Campaign '08

A missed opportunity

Last night provided a rare opportunity for presidential candidates to address space policy issues on a national stage. Too bad that most everyone involved fumbled the chance.

In the CNN/YouTube Republican debate in St. Petersburg, Florida, the questions came from short videos from the public, similar to a Democratic debate earlier this year. And one of those questions came from a Mars exploration advocate in Colorado: (All quotes from the CNN transcript of the debate)

Steve Nielson: My name is Steve Nielson. And this question comes to you from Denver, Colorado.

JFK’s vision put a man on the moon from a nonexistent space program in about seven years. The new vision for space exploration has provided about 15 years for that same feat.

Meanwhile, Congress is pulling funding for human-to-Mars research altogether.

Is there a candidate amongst you willing to take a pledge on behalf of the Mars Society of sending an American to the surface of Mars by 2020? If not, what is your vision for human space exploration?

Host Anderson Cooper turned, for no particular reason, to Mike Huckabee to take a first shot at the question. Huckabee’s response was similar to the one he gave this summer when asked a similar question about Mars exploration:

Huckabee: Whether we ought to go to Mars is not a decision that I would want to make, but I would certainly want to make sure that we expand the space program, because every one of us who are sitting here tonight have our lives dramatically improved because there was a space program — whether it’s these screens that we see or the incredible electronics that we use, including the GPS systems that got many of you to this arena tonight.


Some of you were late because you didn’t have one, by the way. Or whether it’s the medical technologies that saved many of our lives or the lives or our families, it’s the direct result of the space program, and we need to put more money into science and technology and exploration.

Now, whether we need to send somebody to Mars, I don’t know. But I’ll tell you what: If we do, I’ve got a few suggestions, and maybe Hillary could be on the first rocket to Mars.


Cooper then turned, not to Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani or Fred Thompson or even Ron Paul, but to Tom Tancredo, who wasn’t exactly supportive of the proposition:

Tancredo: The question is a serious one and it deserves a serious answer, and that is this: Look, we’ve been — how many times up here, how many questions have dealt with the issue of deficit spending, the debt out of control? And yet, we have somebody saying, “But would you spend more money on going to Mars?”

And the suggestion that we need to spend more money on space exploration. This is it, folks. That’s why we have such incredible problems with our debt, because everybody’s trying to be everything to all people.

We can’t afford some things, and by the way, going to Mars is one of them.

And that was it. Cooper then turned to the next question. (To be fair, that was how the debate was run: most questions were only answered by a couple of the candidates.) CNN deserves some credit for selecting a question about space policy in general, although the debate questions were very wide ranging: one person asked about the candidates’ gun collections, and another if the candidates believed “every word” in the Bible. However, asking the candidates if they supported a human Mars mission by 2020 isn’t exactly the highest priority space policy issue today: did no one submit questions about the NASA budget in general, the Vision for Space Exploration and its current implementation, the “gap” between the shuttle and Orion, or even milspace issues like space weaponization and the Chinese ASAT test?

Still, the question did provide some latitude for candidates to go off in a different direction on space policy. However, CNN trivialized (inadvertently or otherwise) the question by posing it to a candidate polling well only in Iowa (Huckabee) and one not polling well anywhere (Tancredo). That meant no chance to find out what candidates doing well nationally (Giuliani, Romney, Thompson) thought—important since they have said little, if anything, on the topic.

One other bizarre aspect of this: the Steve Nielson who asked the question appears to be the same Steve Nielson who ran a pro-Huckabee blog, “Colorado for Huckabee” until recently (when he took a leadership post in his county’s Republican Party), and was the one who asked Huckabee the Mars exploration question in the July conference call.

67 comments to A missed opportunity

  • thejournalist

    Yeah, I agree, watched it, was excited then disappointed. It was fun overall, seems funny to say that about a debate, well done CNN. In this case I enjoyed the republicans in all their glory. Guns,God, and get your hands off my money! I wonder if Bush could be convinced to drop big cash on NASA to save his legacy? I mean, he did start engaging the middle east peace process, he’s getting desperate. I’m sure anonymous will be along to tell me with great skill why Bush can’t drop big cash on anything except baseball. :)

  • Chance

    Huckabee: “Whether we ought to go to Mars is not a decision that I would want to make,”

    Um, hello, you’re running for Presidency of the United States. You are going to be expected to make big decisions on everything from trade to war to space travel policy. Not “wanting” to make a decision when that’s what you get paid to do? For any politician this is a bad, bad answer. It’s up there with Griffin’s Congressional “find somebody smarter” testimony a few days ago.

    Sure, it was one sentence in one debate, but that gives me pause.

  • Keith Cowing

    And does the Mars Society even bother to mention any of this on their website? No.


  • Al Fansome

    CHANCE: Um, hello, you’re running for Presidency of the United States. You are going to be expected to make big decisions on everything from trade to war to space travel policy. Not “wanting” to make a decision when that’s what you get paid to do?


    Of course he would make a decision. “Doing nothing”, or “almost nothing”, is a decision and is a completely valid decision on many national policy issues. In fact, “doing nothing” or “almost nothing” is the defacto policy position of most President’s on space policy. Effective executives know what decisions to make, and what decisions not to make. Huckabee was being very honest in answering the question this way.

    The only other way I could interpret this answer — this is Gov. Huckabee’s polite way of saying he would decide to not go to Mars, if he was elected President.

    Tancredo’s answer — spinning a humans to Mars program a budget deficit issue — is also representative of many politicians views (on both sides of the aisle) about giving more taxpayer dollars to NASA.

    When you add the continued silence from the other candidates to the context of Huckabee’s and Tancredo’s negative answers, this can only be interpreted as a bad result for humans to Mars advocates.

    The political conversation has now been established that ANY Presidential candidate (or President) — or for that matter, congressional leader — who proposes a human Mars mission is likely to be attacked as a “wasteful big spender”.

    Is there any benefit in today’s political environment for risking this? I can’t see any.

    I am sure that Steve Nielson is pleased with himself for getting his video on national TV, but I think this was a counter-productive tactic from the Mars Society’s perspective. Among other things, I think this makes it even more likely that anti-Mars language will come out of Congress, and it obviously encourages those who have anti-spending-on-Mars leanings.

    – Al

  • Tancredo’s answer, while disappointing, is not unexpected. In a Republican debate, one would expect one or more fiscal conservatives like Tancredo to argue against additional civil space spending, and/or for NASA cuts, in light of continued (although now shrinking) deficits and mounting debt. Tancredo, though, didn’t make his case very cogently, implying that Huckabee is irresponsible for supporting a human Mars mission, when, in fact, that’s not what Huckabee said.

    Huckabee, although supportive of NASA (if not humans to Mars), is supportive for false reasons. He pointed to space applications (like GPS) and commercial products (like large-screen televsions and/or projection equipment of all things) as a rationale for NASA funding, but these are technologies that NASA had nothing to do with. It’s pretty disappointing to see a Presidential candidate repeat these myths. If Huckabee is going to rely on a weak, spinoff argument to support NASA funding, his staff should at least identify some technologies that NASA actually had a hand in developing.

