 km cable and using the rotational kinetic energy of the cable for the energy battery

solar sails -- invaluable for inner solar system work

major investigation of asteroids -- unlike the moon and mars, they don't have significant gravity wells associated with them. The earth crossing asteroids require no more energy than moon missions.

earth facing and observing satellites are exceptionally valuable

more astronomical satellites, both as individual units and as synthrsized arrays

MUCH MORE than Glorified RC cars on Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19599831)

MUCH more than glorified RC cars on mars. These programs have tested and confirmed a system of delivering payloads safely to mars. A planet that is notoriously difficult to get to given the track record of many countries. This system will be used many more times for mapping and reconnaissance before any manned mission can occur. The missions have given us compelling reasons to put men on mars. While the shuttle and ISS missions have squandered money, Hubble and MER have been kicking ass.

Re:My hard realization--NASA is over (1)

jshriverWVU (810740) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599891)

I've come to accept that man may one day land on Mars. But he won't be wearing a NASA logo on his suit.

Unfortunately it may end up being Chinese or Indian. But I shouldn't be sad. I dont care who get's their first as long as we get there.

Your pessimism is unfounded (3, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#19600005)

While I think that a lot of bad choices have been made by most of the presidents involved with NASA (starting with Nixon), NASA has been moving forward. Take a LONG look at what is happening right now. Bezos with with his new Shepard is simply a clone of the DCX (funded partly by NASA), but a decade later. Likewise, you have Spacex with falcon/dragon moving up, which is definitely a copy of NASA's Saturn/Apollo. And of course, you have Bigelow who bought the rights to Transhab as well as has had support from NASA dealing with life support which are all from ISS. Scaled Composites is creating a low cost version of the craft that NASA was going to build in the 70's, but Nixon killed (foolish). Even now, with naysayers knocking the ISS, it is doing a great deal of ground breaking work. Before we can go to mars or moon, we MUST have subsystems that will not fail. In addition, NASA is designing new sats and engines all the time. Hopefully, by 2012, the indis will have us not only in space, but heading to the moon. At that time, NASA will probably re-focus on doing things that they can not/will not do such as Nuclear engines for LONG-TERM sats and mars. This will be needed by 2015. And we will see the indis once again use this tech as a means of springboarding elsewhere. NASA has a function in doing what companies/individuals can not/will not do. And to that end, they have been a trailblazer.

Re:My hard realization--NASA is over (1)

L.A.Bachevskij (1048652) | more than 7 years ago | (#19600015)

I went on dreaming on space and space exploration for years... The space station turned from base for further exploration to Moon bases and beyond to a mere lab in zero gravity. If they want to build a spaceship in orbit as they said, the ISS is useless, even if it has plenty of other possibilities for science experiences. The day we'll set for planetary manned exploration is far from us, we haven't yet gone back to the moon, in spite of all the plans politicians talked about.

Is this really a bad thing? (5, Insightful)

quanticle (843097) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599435)

According to the article, NASA "has too much on its plate" and needs to focus. Given the fact that there are many problems in the low Earth orbit area (aging weather satellites, and Hubble to name just two), should NASA be diverting valuable manpower and time to Mars mission planning?

I know I'd rather have NASA put up replacements for aging weather satellites before putting up manned missions to Mars.

Re:Is this really a bad thing? (1)

pjviitas (1066558) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599643)

They also need to rebuild or retrofit their aging communications relay stations.

I don't think we are even remotely close to sending humans to Mars. Something as simple as leaving the protection of the Earths radiation sheilding is something you rarely hear talked about however, it's a major hurdle to overcome.

i say colonize Mars first...then think about Mars.

Re:Is this really a bad thing? (1)

quanticle (843097) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599881)

i say colonize Mars first...then think about Mars

Huh? Do you mean "colonize the Moon first, then think about Mars..." ?

Re:Is this really a bad thing? (1)

pjviitas (1066558) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599997)

Sorry...my bad.

Simple Solution (2, Funny)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599449)

Relabel it all as "Human Ganymede Landing Research."

Didn't anyone learn from Wrong Way Corrigan [wikipedia.org] ?

What spending? (1)

dtolman (688781) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599453)

How does this affect anything? There is no spending for manned Mars missions right now!


Almost all of NASA's spaceflight planning for the next decade are focused on getting new flight hardware ready to replace the shuttle, and maybe then going to the moon.

Priorities (5, Funny)

mushupork (819735) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599467)

We need tax money to make craters, not explore them.

