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How To Beat Congress's Ban Of Humans On Mars

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the or-just-stop-spending-on-wars dept.

Mars 447

An anonymous reader writes "Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban humans on Mars at NASA: "Provided, That none of the funds under this heading shall be used for any research, development, or demonstration activities related exclusively to the human exploration of Mars." The bill is held up in Congress and the anti-Mars language may be taken out. But in case the Mars ban becomes law, the Space Review has a handy guide on how NASA can beat the ban and continue its research and development without breaking the law."

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447 comments

Congress? (5, Funny)

rossdee (243626) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585609)

Somebody please tell congress that they don't have jurisdiction on other planets.

Re:Congress? (5, Informative)

Pantero Blanco (792776) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585697)

This is one of the many reasons I don't like sensationally-worded headlines.

Congress did not "ban humans on Mars". They stopped NASA's funding for a human mission to Mars and told it to concentrate on other things. Other nations, or private citizens of the US if I understand correctly, are free to shoot for it.

Re:Congress? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21585779)

This is one of the many reasons I don't like sensationally-worded headlines.

Congress did not "ban humans on Mars". They stopped NASA's funding for a human mission to Mars and told it to concentrate on other things. Other nations, or private citizens of the US if I understand correctly, are free to shoot for it.
The US is allowed to shoot for it as well. They just can't pay for things that apply exclusively for Mars for the next year. This will barely affect anything. Only if NASA was researching human landing sites or actually building the Mars spacecraft could they say that their research was *only* for human exploration of Mars. And this would have to pass every year in the foreseeable future to ban NASA from human exploration of Mars (since it is a funding bill).

Re:Congress? (4, Funny)

Nossie (753694) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586001)

"Congress did not "ban humans on Mars". They stopped NASA's funding for a human mission to Mars and told it to concentrate on other things. Other nations, or private citizens of the US if I understand correctly, are free to shoot for it."

Did you really mean that? I read it as:

Congress did not "ban humans on Mars". They stopped NASA's funding for a human mission to Mars and told it to concentrate on other things. Other nations, or private citizens of the US if I understand correctly, they are free to shoot at.

hmmmmmm :)

Re:Congress? (2, Insightful)

Stringer Bell (989985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585731)

They do, however, have jurisdiction over the U.S. budget.

Re:Congress? (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585813)

First, if you have a bigger army and more nukes than anybody else you pretty much have jurisdiction anywhere you feel like it.

Second, this doesn't stop anybody from going to Mars, or outlaw trips to Mars. All it does in says that NASA can't use money Congress has appropriated to send humans to mars; ESA or a private American citizen with enough money could still legally go to Mars.

-mcgrew

Re:Congress? (2, Interesting)

Bazar (778572) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585849)

Congress isn't limiting what other people can do, they are simply giving conditions on how [b]THEIR[/b] money is not to be spent.

I don't think there is anything preventing NASA from getting private funding to do it themselves, but frankly, i can't see any private sources coming up with the billions required to research a manned mars mission.

Its Cheapest to simply let commercial interests develop a way. That IS the American way after all, Capitalism [wikipedia.org] .

Also i can't honestly see the point on why we need men on mars. Emotional as it is, its just not practical.
There is only 1 thing that brining a human to mars achieves, and thats a story. Does America really want to spend billions for another "One small step"?

Re:Congress? (3, Interesting)

innerweb (721995) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585909)

This is the kind of stuff that you need to figure out who did it. Then, you need to find out why. Most likely, the reason will be somewhat insane, but at least you know what you are dealing with. Then, after you know who and why, you work to make sure that it does not happen again. Ignorance is a powerful disadvantage.

From the reference, it seems that this is an attempt to keep NASA form being administratively destroyed by a Bushism. Remember the guy Bush put in place that started slashing everything else to make one thing happen. The NASA budget is so tiny compared to so many other budgets, the solution to achieve things is not to slash and burn, but to fund it. OMG! Look at everything we have gotten out of the space race so far. Microwaves (communications and ovens), new materials, better computing, better aircraft, and more!

So, the who is not so important, but the why is very important. To prevent another slash and burn like the last Bush appointee.

Maybe this language is needed. Remember how many things this administration has made happen for short sighted goals that have disastrous mid to long term impacts (yeah, nothing new, but they are very good at it). Would it actually be good to go for Mars at the expense of so many other things?

InnerWeb

Re:Congress? (1)

canuck57 (662392) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586093)

Somebody please tell congress that they don't have jurisdiction on other planets.

Fortunately they do not. First someone has to land there, put a flag on it and then assume residency. Otherwise it is uncharted and uninhabited up for grabs. Congress has no jurisdiction there.

The real truth however is that they are afraid of what they already know or might find. Maybe they found something with the rover they don't want us to know? Less people who visit, any new discoveries would be easier to hold back from the public.