    Personally, in one of the earlier threads, I found Al Franken’s answer to a similar question — the it’s part of the human experience to be adventurers and pioneers and that we reap benefits in terms of innovation — to be much more truthful and compelling. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs for space policy when a comedian running for Senate is doing a better job than nearly all of our Presidential candidates (Clinton excepted), regardless of party, at articulating a rationale for NASA funding.


  • Al Fansome


    I agree. I was just focusing for the moment on the policy implications for “human to Mars”.

    Right now the strongest political statements for NASA funding have been made by the Republican National Committee, Hillary Clinton, and Al Franken. Kind of weird.

    – Al

  • Chris Carberry


    The Mars Society will be mentioning this on the website very shortly.
    So, no need to yawn.


  • Chance

    Al, no reasonable person expects a President (or any leader) to “like” making every decision, but they do expect them to make them. His answer may have been honest, but his likes and dislikes are really irrelevant to this question.

    As for the other candidates, we can all guess what Ron Paul’s position is. If we can’t, here it is from his 1988 run (I doubt it has changed much):

  • While I disagree with both of them, I respected Tancredo’s answer a lot more than Huckabee’s. He seemed to be telling the truth as he saw it — even when it is bad news — rather than what his handlers told him to say or belittling the question with bad jokes. That’s refreshing in a Presidental candidate.

    It’s not exactly doing what you preach, but at least it’s seriously advocating what you preach, which for the sorry lot of Republicans we’ve had in recent years is at least a huge step in the right direction.

    — Donald

  • Keith Cowing

    Chris: I am still yawning. The fact that you did not – and still do not – have the ability to post things fast (I had it up in less than 10 minutes after words were uttered, you’re welcome, BTW) ought to be something to work on.

  • If Musk starts a Mars PAC, candidates will start endorsing it.

  • MarkWhittington

    The reason CNN included the Mars guy is the same reason it included the Bible guy and the Confederate flag guy. The main stream media thinks the Mars is silly and embaressing.

  • Al Fansome

    Chancee: said “Al, no reasonable person expects a President (or any leader) to “like” making every decision, but they do expect them to make them. His answer may have been honest, but his likes and dislikes are really irrelevant to this question.”


    I must respectfully disagree. The first job of the chief executive is to set priorities. That means deciding which issues to focus upon, and which to not focus upon.

    “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.”

    Peter Drucker (page 13, “The Definitive Drucker”)

    “The effective decision maker actually makes very few decisions.”

    Peter Drucker (page 13, “The Definitive Drucker”)

    “The first question to ask is what needs to be done.”

    Peter Drucker (page 13, “The Definitive Drucker”)

    “There is no real magic to being a good leader. But at the end of every week, you have to spend your time around the things that are really important: setting priorities, measuring outcomes, and rewarding them.”

    Jeff Immelt, CEO, General Electric
    Fast Company Magazine, April 2004


    – Al

  • Keith Cowing

    Mark imagines that: “The reason CNN included the Mars guy is the same reason it included the Bible guy and the Confederate flag guy. The main stream media thinks the Mars is silly and embaressing.”

    Mark, did you speak with a CNN producer who told you this? Perhaps someone who was in the control room when they selected the video to roll? Otherwise, how do you know this, Mark?

  • “The reason CNN included the Mars guy is the same reason it included the Bible guy and the Confederate flag guy. The main stream media thinks the Mars is silly and embaressing.”

    How do you know that? Do you have inside access to the “main stream [sic] media”?

    Given the strong presence of the religious right and southern voters in the Republican ranks, maybe CNN thought that these special interest questions would be important swingers for key Republican voters?

    Maybe CNN wanted to present a wider diversity of questions than are asked at most Presidential debates, where the candidates’ campaigns negotiate a set of questions ahead of time or a much smaller group is responsible for developing the questions?

    Maybe, as Steve Neilson’s connections to the Huckabee campaign indicate, these questions were in fact forwarded or selected by the candidates’ campaigns (or some other organization) and CNN had little or nothing to do with it?

    Blaming a media organization for a news outcome that we don’t like is too often a knee-jerk reaction on both sides of the political spectrum. We need to think critically before throwing such accusations around.


  • Keith Cowing

    I have been on CNN more than a dozen times this year alone. I’ve seen how all of this happens behind the scenes. Trust me, they are not the devious scheming manipulators that everyone seems to think.

  • Deciderizer

    You’re right, it was just ordinary incompetence, plain vanilla bumbling and buffoonery for our most prestigious scientific institutions, NOAA and NASA. We’re so used to it by now, we’re ‘good to go’!

  • Chris R.

    And the suggestion that we need to spend more money on space exploration. This is it, folks. That’s why we have such incredible problems with our debt, because everybody’s trying to be everything to all people.

    How deliciously ironic, considering the Republicans’ penchant for supporting hugely wasteful defense spending. How many times bigger is the DoD’s budget than NASA’s at this point? 10,000? (that last bit was sarcasm)

  • Tom

    Bored people who live blog debates and have been on lots of TV programs not withstanding, I think there’s a fundamental issue here that most commenters are missing. Average people think about space on the order of 0.0001% of the time. (I made up that number, but don’t expect any scientifically-gathered data to be much different) News people think about it perhaps a little more, because they have to read copy about an occasional Hubble or other space probe discovery.

    Therefore, when CNN people saw a relatively slickly-produced YouTube video posing a question about space, someone probably thought: “There’s something different” and put it in. I didn’t watch the debate, or hear how the candidates were chosen to respond, but it was likely random, or they went with someone who’d said something about the subject before.

    In a national debate format, this topic came as a shock. I’d say that, while the question formats were a little odd, the bible question and the gun collection question were more mainstream. Given this, I’m surprised that any candidate came out with anything more than vague flag waving.

  • Gary

    Tom, your assumption about how much (or at least how many) people think about space is dead wrong, and I have data. The NSF has been doing surveys on public attitudes toward science and technology for decades. Most of the results are pretty stable over the years. A majority of people claim to be interested in space exploration, but that doesn’t mean much. It makes people feel good to say they are interested. More useful is the numbers who say they are very well informed about space. This has been stable (within survey error) at something over 10% of Americans since 1979, tens of millions of people. This represents the serious space interested public. It’s not much smaller than the well informed public for foreign affairs or farm policy. See:

    I haven’t dug into the data recently, but the results I remember are that the very well informed are also overwhelmingly supportive of increased investment in space and willing to have it affect their politics. I think we don’t usually see this reflected in political debates because there hasn’t been a major policy crisis regarding space in forty years. When there’s been a small crisis, such as the loss of a shuttle, support for NASA has immediately spiked upward, NOT decreased. Congress responded by increasing NASA’s budget every time. A rule of politics is no conflict equals no action.

    I think other reasons we don’t see more political activity around space are that almost no one asks the people what they want and no major politician has ever made an issue of giving them what they ask for. The feel good messages from NASA and the aerospace community keep most people nicely quiet. The few arguments are mostly technical, which also doesn’t respond to what people want.