So now we become a second class space nation (2, Insightful)

Puls4r (724907) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599469)

I've always looked up to the Space Program. Putting people and satellites into orbit or on the moon is incredible. That's it. Incredible. The scope of what they do and the success with which they do it is nothing short of phenomenal. To top if off, it's something that we have undeniably been the best at. No ifs, ands, or buts, we are quite simply the best at it. Now the politicians have decided it's no longer a priority. Toss it on the midden heap and watch us get passed by. Not just by the Russians (who were never ALL that far behind us), but by the ESA, the Japanese, and any other country who has leaders that have a sense of adventure and a sense of the long term benefits all the research involved produces. This is a sad day.

Re:So now we become a second class space nation (1)

quanticle (843097) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599663)

This doesn't cut off all funding for human space exploration. It doesn't say anything about canceling NASA's space shuttle replacement. It doesn't even prohibit NASA from planning moon bases. This isn't the end of American space exploration. All this amendment says is that perhaps its a bit premature to be planning for Mars when we can't even get out of low Earth orbit.

Personally, I'd like to see NASA start putting people back on the moon before they start looking at putting people on Mars.

Why the fuck isnt there a vote by the people? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19599741)

Like i've said in many other posts, everything is decided for us by people (government) who don't have a fucking clue what they are doing. Why can't nasa funds be on a national ballot vote? As previously stated we should be voting once a month as a nation for the progress of this country. (ie, do you think we should be in iraq should be voted on once a month BY THE PEOPLE). Same here with nasa.

Q: Do you as an American feel we should shift 5% of the iraq war funding to the nasa program?

Holy shit, do you relize what that would do if we just threw 5% of the iraq war bill at nasa? It would inject more into it than me on jessica alba after 10 beers.

Point being, we as Americans have no decision in our future. Its all decided by some fucktards who get corrupted by money every time. Also, show me a politician who was a scientist before getting elected, they don't exist (and if they do I don't know anything about them). We need a Stephan Hawking in congress. We need competent people who know about the issues in society and our future. Not a bunch of random retards. Id rather our country as a whole decide the issues with monthly voting than someone with no clue at all. Then you at least get a small pool of specialists who could weight the vote.

Re:So now we become a second class space nation (1)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599917)

Well, it's a nice dream, but it's going to take money. Just handing the order to NASA without giving them any extra money wasn't going to make it happen anyway, so it's good that this publicity stunt is scrapped.

If Bush really wants this, he can allocate money for it in the budget.

Good. (0, Flamebait)

analog_line (465182) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599471)

Perhaps someone will get the point that humans, on Earth, in this country called the United States of America, which the US Congress happens to have at least a portion of authority over, are way more important than sending humans to a rock somewhere out there in space.

I don't particulary care if China makes it to Mars before us. This "manned space flight is the only salvation for humanity" nonsense needs to stop. You'd think that simple things, like, oh, not spewing tons of chemicals that cause humans heal problems into the environment might be a slightly simpler, and more cost effective method of saving the human race from extinction than a hideously wasteful space exploration that doesn't have any actual advantage over unmanned probes. If a private entity wants to do it, that's their money to waste. But my government should damn well not be the one wasting it. Tell Mars Society can fund their own damn space program.

Flame on.

Re:Good. (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599557)

I don't particulary care if China makes it to Mars before us.

Maybe not Mars, but you should give a shit about whoever gets control of the rim of Earth's gravity well. Whoever does that first, wins whatever the fuck they could ever want.

Re:Good. (1)

pjviitas (1066558) | more than 7 years ago | (#19600097)

An optimist...strange. I didn't think there where any left.

Look...to put it bluntly, I don't think the human race has any chance to creating any kind of utopia here on earth. Space is our only hope.

PDF question (0, Offtopic)

cadience (770683) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599491)

It's not that I don't like PDFs, it's just that I hate loading Adobe into a Firefox tab.

Is it possible to indicate that the link is to a PDF similar to how links in the comments explicitly display link sources for "safety".

Re:PDF question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19599865)

FYI on a PC
use Foxit [foxitsoftware.com] instead of that Adobe bloatware
works as a plugin in IE and if you have the IETab plugin in firefox add a rule in the sites config for
*.pdf
then when you click a link in firefox with a PDF it will switch to the IE engine that will in turn load the Foxit plugin and voila, PDF reading in Firefox without any of the bloat

Priorities (1)

sharp-bang (311928) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599503)

I say, hooray. NASA has better things to do, e.g. support science. Unmanned missions are a far better value.

This is the right choice... (1)

jmagar.com (67146) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599517)

Human mission to Mars would cost a stupid amount of money and the net benefit is hard to quantify. The US has a really big economic problem already and a program like this would be suicide. How can the US ever pay off its federal debts while maintaining a massive deficit budget? Spending on a glamorous mission to Mars will only compound a seemingly insurmountable problem.