Or perhaps much more simple, more money for war, killing, corruption and controlling people.

Forget the middle east, we are not solving a damn think being there. Lets get back to science and exploration.

Could the headline have been more misleading? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21585611)

There is no 'ban' on Mars. It just means that no funds from the current funding bill can be used for funding potential human exploration on Mars. Future bills (every single year) would have to include this 'ban' every time they were passed.

Re:Could the headline have been more misleading? (2, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585693)

True, but this reveals a great lack of motivation and vision among U.S. lawmakers. Instead of getting the public fired up about space exploration, as two administrations in the 1960s succeeded in doing, year by year NASA takes another punch in the gut by funding cuts. As I mentioned in the discussion on an earlier article here, it's the height of absurdity that the U.S. is delaying exploration of Mars even further than the late date Kim Stanley Robinson chose for his trilogy beginning with Red Mars [amazon.com] , which was originally meant to allow for stalling.

Re:Could the headline have been more misleading? (3, Insightful)

Evil Adrian (253301) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585939)

I can think of plenty of things that are more motivating and visionary to spend taxpayer money on. Things like AIDS research and cancer research, just to name two off the top of my head.

I believe that the people lacking vision are those that want to spend billions of dollars rocketing a team of 8 people to a giant red rock in the sky when we haven't figured out how to fix problems at home first.

Re:Could the headline have been more misleading? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21586087)

I can think of plenty of things that are more motivating and visionary to spend taxpayer money on. Things like AIDS research and cancer research, just to name two off the top of my head.

I believe that the people lacking vision are those that want to spend billions of dollars rocketing a team of 8 people to a giant red rock in the sky when we haven't figured out how to fix problems at home first.
What problems at home do you think Spain should have fixed before dropping huge amounts of gold into the Columbus expeditions? When would those problems have been fixed?

Re:Could the headline have been more misleading? (2, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586159)

What problems at home do you think Spain should have fixed before dropping huge amounts of gold into the Columbus expeditions?

A culture of machismo where the first thing Spanish explorers did when they reached the New World was rape women and steal?

Re:Could the headline have been more misleading? (1)

AndroSyn (89960) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586097)

I can think of plenty of things that are more motivating and visionary to spend taxpayer money on. Things like AIDS research and cancer research, just to name two off the top of my head.


This assumes that spending more money on these things is going to suddenly find cures for said things. Science doesn't work like that.

I believe that the people lacking vision are those that want to spend billions of dollars rocketing a team of 8 people to a giant red rock in the sky when we haven't figured out how to fix problems at home first.


All of the problems here on earth are not ever going to be solved, ever. So by your logic, we should just junk the space program completely because of the problems here on earth. Thank god you aren't in charge...

Re:Could the headline have been more misleading? (3, Insightful)

PlatyPaul (690601) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585947)

What with the additional costs of sending humans anywhere, doesn't it make sense that an already-strapped NASA would pursue human-free missions to stretch its limited budget? I mean, I'm all for pumping up the public view of space exploration, but that problem lies more in making the public aware than in the nature of the missions themselves. Seeing a robot plant an American flag on Mars could be equally awe-inspiring, if widely televised.

The members of Congress were duly elected by the general populace of the United States; why NASA should attempt to ignore Congressional opinion is beyond me. If you happen to live in the U.S. and are upset about the situation (one way or the other), I urge you to contact [congress.org] your representative legislator(s) directly.

Re:Could the headline have been more misleading? (0)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586109)

Also true, but that doesn't change the fact that our anonymous poster is full of shit.

And YOU are also misleading (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585963)

It says that the funding can not be used for EXCLUSIVE mars exploration R/D. IOW, they can fund dual use items. Kind of lame, but not a big thing. Most of what NASA does is multi-use. We really should keep alive research that is geared towards mars (as well as small nuclear power). So for the moment, other than human habitat and Martian suits, just about everything else is dual-use in that it either is robotics for Mars, or will work on Moon/Mars.

What is interesting on this, is the amount of games that politicians play.

LINUX: A STINKING PIECE OF SHIT (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21585625)

It's rotten to the core. Fire Linus!

China will win (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21585631)

The Chinese will go to Mars and eventually control the solar system.
The meek Americans will remain on earth.

Re:China will win (1)

djasbestos (1035410) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585715)

Then River Tam will kick Barney Frank's ass.

Re:China will win (1)

PinkyDead (862370) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585851)

But what would happen if all the Chinese on Mars jumped at once?

dumb (0)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585633)

What, they think if they ban it all the other nations of the world are going to say, 'ooh, mighty america, she say no', and not do it either?

Ok, China's a long way off from anything like that, but the US proved it doesn't take long from baked bean cans with windows in orbit to men playing golf and finding orange soil on the surface of another planet (ok moon).

'Bout that 'losing the initiative' thing. Oh wait, that happened in the seventies..