    Results from the only survey I know of that asks people what they want are buried in NSSO’s recent study on Space Solar Power. See:

    In summary, “Build satellites in Earth orbit to collect solar energy to beam to utilities on Earth” was #1 at 35%. “Develop the technology to deflect asteroids or comets that might destroy the Earth” was #2 at 17%. “Send humans to Mars” was #4 at 10%, behind “No opinion.” “Build a base on the moon for humans to use for exploration of the moon” was #8 at 4%, behind “Develop a passenger rocket to send tourists into space” at 6%. Draw your own conclusions about how responsive our national space policies are.

    Why should people care when no one capable of commanding mass public attention is making an issue of giving them what they want?

  • Tom

    Interesting documents. However, as with any survey, I think they’re skewed by the way they were done. The first asked a bunch of people “Now I’d like to go through this list with you again, and for each issue I’d like you to tell me if you are very well informed, moderately well informed, or poorly informed.” I think that the number of people who don’t want to admit that they’re “poorly informed” inflates the numbers. It’s similar to a likely voter criteria where the poller asks “are you likely to vote?” compared to one that asks “are you registered to vote, and do you know where your voting place is?”

    The second poll (I’d seen the numbers, but didn’t know the source, thanks) on page 18 of the linked document, doesn’t describe how it was conducted, but it is encouraging. Assuming the pollsters listed the options, people probably just picked the one they thought was most pracitical.

    I’m talking about a poll where you ask people to list the top 10 issues they’re concerned about for the presidential election, without giving any hints. I’ve seen numbers in the past (Googling has come up empty so far) where space ranks in the mid 20s in importance in such a poll.

  • D. Messier

    I don’t really understand what this shouting is all about. Most people probably don’t get daily space news from The Mars Society, so the length of time it takes to put something on their web site seems rather irrelevent. Same goes for all the other groups that were mentioned. It’s also not entirely clear what the potential breakthrough is here.


    Puzzled in The Valley

  • Al Fansome

    MESSIER: I don’t really understand what this shouting is all about. Most people probably don’t get daily space news from The Mars Society, so the length of time it takes to put something on their web site seems rather irrelevent.


    I agree with this. I don’t see much value in just quickly adding a link — and I personally don’t fault the Mars Society for not doing so.

    I am assuming that the Mars Society is generating something much more substantial in response. It will almost certainly be typical Zubrin, meaning it is long, extremely impassioned, and probably infer that the end of the civilized world is coming unless we do X.

    This type of response takes longer than posting a link on a website. It is not obvious to me what “X” should be. Nor is it obvious to me what their persuasive argument should be — since it is dangerous to attack politicians (who you want to be your friend, not your enemy) and have them firm up their opinion against you.

    So they need to take some time to think about what they want to say.

    – Al

  • As brief as the two responses were, they pretty much captured the essence of the whole issue: No one – and the Mars Society in particular! – has made an obvious case so far why we should rush a mission to Mars in the present situation (and not at least wait for better launch windows in the 2030’s when we should also have more suitable technology in our hands).

    Huckabee’s stressing of the real benefits of space research and development, with the down-to-earth example of GPS, was about the best response possible (though I would have added something about the value of basic science as well).

    And the Mars Society – which, by the way, did react with a note but no further response so far – should really think about Tancredo’s line about things we simply can’t (and shouldn’t) afford presently …


  • Gregg Smith

    Well Ok !
    If we can’t afford to explore space then why bother searching for near earth objects that might end life as we know it here on earth. This whole budget vs space exploration is a load.
    If we stopped sending foreign aide to worthless countries that hate us anyway , we could afford to explore our future as a speicies in space.
    On the other hand we can continue to practice life with our heads in the sand and live out our collective existence here on this earth,in this galaxy, and when it comes to an end accept the fact that we were soooo short sighted and pig headed that we deserve to perish from stupidity.
    Wake up “WASHINGTON”
    If we are sooo strapped for cash then lets prioitise like the average citizen has to on a day by day basis!
    Keep It Simple Stupid

  • […] the lackluster response to a question about human Mars exploration in a recent Republican debate as a springboard, Daniel Handlin asks why candidates aren’t more proactive about space […]

  • ProfRaze

    Budget versus space exploration becomes an issue when talking about the manned exploration of Mars. Bang for buck, it’s a horrible loss of national treasure, probably the worst possible program to fund. We already have two very worthy astronauts on Mars, Spirit and Opportunity. As robotics technology increases, there is no reason to believe the next generation of rovers wouldn’t be *more* capable than humans in clumsy suits. In fact, given the large amount of time Spirit and Opportunity have been on Mars, I think it’s safe to say they already are far superior to the oxygen needy variety.

    I think we need to invest more in space programs. We need new telescopes that see much further than Hubble; we need that solar observatory at the Lagrange point; we need more deep space probes. We don’t need fools hitting golf balls in vacuum suits. Manned missions are obsolete. They are more about the sin of Pride than the spirit of Exploration, and that’s something even Huckabee supporters can understand. As for Huckabee not knowing what technologies actually came from NASA, remember you are talking about a person who doesn’t even believe in (read understand) evolution. I’m frankly amazed his response wasn’t something out of the movie Contact by the religious fanatic character, you know claiming that we should abandon all technology. Acknowledging the utility of science and technology is a big step up the evolutionary ladder for those types.

  • RCR

    Chance wrote: “As for the other candidates, we can all guess what Ron Paul’s position is. If we can’t, here it is from his 1988 run (I doubt it has changed much):

    Would you care to elaborate on your comment? Do you find Ron Paul’s statement to be true or false? Or do you have some other belief about it which you did not care to explicitly state? It is not clear from what you wrote whether or not you agree with Rep. Paul.

    I, for one, find the concept of getting the U.S. government out of the space monopoly business — and into the hands of private investors, scientists, and businesspeople — an interesting concept.

    If there are individuals, industries, associations and societies, and space politics pundits who feel strongly about getting a man (or woman) to Mars or beyond — why should the U.S. government stand in their way?

    Why does a free market approach to space exploration seem so alien to those who think it is so important? Is it perhaps due to the collectivist philosophy behind certain works of Science Fiction, through which so many space enthusiasts were inspired and influenced? Why Is it more desireable to use the power of the federal government and its ability to pick the pockets of everyone through taxation to pay for a program that – according to “Gary” on 1 December – the _majority_ of people in this country aren’t all that interested in?

    Sure, people like the technology spin-offs of space Research & Development, but the government doesn’t produce the technological consumer products that result from that, it subsidizes the cost of the R&D. Industry and commerce does the production. So let industry pay for the R&D, the testing, the space travel… then let them reap the rewards of bringing that technology into the homes, vehicles, briefcases and pockets of those willing to pay for it.

    Challenging the conventional wisdom involving government space programs and monopolies isn’t all bad. Perhaps reconsideration of Representative/presidential candidate Ron Paul’s comments is in order.

    Rocket City Revisionist

  • Thomas H. O'Brien

    I am not surprised by the responses of the Republican candidates for President. The program for space exploration has neither involved the public nor should it. The public at large is much too limited in their intellectual development for meaningful discussion on policy that demands depth of thought and more than a thirty second attention span. Policy makers must think for the uneducated public as the public has demonstratively proven a lack in this capability.

