What About Mars?

Why We're Going Back to the Moon, OpEd by Paul Spudis, Washington Post

"The recent release of the details of NASA's proposed plans for human return to the moon in response to President Bush's "Vision for Space Exploration" last year has drawn much comment -- some positive, some negative and some simply perplexed."

President Bush Announces New Vision for Space Exploration Program , White House

"Today, President Bush announced a new vision for the Nation's space exploration program. The President committed the United States to a long-term human and robotic program to explore the solar system, starting with a return to the Moon that will ultimately enable future exploration of Mars and other destinations. ... The experience and knowledge gained on the Moon will serve as a foundation for human missions beyond the Moon, beginning with Mars."

What Mike Griffin *Really* Thinks About NRC's Space Station Report

"Beyond the Moon is Mars, robots first. Most of the Internationals are at present more interested in Mars, as I hear the gossip. Fine, we can't tell them what to be interested in. But our road to Mars goes through the Moon, and we should be able to enlist them to join on that path."

Editor's note: The VSE used be about "human missions beyond the Moon, beginning with Mars". Now, Mike Griffin has focused VSE on one thing only: the Moon. The word Mars doesn't appear in this OpEd - nor do you see it mentioned very often publicly in NASA's new plans - other than vague hints of other, unnamed places. Yet Mike Griffin openly speaks of Mars privately. Unless I missed something, I do not recall the President having revised his direction to NASA. As such, why is everything the agency says focused only on returning the Moon with everything TBD afterwards? Isn't Mars - as a specific destination - part of that rationale, as voiced by the President? Wouldn't adding Mars to the equation a little more openly help explain part of 'why' America is going back to the Moon?

Why do we need to spend $104 billion to get one human crew back on the moon? It makes much more sense if people know this is a practice run for Mars. Its sounds without merit if the rationale is not presented in the same sentence - Dr. Spudis' (otherwise cogent) explanations not withstanding.

If you look back at the articles that took issue with President Bush's January 2004 speech and the VSE, people were taking issue with missions to Mars far more than they were about returning to the moon. NASA should stop parsing what the President said and stick to what he said in the first place. Changing destinations just serves to confuse people who are already skeptical about NASA - and makes justifications all that much harder to explain.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on January 1, 2006 8:32 AM.

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