Re:dumb (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585741)

,blockquote>What, they think if they ban it all the other nations of the world are going to say, 'ooh, mighty america, she say no', and not do it either? Wow, at least read the friggin synopsis under the headline.

I know expecting people to read the article is losing battle, but at least read the 3-4 sentences found under the slashdot title people freaking out.

Re:dumb (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585799)

What, they think if they ban it all the other nations of the world are going to say, 'ooh, mighty america, she say no', and not do it either? Wow, at least read the friggin synopsis under the headline.

I know expecting people to read the article is losing battle, but at least read the 3-4 sentences found under the slashdot title people freaking out.

-EDIT-
Ick, typo in the blockquote tag. This should display better.

Re:dumb (1)

db32 (862117) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585877)

As I gather from the history of this, is that Bush made his little lets go to Mars speech, the Bush lackies in NASA did a hack n slash job on other projects to provide for their glorious leader and now congress is saying "hold your fucking horses and lets finish the things we started". This is coupled with a little bit of "we don't want to send people into space, we have had enough disasters". Now demonstrating the same ingorance you seem to be mocking...you somehow equate this to America tells the planet what they can or can't do. Yes...they are discussing an worldwide ban on humans on Mars in the US Congress...because it would be WAY to damn difficult to read that they are discussing banning funding for projects that have a sole purpose of sending a man to Mars...remember kiddies...kneejerk lefties act before thinking just as much as kneejerk righties...both sound equally assinine and this is why we will be perpetually stuck with both.

Why? (2, Insightful)

RandoX (828285) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585643)

What does Congress have against funding for exploration of Mars? What's the purpose for that?

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

Cy Sperling (960158) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585689)

They, more than likely, see it as a colossal waste of taxpayers money. Unlike, say..., sending millions of dollars in cash into a warzone with no accountability whatsoever.

Re:Why? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21585777)

They, more than likely, see it as a colossal waste of taxpayers money. Unlike, say...

Or dropping billions and billions into a welfare state that demeans and destroys the human spirit. Or an education system that has gotten worse as more Federal money has been dropped into it.

Re:Why? (2, Informative)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585801)

Millions? I think you meant billions and trillions.

Re:Why? (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585881)

They, more than likely, see it as a colossal waste of taxpayers money. Unlike, say..., sending millions of dollars in cash into a warzone with no accountability whatsoever.
We shouldn't be wasting taxpayer money on an unconstitutional space program or an unconstitutional non-war.

Re:Why? (2, Interesting)

halivar (535827) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586011)

And all Ron's people said, "Paul-men."

If NASA was based in Ron Paul's home district, I'd bet my dollar to your donut he'd be extolling the virtues of pork--errr... I mean--Martian exploration.

You need to dial your Cynacism-O-Meter up a notch and realize Libertarians are not so far from Democrats/Republicans as you may think.

Re:Why? (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586091)

How in good conscious do you let yourself post messages via this unconstitutional Internet?

Re:Why? (1)

Egdiroh (1086111) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586139)

We shouldn't be wasting taxpayer money on an unconstitutional space program or an unconstitutional non-war.


Wait, why is it unconstitutional? Does that mean that the Lewis and Clark expedition was unconstitutional too? Trust jefferson to go and warp the intent of the founding fathers.

Re:Why? (2, Funny)

oahazmatt (868057) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585883)

What's that you say? Oil deposits on Mars???

Re:Why? (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586065)

worse than that, they realize there's no oil on Mars nor is there a big chunk of the nation believing that we should be there. Nothing short of a new cold war with other superpowers or some other fantastic reason going to make sure we get there any time soon. Right now as it is they plan to return in say 30 years... The apathy of this country in regard to science is truly astounding and quite disturbing.

Re:Why? (1)

bigdavex (155746) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586085)

They, more than likely, see it as a colossal waste of taxpayers money. Unlike, say..., sending millions of dollars in cash into a warzone with no accountability whatsoever.

I find this sort of logic tempting. But isn't it setting the bar a bit low if we say, "This activity is not as stupid as the war in Iraq. Therefore, let's do it."

Re:Why? (1)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585831)

What does Congress have against funding for exploration of Mars? What's the purpose for that?
It diverts money away from their pockets?

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

Solandri (704621) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585833)

NASA has two factions - manned and unmanned missions - who both compete internally for the same money. Big-name manned NASA projects like Apollo, the shuttle, ISS, and this manned Mars mission have a history of expanding until they consume almost the entirety of NASA's budget. Many, maybe even most, would say most of the useful science comes from NASA's unmanned missions. On a bang-for-the-buck basis, I think almost everyone agrees the unmanned missions yield much greater returns. But of course there's an allure, a romance with sending a man out there.

Congress is trying to protect the other projects from being cannibalized to fund the manned Mars mission. And they want Bush to pony up the dollars for it if he's going to give NASA a mandate to put a man on Mars (as opposed to just giving the mandate with no funds, forcing NASA to divert funds from other useful missions).