    For example, most of the public lack the ability to integrate of differentiate simple mathematical functions. This demonstrates that the public lacks the ability to understand the most rudimentary mathematical, physical, and economical theories. While it is sad that the public refuses to learn how to do this, this is an unavoidable fact.

    A republic (which is the form of government that the United States IS) is a representative guided form of government. IDEALLY the people place representatives in power whom have the Republic’s best interests at heart. Those representatives have the WISDOM, ideally, to choose what is best for the public at large in order that the citizen can concentrate at the simple undemanding industries where he is most competent to prosper. The citizen then has placed a trust in his representative(s) to choose the major direction of the Republic, by those whom have the wisdom, by those whom he has elected. Thus the citizen does not have to concern himself with understanding which is beyond the scope of his capability and competence.

    Because space exploration policy is beyond the scope of understanding for MOST of the public the onus falls upon the representatives whom the public has elected. The benefits of space exploration definitely provide for the welfare of the public. Not only are employment opportunities developed for the public, the benefits of space exploration far outweigh the expenditures.

    The benefits of space exploration are numerous. My wager is that none of us would be writing on this blog had it not been for the miniturization of electronic circuitry that was necessitated by the logistics of the Apollo and STS programs. That is correct…NONE OF US.

    The extraordinary amounts of funds provided for R&D are far too risky for any single or conglomeration of corporations to expend. Failure in an endeavor would lead to financial ruin if not to total economic upheaval if failure was the result. Only a government, at this point in time, can afford to absorb a loss. Furthermore the Republic is in a World of other unfriendly nations whom also have the intent of expanding their boundaries. If the Republic would rely upon private sources alone, other nations would soon surpass the Republic. This would increase risk from foreign entities that may see space exploration as a means to obtain military advantage. Imagine a Chinese base on the surface of the Moon that could be used to attack the Rupublic with nuclear warheads with impunity. That is not secure, is it? Would the Republic’s Constitutional edicts be followed if our Representatives allowed this to occur? The edict laid out in the U.S. Constitution is that the Republic is to provide for the public’s welfare and security.

    Myopic thinking has always plauged the public because they have not the ability to think in depth rationally. How many nested functions have most of the public integrated sucessfully? If the public cannot integrate nested functions they cannot methodically think in depth now, can they? This lack of ability of thought is what leads to myopic thinking.

    I believe in a strong govermental space exploration program to provide for the welfare and security of the citizens of the United States until such time that private industry can. So far private industry has failed to keep pace with foreign unfriendly governments. Until private industry can demonstrate that they can keep up with and surpass the advances of unfriendly foreign governments I will continue to support a strong goverment space exploration policy, damned the cost.

    Rarely, however true…Sometimes you CANNOT afford NOT to buy it. This is one of those times. Ron Paul can make mistakes, be myopic, and he needs to reevaluate his 1988 position. Mars Exploration makes sense in that other nations are involved in making it a reality. The technological spinoffs are something that we will miss out on if we are not actively involved with it. (I have not a clue of what they will be but if they as revolutionary as the miniturization of electronic circuitry then our society will benefit immensely.) Unfriendly foreign nations will catch up with us and surpass us if we are not actively involved in it. This will ultimately place the Republic at risk. Like Ron Paul I also happen to believe in fiscal responsibility as I am a Gold Bug. But I am also a pragmatist. May God bless the United States of America abundantly.

  • Re the story about the “asteroid” that may hit the moon soon…..real asteroids or comets have a definite orbit or place in our solar system which is not here by accident,my view is that meteors can come from anywhere and for any reason……cordially, ….Steve..

  • Our history as a colonizing specie has been generally marked by private individuals venturing forth to explore and seek fortunes. Once they are found, then governments sweep in and seizes them, ascerting their control over what was once a free and independent enterprise. I see no reason for this to change in the exploration of space. Of course, we won’t be motivated to explore until cheap energy is obtainable in space that can be sold expensively or a unique product is found that many desire at a high price. Avarice has been and will always be the true motivation for exploration. Goverments fear it because they dislike not being in charge. I only hope that their ignorace and greed will not lead us to exstinction.

  • Scott Anutooshkin

    Mr. O’Brian:

    As a citizen of your friendly northern neighbor, Canada, I applaude your candor and passion for your country. Now this is not an attack upon you or your country, so please do not see it that way, it is just a few questions that I thought might validate your discussion. There are only a couple flaws that I see in your sermon. First thing, how are Americans expected to trust their elected officials when you say that as a whole, Americans are ignorant of issues affecting their country? What with Myopic thinking, as you put it, and their limited development, how can the average citizen make in informed decision on who to vote for when they are either uneducated or unwilling to become educated? In the last 25 years, the American debt has risen by over 9 trillion dollars, and for 17 of them, a Bush has been in the white house, coincidence? Perhaps. Secondly, you say that you support a space program for America to protect themselves from hostile countries. Maybe before America, Canada, China, Korea, Russia, whoever decides to explore the Moon or Mars or another planet outside the solar system, maybe we should do some work to close the gaps between the people on this planet first? A unified effort for space programs would do wonders. Instead of competition, it should be co-operation, then imagine what we can get done.

    Just a few things for you to deliberate. God bless America, and God Save The Queen.

  • Rishi Foolell

    I just thought that an unbiased opinion cud put some light to this discussion….No matter who reaches the door to the White House, the population will not be having anything better that what you have already. We are still fighting for the control of the OIL market ( Iraq war came witness ). Do you think that going out in space shall resolve these problems?? Human kind is still very naive…we spend our time pondering on trivial matters while our homes are burning in the fires of debts and racial discrimination. Trade markets were on the verge of collapsing to too high debt rates in the US and today you are discussing on wether spend more and more for space exploration. That means that going into space is more important than feeding a hungry child. Millions of of people are dying of famine in this world and millions of dollars are wasted every year in the US for space programs. If you have no consideration for HUMANS like you then a space program can lead to nothing else but an Inter-planetary war; for I don’t think you can love our fellow aliens more than our human alikes. Mind these expressions:

    “Charity begins at home”

    “Before putting order in your neighbour’s house, learn to order you own house first”

    Mike Huckabee so proudly said that space programs help develop GPS, sophisticated medical devices and so on, very true; but did he forget to talk about nuclear energy and nuclear bombs. Did anyone ever ask himself the amount of toxic waste produced to bring to life a space program? There are far many and more important questions to ask rather than asking if man will one day walk on Mars.

    Politics is a game meant to be played by those who have money but no brains. And we people are meant to be the pawns on their checkboards. And the comments above are the proof to this. So many persons distracted from their everyday life to defend or oppose ONE person who does not even think about them.

    All man is born with a brain and intelligence, but few take time to use it. Its not too late to use yours.

    Rishi Foolell, Mauritius

  • Eric, rejector of memes

    Nobody here addressed, AFAICS, what a lowbrow snipe that was at Clinton.

    Really, Huckster? First ship to Mars for HRC? Classy.

