18.01.2004 11:35 - Why We\'re Not Going To Mars
I imagine that a lot of people, who, like me, remember watching the moon landings and grew up wanting to be an astronaut, were happy to hear George W. Bush commit America to a return to the moon and ultimately, to go to Mars. Then I heard of some of the repercussions, some of which are described in this article.
Now, I don\'t trust George W. Bush. The man, to put it mildly, is a weasel. I feel that this announcement was made for one, maybe two, reasons only. The first reason being \"Election Promises\". Perhaps he\'s after the geek vote, or perhaps he thinks his countrymen will think \"OK, he started a war, he converted a budget surplus into a deficit, lost millions of jobs, put money into the pockets of rich people rather than into those of the needy and even cut the pay of soldiers he\'d sent into a warzone, but he wants to go Mars. He\'s an OK guy\".
The second reason is that he doesn\'t want to go into space at all. NASA is a very expensive Government body, and is seen by many as a money pit. NASA is committed to the International Space Station with ESA and the Russian Space Agency, and nothing very \'Profitable\' is seen as coming from that. The Space Shuttle is getting very old and needs replacing, which is going to cost a lot of money. It never really lived up to its original expectations, because the original concept was subject to much hacking-around by military and governmental penny-pinching. The Hubble Space Telescope is being abandoned, because with the loss of \"Columbia\", all flights of the remaining Shuttles are dedicated to the ISS, and HST maintenance flights are considered \"High Risk\". Ariane is not yet man-rated, so the only other option to the shuttle being the increasingly antiquated Russian Soyuz/Progress modules.
So why announce you\'re going to Mars? Simple. Because a manned Mars mission will cost a fortune. NASA will be forced to cut its budget for other projects massively. It will be forced to cut its commitments to the ISS, meaning that the Americans get out of paying for it. But surely the ISS is an important way-station for a manned moon-landing, and the shuttle an important stepping-stone? So why promise to finish the station by 2010 and then scrap the shuttle? Something doesn\'t add up. I feel that rather than being given the chance it\'s been waiting for all these years, NASA is being lured into a financial trap laid by unscrupulous money-men who would rather dismantle it and sell it off. And we all know what happens when a National Body is dismantled and sold for profit, don\'t we, fellow UK train-users?