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21585835)

Re:Why? (1)

toddhisattva (127032) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585897)

What does Congress have against funding for exploration of Mars? What's the purpose for that?
This congress wants to make sure no Republican President gets credit for it.

Re:Why? (1)

morari (1080535) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585981)

They obviously know of the Martian cities that litter the planet's surface and are thus protecting their own interesting, seeing as all of Congress are alien clones.

Re:Why? (1)

GogglesPisano (199483) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586003)

What does Congress have against funding for exploration of Mars? What's the purpose for that?

Politics as usual. Considering that the Mars mission is backed by George Bush (he proposed it with some minor fanfare in early 2004), I'd surmise that it's just another way for Congress to take a swipe at Dubya.

Who cares about science when you can score some cheap political points...

Has Washington Lost its mind? (1, Interesting)

haplo21112 (184264) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585647)

Forget I asked, the answer to that question is already known!

Why would they put language like that in place, why do they think they need too?

Country is going to hell in a hand basket.

No wonder we as a country are getting plowed under by the rest of the world on the innovation front. No wonder math and science grads are dropping, no wonder there are more foreign students than Americans in the College science programs, there is no place left to go to do interesting things in America. We are legislating them out of existence with stupid funding policies.

Re:Has Washington Lost its mind? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21585745)

No wonder math and science grads are dropping

English is suffering too...

Re:Has Washington Lost its mind? (1)

Stringer Bell (989985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585771)

Why would they put language like that in place, why do they think they need to?

It must have something to with stem cells, I just can't quite put my finger on it...

BULLSHIT!!! MOD THIS DOWN (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21585929)

No wonder we as a country are getting plowed under by the rest of the world on the innovation front.

WRONG. The US is still the most innovative and creative country in the world. Science, technology, medicine, biotechnology, biotech, you name it, the US leads the way. Other countries are just imitators and producers.

no wonder there are more foreign students than Americans in the College science programs

WRONG again.

This just isn't true. Look it up.

You are wrong, and I just destroyed your bullshit.

Re:Has Washington Lost its mind? (3, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585961)

"No wonder we as a country are getting plowed under by the rest of the world on the innovation front. "
While I do think that this bill is dumb how do you figure that the us is getting plowed under on the innovation front?
The US still leads the world in Space exploration. There are some very interesting robotic missions going on right now.
The US is still a world leader in ICs And is the world leader in CPUs. Intel's core line, AMDs Barcelona, IBM's Power5, Suns' Sparc T2 are all very cutting edge.
The US still leads in Aircraft. The 787 and the F22 are prime examples of innovation. And then you Burt Rutan.
There is a lot of very innovative work in biology going on in the US.
Then you have Software. Apple, Microsoft, Intel, Google, and IBM, are all doing a lot of interesting research and development work.

I also worry about the future of technology in the US but when you make statements that are just flat out untrue people will dismiss your concerns.

Re:Has Washington Lost its mind? (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586025)

When so many engineers driving this success are foreigners who came here for grad school, then all it takes to upset America's place at the fore is these same engineers returning to their homelands, starting up their own companies and investing in or working at others.

Re:Has Washington Lost its mind? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586077)

Why would they put language like that in place, why do they think they need too?

If you don't understand someones reasoning for doing something, how can you make any judgements?

Re:Has Washington Lost its mind? (0)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586099)

Don't worry, America will have its intangile Intellectual Property

Re:Has Washington Lost its mind? (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586111)

The problem is that there's not much scientific justification to going, and IIRC, a manned mission to mars is estimated to take a good fraction of a trillion dollars once it's done.

A fleet of inexpensive robots can do the exploration job for cheaper and doesn't risk the loss of life.

I would love to see humans on Mars, but I think a lot of our space innovation can be done with robots for the time being. As it is, too many probes to Mars get lost (IIRC, a third fail, crash or don't get into orbit properly), I want to see them get it right more often.

Re:Has Washington Lost its mind? (1)

Bouncing Bosons (1010789) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586143)

It's not quite that simple. Believe it or not, this might actually be a good thing for science and research at NASA. Since the president decided we should set our sights on a manned mission to Mars, other research has taken a back seat to research into effects of long-term space travel to prepare for a Mars attempt. For a notable example of this phenomenon, see the story from Sunday about the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.
http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/12/02/1331251 [slashdot.org]

Note also that Mars mission related research has been diverting resources from the Hubble, keeping it in it's seemingly perpetual state of almost doom despite the fact that it's still doing great science, and astronomers are still applying for time on it. All things considered, it might not be a bad idea to forcibly refocus NASA.

Easy (2, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585651)

Plan to go to Pluto. When a congress more favorable to a mars mission is in place, have them remove the ban. Funny enough, developing technologies to get us to Pluto would be very handy in getting us to Mars as well.