  • aaron

    um, get over it. i know it bothers you that some people might wish to worship a god or preserve the second amendment. im agnostic, but im so tired of hearing everybody whine about religion. this topic was in no way related to religious beliefs or interpretation of the second amendment. i thought we were discussing travelling to mars? but somehow you manage to find a place for an irrelevant insult. you will appear to be more credible if you can disguise your bias a bit and discuss the subject at hand.

    back to the subject, none of the candidates care about going to mars. i would personally love to see this feat accomplished in my lifetime. however, it wont happen. they arent going to spend the money to travel to an uninhabitable planet. now if conditions on mars were favorable to the existance of human life, we would have been there 5 years ago because then we would have somewhere to go after we finish destroying this planet.

  • gus gus

    mars by 2020? we haven’t even gotten to the moon yet. unless you believe we sent a man there and returned him and sent pictures back from the surface with 1960’s technology??

  • Who ever gets there first and sets up in space wins you don’t want the ussr or china they hate us and will want to take us out. China taking over the economics. You just don’t have any balls in the government lets do a change no more gas cars in production only electric or other means but no more gas tell the auto corporations that!

  • Hal Howell

    As one who grew up during the Space Race,I was overjoyed when in 1969 at age 19 I witnessed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the Moon. There’s little doubt our technology has been vastly accelerated as a result of that effort. Other than getting to say, “We did it!” I now see little benefit for going to Mars. The expense will be incredible even if shared by several nations. If they get there, then what? How long could they stay? What if they have problems? You would be sending people on a suicide mission even though they volunteered. Even setting up a base on the Moon, though feasible would accomplish what? Naturally, since the Russians and Chinese have stated they plan on doing it, I suppose we have little choice but to do it as well. Here’s the problem we as Americans need to face up to. We are 56 Trillion dollars in DEBT!!! So, how can we even think about doing something so expensive??? We need to get our house in order first before going off on another expensive boondoggle. For all of the excitement over the ISS, what has been gained from it?
    I don’t agree with Ron Paul but on this point I think he’s right. If we didn’t have the debt, I would say go for it. However, we do and that is going to limit what we can do in the future.

  • Chris

    I am currently a senior undergraduate in physics at the University of Nevada, Reno. Since I was very young, I loved learning about space, from exploration to how stars are formed. I believe that money should be pumped back into science, which includes the space program, however, a manned mission to Mars is not the answer at this time. First off, it would take months, or even years to reach Mars. We would need to have very accurate calculations, or we could miss Mars completely in orbit and waste fuel, even maybe lose the crew for that kind of error. Second off, the amount of shielding needed from cosmic radiation is ridiculous. It would take so much lead to keep the crew safe from sunbursts. I feel money should be pumped into unmanned space exploration. We could learn so much more from satellites and probes than we could sending people. The two voyager space probes are still sending us information, and they’ve been in commission for 30 years. A manned mission could not last that long, not by a long shot. Now a manned mission back to the moon, they could be seen happening, but that will have to wait as well, unmanned space missions are what we need to focus on.

  • corey

    Very unfortunate for all of us , the space program has taken a back seat to WAR,meanwile we are useing up all our earth resorses – and in the not to far off future we will be in a Panic with Water and Fuel in short supply and we will need to go to space to get the basic resorses to live, not to mention overpopulation. we must branch out and discover new fule sorcees, water , medicine, and make liveable habitats , r&d , and find ways to protect our mother earth from objects that might cause harm to us and the planet. we are human and it is our right to explore ,learn,and expand.
    corey b

  • Pete K.

    Well put corey. Why does war have 1st priority? Watch zeitgeist. Everyone needs to wake up.

  • Some of you people could make me cry.

    There is so much Crap mentioned here that when pulled from the posts it came this page would be half its length. And by crap i mean peoples personal assumptions that they are qualified to speak on behalf of our country, our debt, our foriegn policy, our reasons and benefits for space travel, exploration, and construction of space objects, as well as our national security, the economics of our country, our nations budget, and the intelligence of the national public.

    Very few of you, and i point my finger at the majority of the posters here are Qualified to say ANYTHING with certainty in reguards to any of these matters. I am no exception.

    I say this – QUIT speaking as though your idea is the best. Quit speaking as if the answers to all of these problems are so easily found that you belittle our represenatives and our scientists and the programs they run for not finding them first! (that really makes me laugh and cry)

    I could go on and on and on but I do not want to double the size of this pages length. I will be short and brief.

    I am not qualified to say with certainty anything on any of these matters. I will not say that it is my opinion that the Benefits of space travel/Exploration/Study/Experimenation/Development/Design/Practice/ExperienceGained/EconomicBenefits Far outweigh the Negative of Cost.

    Without cost, There are in my opinion few downsides left.

    One of those is the waste and left overs from a developing space program.
    I have no proof of this, nor am I a expert but I do know that our space program would not dump its harmfull wastes into our enviornment. It would not Put us in any great ammount of danger by developing new propulsion systems. Just because a system is Nuclear does not make it dangerous. Why? We have nuclear power plants in our country. Do you think the plutionium used just appears there? No. It is delieverd. You have a far more likely chance that soemthing will happen along the way do it being delivered in a truck, on ground than an accident from above.

    Our nation is very careful when we take care of our waste. I mean the public nation with public programs like the space program. Unlike private sectors where they can skirt the laws and regulations and are in it to make a profit, These agencies are not. they are in it for the advancement and development of mankind as a WHOLE. They take care of waste produced very very carefully. It would be suicide not to with the publics expecation of superior performance since it is our money that pays for it. This is as I see it and remember I am no authority yet these words still carry the weight of truth. It matters not if you choose to disreguard them in favor of something that you “like” better.

    The irresponsible comments made in reguards to working on our home first, playing the emotional card with starving children, has nothing to do with space programs. It is merely a savage and low blow attempt at guilting people for supporting a public project that the speaker does not agree with. Shame on you.

    Looking at home and abroad on this planet I see Many Many nations working together with our space program. The majority of you, have very little comprehension for the complexity and spread of all of the work that is done. When i look at this planet, I personally see one thing holding us together more than anything else and it is the space program. It is such a wide ranging project that numerous countries are involved including hundreds if not thousands of companies within those countries and within those companies millions of workers and jobs and lives are put into it so that it all comes to a point at NASA. NASA is the top of the pyramid (i do not mean it is the only pyramid).

    What better way for our countries differences and our peoples hate and unrest to be put aside for a chance to contribute in a grand project and undertaking? (i am not refering to any one specifc thing but rather the space program and exploration as a whole). Billions of dollars are spent, not just from our country but from other countries and from those countries more money is spent still from the private sectors and industries and manufacturers. And from there even more money is spent, exhanging hands, spurring on the worlds economy as all of the materials requires have to come from some place! IT goes all teh way back to the men who smelt the materials into compounds and alloys, all the way back to the earth to the men working in the mines and the dirt and the grime whos jobs it is to provide those materials. When money is spent to further the Space program it goes down the pyramid, Expanding and echanging hands between more and more and more people. People make money, companies grow, Stocks increase. PEOPLE HAVE JOBS. It provides food for families, and money to buy clothes, to buy I love new york bumper stickers or to take a vacation in a nother country. It provides people with money to give to charities, money to get their car washed or to put their kids through school.

    So before you think it is a waste, KNOW WHAT “WASTE” YOU ARE REFERRING TOO!

    The united nations doesnt even span as far and wide with as much consequence as the space programs do in the different countries. So think very carefully about how it all affects every one, you and I both.

