Mars is Back on the Back Burner

Posted by Michael Pinto on Mar 8, 2010 in Science |

A NASA Mission to Mars

After being chided by congress for not having a moon and Mars mission it looks like the Obama administration is adding the goal of space exploration back into the mix for NASA. But sadly even though a boost of six billion over five years sounds like a great deal of money, in the world of space exploration it’s just a fraction of what’s needed to make a trip. So the sad reality is that we’re back to the NASA of the Bush years: An agency spread too thin with too many goals and too little cash. Yes we’re still planning on getting to the moon and Mars once again, but that may take decades.

The problem is a political one — congress wants to go to the moon and Mars, but they don’t want to invest the money to do it. The other two directions are to keep your sights low and just keep the International Space Station going while working on a shuttle replacement, or to increase the budget and move on an aggressive timetable to go someplace within a decade. I’d prefer the later approach, but at heart I always knew that wasn’t going to happen.

Given two wars and a recession the Obama administration went with the low budget option: A little bit more money matched with clearly focused short terms goals. But because Florida is a swing state they’ve given up on the goals to keep the locals happy without upsetting everyone else who wants the money spent elsewhere. So by keeping everyone happy our reward is an unfocused NASA.

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