The crash is coming, are you prepared? China is currently propping up the US dollar (buying it), and loaning the US billions of dollars, while continuing to create a larger trade deficit for the US.

Defense spending is aggravated by a costly excursion into Iraq that is likely to require another decade of occupation.

Housing bubble has already shown it is ready to burst, and the net loss in wealth for the average American will make it very difficult for anyone to plan a way to pay off their own credit card debts, let alone the trillions of dollars the US collectively owes the world bank...

It's time to balance the federal budget.

Re:This is the right choice... (1)

Chibi Merrow (226057) | more than 7 years ago | (#19600027)

The US has a really big economic problem already
Like what, exactly?

How can the US ever pay off its federal debts while maintaining a massive deficit budget?
The deficit that's lower than it's been in years and shrinks every month? Our economy grows us out of deficit every time. If we'd just stop doing stupid things like the prescription drug program and bridges to nowhere, we'd be better off...

The crash is coming, are you prepared?
The economy always moves in cycles. WHEN (not if) it does go back down, the drop will cull the weak and encourage new lines of investment and innovation, making us come back even stronger than ever. The Dot Bomb implosion was an excellent example of that. Now the big buzzword companies on the Internet are actually making money other than venture capital.

China is currently propping up the US dollar (buying it), and loaning the US billions of dollars,
Which means it's in their best interests for us to succeed, otherwise they never get their money back.

while continuing to create a larger trade deficit for the US.
Do you ever worry about your trade deficit with your grocer?

and the net loss in wealth for the average American will make it very difficult for anyone to plan a way to pay off their own credit card debts,
Net loss in wealth? Meh? We're above full employment, wages are going up, inflation is staying down, wtf world are you living in?

It's time to balance the federal budget.
I agree. Let's dismantle HUD and the Medicare prescription drug program first. That'll put us a few hundred billion in the black by itself.

Space Exploration Side Efect. (2, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599521)

Mission to Mars.
A Planet with a high percentage of Carbon Dioxide - What can we learn from that, maybe links to global warming?
Finding ways to store mass amounts of energy to shuttle astronots back and forth from earth to mars, in a small place, perhaps will help with out energy consumption problems?
Ligher Weight, easer to move, rugged space suits. This can help create far better materials for many applications.
Number of americans employed for such a project helping the economy.
Working with other nations of such a project, better tolerance for other cultures. ...
One project of this scale has many side efects that a lot of supid winy people just don't want to grasp their minds around to understand.

Re:Space Exploration Side Efect. (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599715)

...or maybe we'll just be wasting a lot of money to visit a sterile desert--money that we can't afford in a country already spiraling towards bankruptcy with a multi-trillion $ national debt.

Re:Space Exploration Side Efect. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#19600153)

yeah, we're talking about 280Million dollars. really a drop in the bucket.

However, the spin off technologies from Space exploration has returned many more times it's cost in tax dollars. Many, if not all, of those technologies ares till in use and still return taxes.
How much money does the government get in taxes from business that make smoke detector?
Just one of many spin off technologies.

Historically, Space exploration has been an investment. An investment that has paid off quite well.

That doesn't account for the people who become scientists and engineers because of space exploration.

Post-MAD politics (2, Insightful)

athloi (1075845) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599573)

This is a dumb idea for America, because whichever nation has a Mars base has an escape valve from Mutually Assured Destruction in instance of nuclear war. "Yeah, you got Washington, all right, but our 6,000-person Mars base is going to last a lot longer than your radioactive, rubble-strewn ass..."

Re:Post-MAD politics (1)

thealsir (927362) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599797)

Yeah, because missiles can't travel through space.

Re:Post-MAD politics (2, Insightful)

Aaron England (681534) | more than 7 years ago | (#19600029)

As if the Russians/Chinese would just rollover. More realistically the Russians/Chinese would find a way to restore the balance (eg. putting nuclear weapons in space, further developing missiles for extraterrestrial targets [wikipedia.org] or putting men of their own in space).

Mars Sucks (3, Insightful)

huckamania (533052) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599579)

Sorry folks, but Mars is a waste of time. We're better off studying the asteroid belt and sending probes to the more interesting moons. Even with fusion, it would take a really long time to make Mars even close to livable.

The asteroid belt is full of resources and the great thing about them is that they are already in space. We should start cataloging them and marking the ones that have necessary things like water, iron, gold, etc. Once we know what's out there, it won't be long before someone figures out how to get it and bring it back.

FFS. Privatise it already (4, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599589)

NASA is a dead end.

Stick a $1 billion prize into an investment fund and hand it over to anyone who can get people on to Mars and back alive. Do same for moon base. Close NASA down. Billions saved and lots of highly motivated businesses and individuals will do their damnest to earn that cash.