    Even if you hold a job in say retail, That money will come back to you too, the buisnesses you work for and as that money comes in as the people who earned it spend it at your place of buisness, your workplace will have room for more hours, which means you may get those hours. Aid work, Charity, does not even have such wide ranging consequence as the space programs do. (I use this merely as an example. For if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day but if you Pay a company to begin production that company gives the man a job to be able to feed himself with pride)

    And even this is just the tip of it all. I am no where near Capable of actually “Comprehending” how far and wide this goes, and neither are you. So do not claim to know the right way, or perfect way or only way this should go.

    I am for pushing ahead the boundaries of what we are capable of, Steadily, consistently, and always pushing ahead.

    And yes, this is the short version.

  • brian huber

    Space, the moon, life on mars. What about the blue planet.90% of places on earth where life does exist we know very little about . HELLO the ocean THINK of the benifits there .

  • John G.

    Well said Thomas. Intelligent analysis of the most under advertised segment of our economy. A better understanding of the global space program by society and most importantly leaders would go a long way in improving life on earth. There is so much we do not know and should. We spend billions on earthly programs and history has proven discoveries in space have led to dramatic cost cuts in those very programs. After all, what happens up there will ultimately decide our fate here on earth. Personally I believe we should make the investment no matter the cost in space exploration and a manned trip to Mars. My only reservation is putting a time limit on the trip. We should probably rethink the best time to go to mars as well as I do not believe the most opportune time would be when the two planets are closest. An in depth review by the professionals responsible for that decision would prove my analysis to be true. The global economy will work much better when it goes truly universal, one can only hope America plays a leadership role in that economy as well.

  • RubyT

    There is only one way to go from here, and that is out. We must explore space, we must learn enough to create a new home, or our race will eventually decline and perish as our sun goes.

    We can do that now, while the earth is still flush with resources and suffering is still at levels manageable by existing resources, or we can wait until things are more expensive and suffering has overwhelmed available resources.

    The Mars mission as proposed by Bush was more far-sighted than I expected of any political leader, particularly a supposed fiscal conservative. I can only hope the others will have similar vision.

    Perhaps, if they do not, the 10 percent or more of us who believe space exploration important should start an interest-bearing trust either to augment the work NASA already does, or to strike out on its own once enough funds have been collected. Perhaps there already is such a trust. If so, please advise.

  • Moon2015

    NASA’s mission is not to reach the Moon, Mars, or even an asteroid. NASA’s mission is to inspire, innovate, and discover new technology and provide research to the aeronautics division:
    It is not the destination but the journey to get there that is most important. Do you get it or is it easier to state the Moon and Mars as the goal? I urge all of you to check out

    For those that have never seen a published I.R.S. tax booklet, a pie chart in the back breaks down our tax dollars at work as well as tax income. Keep in mind when looking at the break down that NASA’s budget is built on less than one penny per tax dollar. So where is all the rest of our tax money going (page 33 in 2007 1040 EZ)? Good question!

    It is true that only a government can absorb the liability of a monstrous catastrophic event. No insurance company in their right mind is going to take on and accept the risk of an experimental program of this order of magnitude that involves humans not only in space but on the ground. Most people don’t think about the amazing amount of events that have to take place on Earth prior to anything getting launched into space and the hazards and liability that these people accept every day when they go to work to do their job.

    It is also true that every person employed directly and indirectly by the space and aeronautics fields puts money back into their community and the communities of others. There are several towns/people/small and big businesses that would really struggle without the economic input. This is how much money government employees make
    How can they attract the best and brightest engineering/scientific personnel when they only pay about 37k to a new college grad with a bachelor’s degree when industry will pay the new grad upwards of 55k. With a majority of the experienced workers soon retiring, this is not good. A very ambitious, ‘apparent goal’ has been set. Who’s going to get us there?

    There are very very strict ‘green policies’ in effect on government agencies that filter right down to the office supplies that they can or cannot order. However, we must convert to atomic energy because wind power alone will not cut it and solar power generates too much pollution in the long-term. Solar power places hazardous waste back into the environment when the storage batteries and solar arrays eventually cease to function over time. The same goes for all of our computer’s/monitor’s circuit card assemblies (CCAs) when people do not properly dispose of them in hazardous waste facilities. People must take personal responsibility for preservation of the environment before it is too late. That also means not overpopulating the planet to have humans cover all flora and fauna occupying land mass and subsequently increase the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere because all of the flora that places O2 back into the atmosphere has been destroyed just to provide new places for the increased human population to occupy. Many of you may not have ever considered overpopulation as a real threat. When our future generations start seeing O2 generators that were developed for space exploration popping up in their neighborhoods, they will think again. Sound crazy? In 1988 there were approximately 5.1 billion people on earth, today there are approximately 6.6 billion people. China and India lead the way, with the US being third -a relatively very very distant third.

    Most ordinary citizens cannot understand the language that is on a ballot. They pass amendments that are detrimental to themselves as well as everyone in their community -I will use the term community to mean local as well as state and national. For example, Florida voters went to the polls on 29 January 2008 over a property tax cut due to the housing market having risen astronomically and then crashed, but still being taxed at unaffordable rates. The citizens voted through an additional $25,000 exemption to save themselves $234/year, but they also cut funding to the services in their local community that provided for after school programs to keep middle school children out of trouble, community centers, education, police/fire/EMT, etc. Another example is the Scarlet Letter Law This law was voted through by FL politicians. If the politicians cannot even understand the laws they author and the consequences of passing them into law, then who can? Judges, attorneys, executives of the federal government? Then why are they in control of community budgets, our future, and our children’s futures? Because WE enable them! After all, somebody has to do it; and it takes a mountain of money.

    Why were Jesse Ventura, Ronald Reagan, and Arnold Schwarzenegger elected to gubernatorial offices in their states? Come on people, you know why. Name recognition! At least J. Ventura had been the mayor of his city for many years and he really did try to make a difference to the people and the state. I see no true leadership from the current politicians OR many of the citizens who are happy with the status quo as they think that the rest of it doesn’t affect their daily lives. Think again; it does affect our daily lives. Can all of you really live without your mobile phone, post-it notes, cable/satellite tv, microwave, plastics, car with ordnance actuated airbags, windows that filter out the heat but let light in, running water, electricity, ipods, and computers? It is all based on continuous improvement of processes and technology. Obsolescence is the price we pay for advancement.

    It is time to stop complaining, do something about it, and be part of the solution. IOW time to stop being arm-chair quarterbacks and to get involved in the game! True leaders with vision, step up! Become a civil servant. The rest of us, we need to go to our job and do the best job possible to the best of our ability.

    The orbital mechanics should be left up to the flight dynamics people that specialize in ephemeris and propulsion (delta V). Let’s hope that this time they have a mission assurance department that ensures that they converted their units properly. Oh! Silly me! We need government funding for that check and balance to actually happen because commercial will cut the MA budget to save the money for the profit margin.