Or plan to send a ship the opposite direct then are rotation and plan to meet up with it in 8 months.

Re:Easy (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585783)

IO or Europa are a lot closer. Plus think of the kick arse view you could get with Jupiter in background.

Re:Easy (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586213)

Excellent location suggestion. My thinking was the farther we have to plan to go, the easier changing it to mars would be.

I'm sure congress knows what they're doing~

Legal speak (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585657)

What is it with legal speak putting commas in funny places? I know they leave them out to be ambiguous so it can be read in a favourable light later, but adding them in at incorrect positions?

Provided, That none of the funds...

That doesn't even make sense. "Provided that..." (i.e. "on the basis that the following is true") makes sense, but not with a comma.

As for the ban, those are some interesting ways to get around it. "Humanoid exploration" could potentially also include a human-shaped robot that has tactile feedback to a suit that someone wears in orbit. We're a little way off a decent tactile suit, but then again I'd imagine we're a while off properly and realistically exploring Mars with humans and that this is just "pro-active", forward planning legislation.

Re:Legal speak (1)

Chief Camel Breeder (1015017) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586249)

It's an archaic way of writing a heading for a sub-section in a document. Nowadays we'd more likely use a colon or put the heading on a line by itself in a distinct font.

letter (1)

vignatti (1098595) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585665)

Send a letter saying that the terrorists will blow everything here in the earth...

Martian cops patrolling for renegade humans? (1, Funny)

Kohath (38547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585687)

I hear Congress's Martian cops are really patrolling the Mars surface vigilantly. So watch out, humans.

I know how to do this! (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585701)

To perform non-robotic landings on Mars without violating a ban on human landing, staff the Mars mission with members of the current US administration!

Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all week! Try the veal, it's delicious!

Not quite... (5, Informative)

igotmybfg (525391) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585705)

From the article:

"The House of Representatives version of HR 3093, the bill that determines NASA's funding for 2008, effectively bans the study of an entire planet: Provided, That none of the funds under this heading shall be used for any research, development, or demonstration activities related exclusively to the human exploration of Mars.
As you can clearly see, the language in that bill does NOT "ban the study of an entire planet" - it just says that any research done must have other applications besides the human exploration of Mars. For example, a weather study wouldn't be "banned", because that would also be related to the Mars Rovers. So basically, as long as NASA can show that any R&D activity is related to something else besides humans on Mars, the ban won't apply to it.

I can see it both ways... (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585711)

Is it a waste of money to consider putting humans on Mars in our lifetime? Probably.

Should NASA be free to spend its own budget without Congressional oversight? Probably.

Perhaps NASA needs to earn back some goodwill by proving that they're still relevant and useful first.

Re:I can see it both ways... (1)

sholden (12227) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585861)

Should NASA be free to spend its own budget without Congressional oversight? Probably.

But the budget is provided by Congress (well directed to them by Congress), and they allocate it for whatever reasons they have - if NASA looks like they might spend it on something Congress doesn't want them to, then such a restriction seems reasonable.

If the head of NASA said "I read on the internet that the price of gold is "going to the moon", since we also want to go to moon I am going to invest 100% of NASA's budget in gold bullion for the next five years", then adding a "no you are not" provision to the budget seems reasonable (not as reasonable as sacking him them of course...)

Re:I can see it both ways... (3, Informative)

Stringer Bell (989985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585871)

Should NASA be free to spend its own budget without Congressional oversight? Probably.

Absolutely not. NASA's budget comes out of my pocket, so I want some say in how it's spent. My congress critters represent me, and without their oversight I've got no say in the matter. Ditto the military, public schools, etc.

And yes, I realize that in practice I haven't got much say anyway, but the current arrangement is set forth by the Constitution.

Put a mouse on Mars instead! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21585735)

This has been already done [arcor.de] with no need for exaggerated funding.

Doesn't ban humans on Mars (2, Informative)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585737)

"Provided, That none of the funds under this heading shall be used for any research, development, or demonstration activities related exclusively to the human exploration of Mars."

Re:Doesn't ban humans on Mars (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586155)

So if they just launch a human mission to Mars, it's OK

It's not research into landing a man on mars
It's not development for landing a man on mars
It's not a demonstration of landing a man on mars
It's just landing a man on mars

or they could go to another planet/moon/asteroid so it's not mars
or they can do anything that has another application
or they can just wait until next year....

amazing a legal ban on something we can't do yet, and can show we are not doing even if we are ...?

Bingo (1)

StressGuy (472374) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586215)

That's the way I read it as well. Doesn't say you can't send humans to Mars, you just need to justify their reason for being there.

Worry not.. (1)

Bullfish (858648) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585739)

The rest of the world will get mankind to Mars and beyond. Who would have thunk that the new American century http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_for_the_New_American_Century/ [wikipedia.org] would mean retreating from scientific advancement. It's 11:00, do you know where your tax dollars are?

