Geo016 - Exploration of Mars

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Geo016 / Exploration of Mars / (M) 3:00-5:20 / Lincoln Field 105 / Prof. James Head

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Alana Firl (05/05/04)

One thing that really does not make sense about the presidential space initiative is the existing national debt of over 6 trillion dollars. How can the president expect to increase NASA spending to $16.2 billion? I can see why the space initiative would hit opposition in the House. No one wants to see their program cut, but with such an increase in NASA spending, there will have to be some major cuts done in order to accommodate debt.

I can see now why John Young would be so quick to portray Mars as the future of humanity. In order to justify such an increase in NASA spending, there would have to be a very pressing reason that everyone can identify with. A representative from Montana is not going to be so interested in going to Mars for the sake of exploration. However, if you can convince that representative that by 2050 the world will be in the throes of apocalypse and man must evacuate Earth, he'll be more amicable to the prospect of cutting, say, half of his programs for the sake of increasing NASA spending.

One thing that bothers me is the way other European countries are attempting space programs of their own. The world needs the space exploration/astronomy equivalent of the “Union of Concerned Scientists”—something along the lines of “why don't we all work together.” It's silly to have individual nations all spending billions of dollars on the same research. I'd go so far as to theorize that the nations of Earth should unite before attempting to establish a presence on other planets. It might be the OCD talking, but it really would make sense to at least have a united sense of homo sapiens -ness before embarking onto new horizons and literally new worlds. There is a lot that needs to be sorted out on Earth first. For example, America will be stretched pretty thin if it expects to fund this war on terror along with establishing a presence on Mars. I recall the quote “there is not enough money for science”—only politics. If Bush expects to successfully get people on Mars, then there'd better be enough money for science. It will be interesting to see what ensues if he doesn't gain reelection.

The Mars effort is a bit of a toss-up because while it would be “neat” to go there, there is question as to the necessity of it right now, especially considering current conditions on Earth and the national debt, which is astronomical in and of itself. I also wonder what will be cut if the space initiative makes it through the cutting room intact. It will be a waste to pass it with insufficient funds—then it will be useless to NASA as well as a drain on the national budget. I hope that the House and Senate understand that you can't really compromise on budget when human lives are at stake; it really is an all-or-nothing attempt to establish a human presence on Mars.

In a perfect world, there would be no war on terror. Bush would have used the international sympathy gained by Sept 11 to unite the world instead of divide it over the Middle East. That way, the US would be better qualified to fund the space initiative, and more able to collaborate with other nations on the project.


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