  • Capt Stuart

    Forget Mercury – her thin sodium and potassium atmosphere covers an Iron Core whose weak magnetic field suggest she’s near solid – making her not the best choice for exploration as a candiate to sustain life from either the Galilean or Caperican spheres. The fastest orbit in the Caperican system make her however the best regoith sun refelector for intergallatic jet RTouting to communicate with the Sombrean Sphere as it approaches in advance of the Casseopean Supernova’s first significant wave set which will require extragallatic circuiting fortunatly alreadly inprogress evidenced by the jet transmissions recently sent our way from Galiliean sphere riding the weaking electrmagnetic current.

    Jupier’s Helium Hydogen Ammonia and Methane atmophere with 3 mililion times greater pressure than earth’s give her hydrogen core the properties of metal -coupled with winds at 400 MPH and Orbital Lo’s three million amp eletromagentic interaction a life portential totally alien to our currrent mindset but equally as exciting.

    It is written – In the MS Codex paged in woven steel and Penned witjh illuminated manuuscript that the JupierDiscs spins around a black hole with a vortex on either side – conceptually similar to NASA’s proposed Cross Coumpound Turbine IMpulse design astern turbine with one velocity -compound and one pressure compound – affectionaly known as the Magnetohydrodynamic “PLasma” Jet Drive Engine with Astern Propulsion and twin exhausts.

    Electricity and Magnetism interacting with the Galilaean Moons and electromagnetically ciucuited to Earth with magnetohydrodynamic interaction to both the Earth and Its Regolith Moon – suggets that the Dialougue between these two great systems make exploration of The Galilean system’s interaction to the Capercan sphere – A dialogue between two great world systems that should be the top priority of our space exploration activity – particulary in light of our recent discovery of the plasma jet transmissions targeted right to this radio hotspott and Europa’s weaking magentic field fuled by liquid saltwater surface coolking under the smooth ice cap and our rapidly increasing magnetic resonnace suggest that the elctromagniotc cuicuit 420000 miles on a 3.55 day orbit from Jupier’s surface and our two systems needs to be altered or transioned to another orbital possible even Jupiter itself. Jupiter’s X Gravititational pull although 80 times less then the sun – give us a vortexing amplification channel to produce a jet with sufficient amplittude to penetrate the Eurpopa slick ice cap to the saltwater SEE below to stimulate the dialogue required for a smooth transition into the changing nature of our system.

    If Mercury matters – consider Jupiter’s Callisto similar in size at 3000 miles diameter 1,170,000 miles on a 16.7 earth day orbit a similar candidate.

    Reference “a dialougue between two great world systems” available as soon as funds allow akin to the Jet Drive.

    Host Captain

    Atlantis Over

  • I believe NASA’s first priority should be to replace the shuttles. Make some new vehicle for the space and at least complete the international space station now!

    I see a strong possibility of whole world getting together for Mars mission as it would not be a viable option for a single nation to gamble huge amount of money on a risky mission when their budget is in deficit and oil is soaring..

  • I suppose that whoever will be elected as President will be much willing for NASA to explore Mars as it would gain political mileage on his part. mars exploration would surely cost a lot of national spending,but by that time oil spending would have been found alternatives to lower its spending.It is worth a try, just like the landing in the moon.

  • Stuart Young

    Moon 2015 makes a good point. Put another way, NASA’s proportion of the federal budget is 6/10ths of 1%. If we eliminated NASA’s budget (not likely), what difference would that paltry sum make in the wars on poverty, hunger, pollution, global warming, AIDS, illiteracy, etc.? I consider it extremely naiive to think that getting rid of NASA is the panacea to solve all of our country’s, nay the world’s, social problems. IMO, we get back many times what we invest in NASA (and DARPA) in the form of innovations, pushing back the frontiers of scientific knowledge, and technological breakthroughs.
    That said, NASA has one bad habit: it solicits ideas from industry, thanks them very much, then awards contracts based on how close the bidders come to NASA’s in-house designs. It happened with Apollo; it’s happened again with Orion (see Encyclopedia Astronautica’s article on the competing CEV designs for details). Burt Rutan and tSpace could have developed a CEV, indeed a cislunar architecture, for 1/20th of the budget NASA would spend.
    NASA could better spend our tax dollars by expanding the COTS program, letting private companies like SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft resupply the ISS with crew and cargo, and considering truly competitive concepts from private industry on vehicles to take us beyond LEO. In other words, give private industry the performance specs (payload, velocity, life support, etc.) for a vehicle, and open-mindedly consider the “best” options (“best” being defined as some ideal balance of development cost, operating costs, safety, reusablity, etc.) without predetermining the architecture of said vehicle.
    My near-term space priorities would be to develop a reusable cislunar infrastructure so that the resources of the Moon (precious metals needed by industry like titanium, a certain rare isotope of silicon, etc.; Helium-3 and/or materials for solar power satellites to beam energy to Earth; and so on) can be exploited for the good of the Earth (see the website for details), and to similarly develop an infrastructure for mining asteroids, as well as deflecting Near Earth Objects when necessary. Mars, and the rest of the Solar System, will eventually be explored to advance scientific knowledge. International missions could lower the economic burden on any given country. Perhaps a good precursor mission to a Mars manned landing would be an expedition to Phobos, which would require much less delta v than a landing on the Martian surface. Shelters could be built under the surface of Phobos, or merely covered with regolith, as protection against radiation. Such a base would be capable of directing rovers on the Martian surface in real time; think of how much more data, in a significantly shorter time, could have been collected by Spirit and Opportunity if thay had been teleoperated in that way? But, I’d like to think that into the forseeable future, nothing will beat human Mars geologists (or should I say Marsologists?) with their eyes, hammers and intuitions. IMO, Mars will never offer a “second home” for humanity, via terraforming or otherwise, not when we can so much more easily build colonies in space with the precise environment, artificial gravity level, etc. to best meet human needs. Also, we need to get Earth’s population under control; I can’t imagine a technology which would resettle the equivalent of the thousands of births we have on our planet every day.
    It takes a broad vision to solve this planet’s, and the human species’, problems. It will require thinking “outside the box.” In a literal sense, we need to think “outside the planet” for energy and resources which don’t rape, deplete, or poison our Earth. Space can provide the inexhaustible energy and resources to do that. So will good stewardship of the seas and of agriculture. So will birth control. We need both manned and unmanned space programs, not either/or, but working together, each doing what they do best, but in concert (as in the Phobos/teleoperation scheme described above), until technological advances make manned landings on Mars and the moons of the outer planets more practical. I wouldn’t want to ride on board the Pioneers 10 or 11, or the Voyagers; they ain’t ever coming back!
    I’d hoot and holler louder than anyone if I lived to see humans walking on Mars. We could do it within the next 10 years, with international cooperation, and with a fraction of the funds we have spent on Iraq. We had the prototype nuclear rocket engines (NERVA), and the heavy lifting vehicle (the Saturn V) needed to assemble interplanetary spaceships, 50 years ago. The Vietnam War would have paid for manned lunar and Mars bases, AND the Space Shuttle, AND a space station (maybe more than one), AND a reusable nuclear lunar shuttle, even with NASA’s inefficiency (shared with so many other government institutions). The boundless stupidiy of Humanity…
    Damn, all I’ve succeeded in doing is depressing myself…
    Moon 2015 also mentioned that maybe some of us who want to be part of the solution, should become civil servants. That said, feel free to consider all that I’ve said to be my Presidential campaign platform. Anyone interested in helping me to gain ballot access in all 50 states?
    Stuart Young

  • Fritz Skees

    Right, Stuart Young.

