I believe comments such as Darell's and Californians are quaint notions that sound well meaning and are popular in a 'Green/Lets all get along' kind of way but utterly unrealistic in every other way. I mean really, "use the money to pay down the debt and feed the hungry and house the homeless...". Who is going to distribute that, the same nice people who played 'Pyramid' with a trillion dollars of tax payer money. If you want to talk big numbers, lets.
We live on a life raft called Earth. This raft only has resources to support a certain number of people. Our population is presently double that limit. You can throw the trillion dollars that America was swindled out of at the problem and it would just keep coming because we would continue to add to the base number of people already on the planet demanding more and more and more.
Once we resolve ourselves to that fact, we can turn our attention to developing systems to sustain humans on other planetary bodies in this solar system. This way perhaps we can promote off world colonies which could truly aleviate the human strain on Earth and give it a chance to really repair itself.
I do however feel that after 40 years since leaving Earth orbit, we need to get reacquainted with the systems again and get NASA crews experience in off world operations. I want to get to Mars quickly too but there are systems and procedures that should be tested first. Otherwise it would be a hail mary, cross your fingers and hope, kind of mission. Three and a half years mission time, 20 minute lag in communications, in-situ fuel and oxygen production, and survival techniques requires some field testing. Better the crew be 2 days away and not 6 months.
Going to mars is all about research and bravado, but going ot the moon open up doors for industry; getting resources to and from the moon is a worthwhile undertaking - mining heavy metals and manufacturing composites there is the only way we we continue to progress technologically. Establishing an initial presence there is an essential first step for that.
That being said, we are reaching the point where we *NEED* to develop space elevators so that we can exploit the process. We have all the technology we need to do it, and it would lower the cost of putting things into space from $1m per pound to a few thousand, paying for itself in no time. Once we have a cheap, fast way of getting things into sapce, we can quickly and cheaply get resources from the moon and start making use of them here.
As for you, Darrell, the free market doesn't work nearly as well as you seem to think it does - companies rely far too much on government subsidization here in the US, and deregulation has historically NOT let to innovation or competition (looked at airline fares lately? 7 airlines with identical rates for the same destination isn't competition, it's price fixing). Big businesses, who must do ANYTHING to continue their meteoric stock price increases to continue to exist, will NEVER take chances like these so long as they can continue to cut costs by manufacturing things in the cheapest possible manner that break after a year so they can sell another - and that's not going to happen anytime soon.
Yes, in the verbiage of the Simpsons, "We need to learn how weightlessness affects tiny screws" Would someone like to explain how going to Mars (where microgravity is... more....abundant....there?) is going to help the single mother on the street? How about we mess with the simple problems we know how to solve first? NASA is completely obsolete and should be disbanded and sold to the private sector. Let the genius of America and the free market decide what is BEST for everyone.
look i am only 15 and can't make a disishion like this, but you guy's need to figure this out soo because my #1 vacation destination is somewhere in space, so have it ready in abought 20 years, ok =')
We have to go to the Moon and Mars. It is a requirement of our human existence to continue to expand our wealth of knowledge, experience, and lets face it, places we can put people. There are some major contributing factors to this reasoning. We need to go to have space for our population, we need to because science rules and we need to because its just awesome.
Lets face it, world wide population is foretasted to expand to almost 10 billion in the next century. With the world facing that sort of cirsis, we need to develop the technologies to build dependable human colonies in space that are capable of supporting themselves. The technology that comes out of this sort of colonization revolution will allow us to reach agricultural and infrastructure support systems only dreamed about today. As well as, you could go live in space.
Through the exploration of space, and the progression of the cold war, we've heavily invested in the upswing of Science. That's Science with a big 'S' because it is this that has led us to the world that we live in today. If it wasn't for the investment in Science that our grandfathers made, to get us to the moon and having our competition with the soviets during the cold war then we wouldn't be near where we are today. We can credit just a small hand full of government investments with much of the things we take for granted today. Granted that one of the single greatest inventions of the last 100 years was the silicon transistor, it came out of bell laboratories. Yet it is still arguable that the general prosperity we were experiencing because of government spending on technology essentially funded this type of research. But just to rattle of the short list: Optics, Rocketry, Aeronautics, Internet, Cellphones, Nuclear Power, etc.
Finally just because it's good to have a noble dream. Sure it costs billions of dollars, sure it will take time, blood sweat and tears, but humans feed on dreams and goals like fuel. We need something to shoot for and when we get there the world stands up and pays attention.
Going back to the moon and continuing to Mars is a requirement of our advancement as a civilization. I wouldn't want to live in a world that stops dreaming.
Darrel and 'Californian', you need to look beyond the current situation and into the benefits of what Mars could offer. Think about it, it's got ice. It's got a little atmosphere. If we can get a better idea of the planet, who knows what we could start doing with it, or on it?
I fully agree about setting up a station on the moon for future trips, but why do that yet, when we don't even know if Mars will be worth revisiting.
No person is going to Mars until we get a more efficient propulsion system, which is actually being developed right now.(History channel) I believe it was called a Magnetron Plasma drive, but please don't quote me on that, I know it was some type of plasma drive. With this propulsion they would be able to travel to Mars in 39 days, and it's supposed to be ready for deployment sometime in 2011. So that means while you chinese are puttin' along about half way to Mars, you will maybe see a blur out your window, that will be us Americans leaving you in our space dust.
Well. You Americans have lost your edge, you have no drive any more . . .
You have been staling for forty years. I think you will all retire to Floridas golf courses and just be inactive on-lookers, when the Chinese lands on Mars in seven years.
Thank you Darrell! That's exactly how I feel about this. Microgravity research is not worth billions of dollars. Spend it on medicinal scientific research, or, as you said, pay down our debt, which China could call in and cripple the worldwide economy. If it didn't hurt them, I'm sure they would. The whole space program is a huge pissing contest that used to be against Russia, but is now against no one.
The moon is important though. Scientifically it is golden for research of microgravity, but direct importance to Mars might be a little far-fetched, because as we all know, the moon is not the same size as Mars, Mars has an atmosphere (albeit minor) and duststorms and that huge canyon and mountain, and ice caps. However, this is purely hypothetical, if we could set up a launch station on the moon, it makes sense that it would be much cheaper, because it's far easier to break gravity from the Moon than from the Earth. Amirite?
It's definitely financially better to skip it, of course, but scientists always want MOAR KNOWLEDGE.
No, it's a 100% complete asinine waste of money. How 'bout we... oh pay down national debt, upgrade the health care system to 3rd world standards, or a million other things that affect every day Americans instead of lining the pockets of corrupt contractors and giving the willies to a few astronauts. Space should move into the private sector where the invisible hand can make it efficient, affordable and profitable.