Worthy Goals (1)

bobcat7677 (561727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585747)

If we aren't going to actually explore anything beyond our own "bubble", what is the point of NASA anyway? I can understand not wanting to spend public money on space exploration anymore...especially now that private sector spaceflight is ramping up. But it seems stupid to keep NASA around at all if they eliminate the exploration. I guess they just want to turn it into a bureaucracy purely to regulate the private sector. I say if we are going to spend the money, at least make it worth while and keep Mars as a goal.

Simple (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585751)

Get the government out of the space exploration business. Government doesn't work. Remove unreasonable restrictions on space exploration by businesses and private citizens, and you'll see a boom in space exploration funding!

Re:Simple (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585955)

Boom is right, if Carmack's attempts are anything to go by.

Re:Simple (1)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586135)

Really? I doubt it, simply because there's currently no economic benefit to exploring space. Yeah, you might make a profit on the first round of ultra-rich space tourists paying $100 grand each to go 100 miles up, but after the novelty wears off, what then? A lot of people might give their life's savings to go up, but you can't do that twice, so unless there's something compelling up there to do, it's not a sustainable business.

It won't be until conditions on this planet become so bad that living on Mars seems like a better option, and getting there is cheap enough so that even the dirt poor can afford to do it.

We're not even close with our level of technology today. We haven't even begun to explore our own ocean floors, which are many times less hostile than Mars. Space exploration currently doesn't make economic sense, nor will it in the foreseable future.

All that we can do now is plant a flag and cheer. I can understand the desire to do that, but calling it something other than what it is is folly.

Re:Simple (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586211)

Remove unreasonable restrictions on space exploration by businesses and private citizens, and you'll see a boom in space exploration funding!

Not in this case you won't. There's nothing on Mars with a commercial value anywhere near the transportation cost. Nor will it make sense to use any of the very crappy real estate on Mars until after the much better real estate in Antarctica is all used up.

Great (1)

Lucas123 (935744) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585755)

There goes my summer vacation plans with quiet days traversing the canals of Mars. I just hate Saturn. The noxious gases always leave my kids with a rash. Oh, well.

Bicameral Legislature... (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585775)

The house of Represenatives passed this bill... What about the Senate?

Re:Bicameral Legislature... (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585951)

Nevermind. Senate doesn't handle budget, right?

how to survive corepirate nazis' life0cidal blight (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21585785)

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Inevitable (2, Insightful)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585787)

As has already been pointed out, the summary is misleading. But you might as well get used to this idea. We will NEVER colonize the planets. As soon as the technology starts to get close, the scientists and environmentalists will stop it, so as to not contaminate a virgin environment. *Particularly* in the case of Mars, because scientists want to see if life already exists there (it doesn't, but they want to find out for sure).

I understand the romance of living on other planets, but it's inevitable that these will become permanent bans, because once it starts, it'll never end. The future of humans in space are spinning habitats.

And yes, Earth can stop it happening. Forget the idea of a Heinlein-style hero taking off and say f-you to the Earth. There is no way a colony can survive without assistance from Earth, probably for centuries before it could be self-sustaining.

I could also talk about the fact that very, very few will want to live on Mars because it's lifeless dead rock, but that's another subject. :) [hint: how many people try and live in Antarctica? And that's a hell of a lot more hospitable.]

Ban? (1)

mulhollandj (807571) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585791)

Please correct me if I'm wrong but my understanding is that they are just not wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on it. With a nation so far in debt why are we trying to force the taxpayer to foot the bill to go to Mars anyway? Ooh, we could always just tell the federal reserve to print more money and further devalue the dollar. But of course we would have to pay those private banks back.

Arnold is displeased. (1)

DJ Katty (1195877) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585807)

We are not getting our ass to Mars. :|

Every dollar spent on Mars... (5, Insightful)

Nova Express (100383) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585825)

...is a dollar that can't be used to provide pork for John Murtha's district. [cbsnews.com]

Or defense contracts for companies owned by Nancy Pelosi's husband. [mypetjawa.mu.nu] .

Or billions in subsidies to Fortune 500 agribusiness companies. [cbsnews.com]

There can be no funding for frivolities like the human exploration of space when so many of the needs of the Permanent Bipartisan State of Porkistan remain unmet...

Starchild (1)

paleo2002 (1079697) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585839)

All these worlds are yours, except Mars. Attempt no landings there.

A thought (1)

Safiiru (24501) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585867)

Far me it from me to presume that I can actually explain the reasoning behind legislative language, but could these loopholes perhaps be intentional? The thinking might be "we don't want space exploration to be all about getting humans to Mars, so if you want to go that way, make it gradual and make it part of larger-scale research". Given that the original moon landing was not so much about furthering scientific knowledge (although it surely did, as a side-effect) as it was about proving our superiority over the dang ol' commies, Congress might well be worried that a race to Mars would end up as a similar (but much more expensive) political gesture and divert attention from the actual research side of space exploration.

