For the last 30 years, we have been told how a manned flight to Mars is not only possible, but that NASA was working on a mission plan to make it happen. As recently as 5 years ago, the national space agency was telling us that we could expect the fight to launch in less than 20 years and how important that flight would be too mankind in general. But now, NASA has taken “one small step for man, one giant step for mankind”, but in the wrong direction.
This week, NASA made the Earth shattering announcement that there is no way the space agency can afford the price tag of such a trip. The announcement came during a propulsion meeting of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics on July 12th. In his address to the group William Gerstenmaier, the agency’s chief of human spaceflight, said the funds simply aren’t there for such a mission.
“I can’t put a date on humans on Mars, and the reason really is … at the budget levels we described, this roughly 2 percent increase, we don’t have the surface systems available for Mars,” Gerstenmaier said, according to an Ars Technica report. “And that entry, descent and landing is a huge challenge for us for Mars.” So far, NASA has chosen not to comment on Gerstenmaier’s comments.
For the 2017 fiscal year, NASA has a budget of $19.5 billion for fiscal year 2017. While that may appear to be very sizable, many scientists have decried the amount as being woefully inadequate for any meaningful research to take place on a variety of programs, including the mars project. Indeed, when looked at in comparison to the 4.1 Trillion dollar federal budget for 2018, it is a pretty pitiful amount. Especially when you realize that Congress just gave Obamacare 45 billion to fight opioid dependency, something that will just leave more drug dependent idiots to drain tax dollars.
Meanwhile, because of government spending and the deficit, the cost of a manned mission to Mars has increased dramatically. Just five years ago, Brent Sherwood, the head of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said it could cost approximately $100 billion over 30 or 40 years to complete the program. But according to Director of the Mars Institute Pascal Lee, that amount has climbed to as much as $1 trillion over 25 years.
But SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has come up with a cost for a manned mission to Mars. Musk says it would cost $10 billion per person to get a functioning colony on the Red Planet, but believes the cost could drop to $200,000. That drop would be due in part to the use of reusable rockets, according to a paper by Musk in June 2017.
As far as the Trump administration goes, it may be best to use private industry if humanity is to get to Mars. Vice President Mike Pence recently said, “American business is on the cutting edge of space technology.” Pence has also called for a return to the Moon, saying, “America will lead in space once again.”