 

What This is All About (3, Informative)

Anthonares (466582) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599627)

There is no significant funding for human exploration of Mars, nothing that even registers on the FY 2008 budget highlights. There might be a few relatively small grants to develop next generation spacesuits, but those will be useful on the Moon, too, so they won't be affected.

This isn't then an appropriate response to a fiscally unsound endeavor by a careful legislature. It's a gesture that the Congress will not support the President's Vision for Space Exploration in its entirety.

But, this language has the capability to significantly delay an eventual human mission to Mars if it's passed. It will force NASA to view the Moon as its ultimate objective, rather than as a stepping stone to Mars and beyond, as envisioned by the President.

Whether this is a good thing is up to debate, but I am inclined to believe that this empty gesture has great potential for unintended consequences further down the road.

What's really gonna suck (0, Flamebait)

Alzheimers (467217) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599635)

What's really gonna suck is when we do finally get a NASA ship to land on Mars, they're gonna see a Chinese flag already planted on it.

Red planet, indeed. Maybe if had some more red and white, our politicos would be more willing.

Congress needs a hands off policy (1)

Grimfaire (856043) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599699)

Just keep their hands off of NASA. Switch budgets with defense and leave em alone. We'll have colonies on the moon and Mars in a decade.

death star (1)

markowen58 (917436) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599717)

well it's not like we're escaping from a death star. surely not everything has to be decided by a committee ?

Spending (0, Offtopic)

Normal Dan (1053064) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599727)

We spend so much on the military and war. Why not give more to the pursute of science? If NASA was funded like our military, we would not have to worry about other countries attacking us, because we would all be living on other planets.

markup language? (1)

jshriverWVU (810740) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599805)

"the markup language states"

since when does the government write using HTML or XML. :)

the committee has it right (4, Insightful)

nanosquid (1074949) | more than 7 years ago | (#19599889)

The committee has it right: trying to impose a manned trip to Mars on NASA without a huge funding increase is going to wreak havoc with NASA's science programs. If the president wants this, he needs to fund it.

The Mars society should be ashamed for trying to have this language removed; apparently, they think that going to Mars is worth dismantling the rest of our space program.

Re:the committee has it right (4, Insightful)

mrfrostee (30198) | more than 7 years ago | (#19600149)

... trying to impose a manned trip to Mars on NASA without a huge funding increase is going to wreak havoc with NASA's science programs.

Better look again, they are already gone.

Precisely right (1)

bradbury (33372) | more than 7 years ago | (#19600051)

The Mars effort was a stupid agenda from the start (presumably due to the fact that our 'leaders' do not understand science and have no vision).

One should only consider sending humans to planets, after:
1) One has exhausted all possible exploration capabilities of robotic explorers.
2) One has "rad-hardened" (genetically enhanced) astronauts that don't require tons of shielding from radiation.
3) One has robust nanotechnology to make such ventures significantly less expensive.

Now, shortly after one has all of these capabilities using nanorobots to disassemble planets and contribute their mass to a Matrioshka Brain seems like the likely situation. Thus humans don't get to go to the planets because they will no longer exist! The Mars Society is thinking in "primitive human terms" and fails to realize that humans are about to be transcended by significantly modified and/or more capable robots, AIs, and mind uploads. Would you send a "steam locomotive" (aka human)" to Mars if you could send an advanced Mars rover/AI/cyborg instead?

The Singularity ramp up makes any multi-decade long plans based on "common (historical) human perspectives" dead on arrival. One might hope that a few wiser representatives might see that and take actions such as those which seem to be taking place.

Hurrah! More money for the moon instead! (1)

The Fun Guy (21791) | more than 7 years ago | (#19600055)

Off-planet habitation should focus on the moon instead of Mars.

You'd still need completely enclosed domes, caves or spaceports.

You'd still need full shielding from cosmic radiation and hard UV.

You'd still need imported air, water, food, medicines, equipment, etc.

However, you'd be a lot closer to home, reducing shipping costs and times, both ways. You can coast to the moon in three days, or accelerate there in 12 hours.

Reduced time in transit means reduced radiation exposure, which means reduced ship shielding (and weight) necessary.

You'll have better solar array efficiency because of brighter sunlight and no dust. Or you could use nuclear power [wikipedia.org] .

No pesky winds or dust to mess with your instruments.

More people would be able to afford a vacation trip to the Moon than could afford a vacation trip to Mars. Better revenue stream.

0.16G surface gravity means a space elevator would be more feasible to move cargo and people up and down the lunar gravity well. Getting off the earth would still be horrendously expensive, but maybe our space elevator cable could be made in our lunar factories out of moon dust. That would certainly be convenient.
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