(Yeah, yeah, this may be an overly charitable interpretation, I know.)

The article forgot to mention another possibility (1)

Hanners1979 (959741) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585903)

Okay, so humans on Mars are banned... How about we send RIAA lawyers instead?

Re:The article forgot to mention another possibili (1)

bhima (46039) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585965)

Do we have to send them whole? Or can we send them as Puree?

Re:The article forgot to mention another possibili (1)

Hanners1979 (959741) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586037)

Just send them without spacesuits and let the cosmos sort it out.

Appropriately named (1)

auroran (10711) | more than 6 years ago | (#21585985)

I don't know of another group so aptly named.
Since pro- is the opposite of con-
It shows so well that the opposite of progress is congress.

Should NASA earn a weasel reputation? (4, Insightful)

ColoradoAuthor (682295) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586009)

Regardless of whether one thinks that the "Mars ban" is a good idea, would it be good for NASA to get a reputation of using loopholes and subverting the intent of Congress? Even if NASA complied, space enthusiasts could inadvertently build such a reputation in the public mind.

Then what? Would Congress get more strict the next year, resulting in dozens of started-but-never completed projects? Would the public say, "Those NASA dudes can't be trusted! See how they handled the Mars ban? Let's use that money to subsidize professional football instead!"

Hmm.... (1)

Sneftel (15416) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586015)

Sounds suspicious. Don't underestimate the power of the Martian lobby, especially in an election year. What is Mars trying to hide?

Why stop at Mars? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Meoward (665631) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586039)

What's so wonderful about manned exploration of space anyway?

Transporting humans and all of their environmental requirements is ridiculously expensive. The risk for the travelers is ultimate. Alternatively, unmanned missions can go not only where no one has gone before, but also where no one will ever be able to go (e.g. the Venutian surface), and for a fraction of the cost.

The only upside from a manned mission is that we feel all warm and fuzzy when our heroes return from the voyage. Big deal.

Sounds odd to say, but I'm with Congress on this one. I just wish they'd taken it farther.

As I understand it, it's all about bang per buck (2, Insightful)

threaded (89367) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586047)

Manned missions look cool, but you get more science out of the unmanned missions. Trying to get NASA to concentrate on the unmanned stuff is what they're trying to do.

As I understand it, it's all about bang per buck.

Re:As I understand it, it's all about bang per buc (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586171)

"..., but you get more science out of the unmanned missions. T"

That's not true at all. You can get a lot of data for some specific missions from unmanned missions. SOme missions need to be unmanned by there nature, Voyager, for example.

But humans can do a lot on the fly, respond to changing conditions or mission priorities. Then can even ignore priorities that have become inappropriate do to an unforeseen change.

Why is it robotic OR humans, why not robotics AND humans?

I would want to see the adventurers that got o mars ahve a wide range of robotic help. A robot they can just put down and say "Go collect samples in this area". Then later pick it up and carry to some other interesting spot.

I would also expect there to be a lot of support sent ahead of the manned mission so they would have supplies, communication satellites and maybe even building when they arrive. Possible send fuel for the return flight ahead of time.

Hell, put me in charge and give me political protection and I can have people on Mars and back in 15 years. It doesn't take a genius to plan and manage these things, but it DOES take someone who can hire geniuses and be comfortable knowing there not the smartest person in the room, just the best planner.

Loopholes (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586049)

You can drive a truck through that "exclusively" language. It says nothing about activities related to a mission intended to put, e.g., a monkey on mars. Or a human somewhere else. Life support for a Mars mission? No problem, it's for the monkey project. Mars suits? Those aren't Mars suits, they're suits for some moon of Jupiter...

Let them eat cake, and give them that OLPC !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21586059)

Does anyone but me see the OLPC XO-1 as an insulting "let them eat cake" sort of message to the world's poor?

Hands Across America, Live AID, the Concert for Bangladesh, and so on. The American (and world) public has witnessed one feel-good event (and the ensuing scandals) after another. Each one manages to assuage our guilt about the world's problems, at least a little. Now these folks think that any sort of participation in these events, or even their good thoughts about world poverty and starvation, actually help. Now they can sleep at night. It doesn't matter that nothing has really changed.

This is how I view the cute, little One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO-1 computer, technology designed for the impoverished children of Africa and Alabama. This machine, which is the brainchild of onetime MIT media lab honcho Nick Negroponte, will save the world. His vision is to supply every child with what amounts to an advertising delivery mechanism. Hence the boys at Google are big investors.