    ALL the missed opportunities are depressing.

    I read Willey Ley’s “Rockets, Missiles, and Space Trravel” in 1961.
    Then i reread it several times.

    But for world international warfare stupidity, we would have beat the 2001
    Space Odyssey schedule for orbiting rotating space stations, and be
    assembling some unmanned interstellar craft in lunar orbit by now.

    One could weep at the loss: once real space travel, and the verification of
    the teeming universe of life from first hand experience, seemed to be
    sure to come in my lifetime.

    Now we wonder if ever.

    RAF Skees.

  • Richard Wendt

    We must expand or we will cease to exist. Mars is just a step in a constant push for the survival of the human race. We will never be able to cure what ails we humans because we have so many ails. Like lemmings we will resort to drastic steps. We fight over anything that differs from our preception of the norm. So we will use and use untill all is used up. One of Americas greatest contrbutions to the world is our willingness to take a giant leap for mankind. This would be even better if we could get the whole world involved.

  • Andrew

    Budget versus space exploration becomes an issue when talking about the manned exploration of Mars. Bang for buck, it’s a horrible loss of national treasure, probably the worst possible program to fund. We already have two very worthy astronauts on Mars, Spirit and Opportunity. As robotics technology increases, there is no reason to believe the next generation of rovers wouldn’t be *more* capable than humans in clumsy suits. In fact, given the large amount of time Spirit and Opportunity have been on Mars, I think it’s safe to say they already are far superior to the oxygen needy variety.

    I think we need to invest more in space programs. We need new telescopes that see much further than Hubble; we need that solar observatory at the Lagrange point; we need more deep space probes. We don’t need fools hitting golf balls in vacuum suits. Manned missions are obsolete. They are more about the sin of Pride than the spirit of Exploration, and that’s something even Huckabee supporters can understand. As for Huckabee not knowing what technologies actually came from NASA, remember you are talking about a person who doesn’t even believe in (read understand) evolution. I’m frankly amazed his response wasn’t something out of the movie Contact by the religious fanatic character, you know claiming that we should abandon all technology. Acknowledging the utility of science and technology is a big step up the evolutionary ladder for those types.

    You’re absolutely correct…we should wait to use robots in place of actual people…that’s what Christopher Columbus did afterall.

    I was being VERY sarcastic.

    Exploring for resources and additional places for humans to live relies on sending humans to them in order to find out if it’s feasible.

    Robots are very good precursors (advance-scouts if you will), but can’t do alot of the work that humans must.

    Stephen Hawking (among MANY other of our times, and our forefather’s times, best minds) has said that staying on the Earth, without exploring for new resources and places for humanity to habitate, while we use up this planet’s resources faster than it can replenish itself, is tantamount to suicide.

    I’ll trust Mr. Hawking’s view (as well as the view of Carl Sagan, among others), and hope that we CAN find resources and homes for ALL future children, grand-children, et al, ad eternum.

    Those who don’t want to share in the fruits of the program are welcome to relinquish everything that has anything to do with NASA’s R&D and programs past, present, and future, and live out their lives in their caves.

    (wanna hear some whiners? wait ’til you hear the whining that will be going on when these NASA naysayers have to live without the benefits of the program they hate so much…wanna fund NASA? end the war in Iraq that we had no business starting in the first place…call it the mistake it is/was, and move on to bigger and better things, like space exploration for the above mentioned reasons, for the good of ALL…someone mentioned earlier that Dod’s budget is 10,000 times more than NASA’s (i did some calculating and found it to be even more than that), and i’d like to add this question and statement to the mix,.. what “bang for our buck” do we get from the war in Iraq?…other than filled body bags and missing limbs…get the picture?…NASA’s yearly budget is roughly $16 billion per year, and at least that helps grow our economy, not the other way around…we burn through that in 4 to 6 weeks in Iraq, while bridges are falling out from underneath vehicles being driven by our citizens)

    And, in conclusion, i’d like to ask this question…why does someone think that pride is a sin, especially when we’re working together for good?
    Seems to me that if it draws us together in peaceful work, as a planet, then pride is just one of the by-products of a very important endeavour (pardon the pun), e.g. Christopher Columbus and his financiers probably felt alot of pride in his and their accomplishments as a whole. But wouldn’t the exploration and eventual discovery have been much more than just pride? It changed the world!..and that is NOT just simple pride.

    That’s what WE are ALL here for…to discover.
    WE can’t do that without exploration.
    And a robot cannot do it for us.

    If we had all waited until we had robots to explore past our caves, then how would we have ever gotten the robots?

  • Peter Wu

    Boy am I late in responding but I only just found this debate. Let’s put this in perspective.

    First, the president makes decisions – that is to sign or veto a bill that may contain funding for space exploration. He does not make policy, that is a job for congress.

    Second, mars exploration is a political move by a desperate president in an attempt to salvage his image and make a “legacy” for himself. I wonder what beefy contracts the president will fork over to his campaign contributors.

    Lastly, why cut funding and prevent actual science that already is in progress and mothball expensive equipment already paid for? Manned exploration is not necessary, numerous space probes, satellites, and the Hubble telescope have already proven that. Send what we have already built into space.

    Most of congress has no scientific background as proven by the malarkey of E10 gasoline/ethanol blended fuel and climate change policy. It is all about trying to look good and getting re-elected. Balance the budget, then maybe take on the manned exploration debate. Right now all that congress has done is spend our money foolishly.

  • guy lemmond

    our government is operating in failure mode.
    letting it cancel our future by overspending on crap and failing to invest in nasa is unconscionable and deplorable at once.

  • j jensen

    hell if our leaders dont get off their buts the us will wind as a third world country with no space program

  • northstar102351

    What kind of sense does it make to retire the shuttle in 2010 , just because George W. Bush decided ? If indeed NASA develops the next generation rocket , it will leave us with a 5 year gap during which we will have no access to space at all . I would submit that many of Bush’s decisions have proven foolhardy , and if his decision to retire the shuttle prematurely is allowed to stand , it will be one of his biggest mistakes . You know , we will be getting a new president next year and wrongheaded policies have been known to be reversed under such circumstances in the past . Let’s hope this one is no exception !

  • Crimson Dagger

    It says a lot when folks who believe in the exploration of space can’t agree on anything…how can we expect politicians to?
    Everyone on here has made some very good points but it’s going to take a major change in the way we think as humans on earth in order to make true progress in space…
    Just a thought.

  • S.N. Lee

    Those who think that Earth is eternal should wake up from the meditations or whatever other Asiatic perversities or daydreaming they are involved into and start thinking. God bless NASA, science, Republic and real men and women abundantly.

  • Thomas Richard Baird

    I came back to this article over a year after i wrote my comment simply to say that like all things We will now have a humble and non leading role as a country in the exploration of space. It is sad to see what has been done with our great space agency after we accomplished so much but like so much it has turned sour, being great is apparently not what our leaders have in mind for our exploration.

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