We Land On Mars

Mars, 2001, with the southern polar ice cap vi...

Mars, 2001, with the southern polar ice cap visible on the bottom. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The folks at NASA are the pros.

When I read about how many countries have tried to successfully send spacecraft to Mars, NASA rules.

So proposing that we let ESA go it alone to Mars on their upcoming robotic Mars launches, or partner with Russia, seems silly to me.  NASA holds a near monopoly on successfully sending stuff to Mars.  The word “Partner” for us can mean, “All we have to do is launch it and get it there, you do everything else, then you share with us everything that you find.”  In the mean time, we can still build and practice the technologies that bring us closer to sending people.

Squandering such a powerful negotiating position is wrong, it’s stupid, and it’s wasteful.  It opens the door for Russia to do with Mars access what it is currently doing with Low Earth Orbit.  As we approach some very fast-moving times in space exploration which direction should we empower ourselves to go?  Low specific-impulse engine technologies are the sort of thing that brings Mars closer, but how will we test them if we have no plans to launch them?  How do we scout out the landing site if we aren’t sending more probes and landers or partnering with others who are sending them?  This administration has claimed all along to be pro-NASA, yet they dip their toe in and swirl it around while the rest of the world dashes for the diving board.  They have pushed the COTS program, and commercial crew, over the preferences of many in Congress…which I think is great.  They decided to skip returning to the Moon, which I think is stupid.  They said they did all of this to free up resources to emphasize deep-space, planetary missions…so let’s start emphasizing…with all caps…and exclamation points!  Russia just crashed a Mars spacecraft in the South Pacific while our lander is on its way, but it is our LAST lander for a long time.  Now is the time to leverage our expertise and keep launching, not sit back and watch.

Obama has announced a “goal” (if you can call it that) of sending humans to orbit Mars in the mid 2030s.  Ha!  By then there will already be tourists on Mars, pointing at Orion and laughing at it as it flies over.

Also, the one thing that the President has done right, pushing COTS and Commercial Crew, is threatened by budget cuts in Congress.  Big names sit there in suits and urge caution.  Elon Musk, who started SpaceX, began with an idea to land a greenhouse on Mars.  When asked what he thought about opposition by his heroes in the space industry to his vision of commercializing space and lowering launch cost, he said it saddened him.  Watch the video.  Look at his right eye when he said that.  His eyes are moist!  This man is serious.  He means to send people into space on private rockets, he is passionate and he is determined and he is on the verge of making it happen.

“I don’t ever give up,” he said.

Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson has pointed out that we spend less than .5% of the national budget on NASA.  That is not 50 cents on the dollar like many folks think it is, .5 percent is a half a penny for every dollar.  He proposes that we elevate that to a full penny…1 percent.  We spent more money on the bank bailout than the total we have ever spent on NASA collectively over its entire 50 year history.

Will have to stand on the side, watching, as the rest of the world passes us up and goes to space?

Build the Space Launch System if you want.  I think that the SpaceX Falcon Heavy, and others, will get there first and cheaper, but the development is still not wasted no matter what the future brings.    It keeps important infrastructure in place and it provides insurance against the possibility that the commercial efforts won’t survive.  But keep funding COTS and Commercial Crew at their original levels also…

…and for heaven’s sake keep on launching to Mars!

Jump on in, the water’s fine!


~ by Bill Housley on March 21, 2012.

One Response to “We Land On Mars”

  1. thank you for using my piece in your related articles. SPACEX – HISTORY ON HOLD, Before Us The Stars

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