Before you cheer for the good guys, ponder a few of these facts taken from a world hunger Web site. In the Asian, African, and Latin American countries, well over 500 million people are living in what the World Bank has called "absolute poverty." Every year, 15 million children die of hunger. For the price of one missile, a school full of hungry children could eat lunch every day for five years. Throughout the decade, more than 100 million children will die from illness and starvation. The World Health Organization estimates that one-third of the world is well fed, one-third is underfed, and one-third is starving. Since you've entered this site, at least 200 people have died of starvation. One in 12 people worldwide is malnourished, including 160 million children under the age of 5. Nearly one in four people, or 1.3 billion--a majority of humanity--live on less than $1 per day, while the world's 358 billionaires have assets exceeding the combined annual incomes of countries with 45 percent of the world's people. Let's include Negroponte and the Google billionaires.

So what to do? Let's give these kids these little green computers. That will do it! That will solve the poverty problem and everything else, for that matter. Does anyone but me see this as an insulting "let them eat cake" sort of message to the world's poor?

"Sir, our village has no water!" "Jenkins, get these people some glassware!"

But, wait. Think of how cool it would be! Think of how many families will get to experience the friendly spam-ridden Information Super Ad-way laced with Nigerian scams, hoaxes, porn, blogs, wikis, spam, urban folklore, misinformation, sites selling junk from China, bomb-making instructions, jihad initiatives, communist propaganda, Nazi propaganda, exhortations, movie clips of cats playing the piano, advertising, advertising, and more advertising. Do you now feel better about the world's problems, knowing that some poor tribesman's child has a laptop? What African kid doesn't want access to Slashdot?

Of course, it might be a problem if there is no classroom and he can't read. The literacy rate in Niger is 13 percent, for example. Hey, give them a computer! And even if someone can read, how many Web sites and wikis are written in SiSwati or isiZulu? Feh. These are just details to ignore.

Every time I bring up this complaint to my Silicon Valley pals--usually as we race down I-280 in their newest Mercedes-Benz S Class sedan while listening to their downloaded music from their iPod to the car's custom stereo--I get flak. They tell me, "It's a start. Computers will save the world from poverty. You are just jealous you didn't think of the idea."

Yeah, that's it. I'm jealous.

Apparently, saying anything negative about the OLPC XO-1 computer amounts to heresy in this community. You may as well promote NAMBLA or the KKK. People don't want to consider the possibility that their well-meaning thoughts are a joke and that a $200 truckload of rice would be of more use than Wi-Fi in the middle of nowhere. There seems to be a notion that the poor in Africa or East Asia are just like the kids in East Palo Alto. Once they get a laptop, there will be no digital divide, will there? People can say, "I did my part!"

So on it goes, with people falling all over themselves, saying how cool the little laptop is and how it fundamentally changes the way laptops work and what computing is all about. It's waterproof! So, we read long articles about the thing. We see an incredible deer-in-the-headlights Leslie Stahl puff piece about the device on 60 Minutes. No one says it's a crock. Instead, only the minutiae of implementation and whether Intel should be allowed to make a similar machine are questioned. During the show, Stahl makes the idiotic claim that this is the first laptop in history on which you can read the screen in broad daylight. So much for fact checking. Then there is a tremendous push to get the public to take part in the "Give One, Get One" promotion. "I want one!" says a cohort of mine in a podcast. Apparently, he is going to toss his Mac PowerBook and use this. Who is he kidding?

I was amused at the one critique thrown into the 60 Minutes mix for balance. Negroponte was asked about the devices being stolen from the children. He assuaged the audience by saying that the machine will stop working in a month or so if stolen. Oh, okay. That was good enough for 60 Minutes. I'm thinking, "But it was still stolen!"

Some readers will just perceive these complaints of mine as coming from a grumpy old man who doesn't like anything. Fine. Stay optimistic. Buy ten. All I can tell you is that, personally, I have never seen such a cavalier and pompous assuredness in my life. As if this whole OLPC scheme is anything other than a naïve fiasco waiting to unfold. I'll donate my money to hunger relief, thank you.

Bann on Mars eh? (1)

tristian_was_here (865394) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586095)

Well I'm not surprised there is a ban especially with all that crap by the UAC.

Isn't the first time (1)

denisbergeron (197036) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586131)

A law is made by the USA to stop the science. But, happyly for the mankind, other country take the lead.

Power of the purse (1)

bhmit1 (2270) | more than 6 years ago | (#21586207)

Congress loves to use their power over funding to push the (just barely) majority agenda and encourage lots of special interest lobbying. What if we gave the tax payers the right to send something like 50% of their taxes to government projects of their choice similar to how we handle non-profit donations now. If people like to fund space travel, feeding the homeless, stem cell research, or a war against terror, they can send their own tax dollars. This would only be on our income taxes (social security, medicare, unemployment, etc would all be untouched), and it still leaves at least half of our taxes to go to the less popular projects.

Like the Bumpersticker Says: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21586253)

Earth First

We'll mine the other planets later

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