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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Daniel Finn-Foley (05/05/04)

Monday's discussion was a very interesting one, displaying the varied responses to Bush's space initiative. While the result of the initiative, the manned exploration of Mars, is admirable, the method and motives must be examined to truly interpret the virtue of the program.

In order to fund the manned exploration of Mars, the Bush administration plans to give NASA a small budget raise of about 5 percent. Considering NASA's budget is only around 15 billion, this amounts to a relatively small increase in funds when compared to the estimated cost of the Iraqi war per year of 87 billion. Considering the government doesn't have the funds to pursue either of these goals and is instead creating an even larger national debt, the financial feasibility comes into question.

The Bush initiative also calls for funding for almost all other NASA programs to be reduced, or the programs themselves to be completely disbanded. The space shuttle program will be gone within the decade, other scientific programs will be phased out, and generally NASA will be singularly driven to putting a man on Mars. Is this a suitable goal to devote the leading space research program in the world to on a whim?

Bush's space initiative also suffers from its timing. Considering the Bush administration's disregard for science, often appointing scientists with obvious agendas to programs over more qualified candidates, this could be a not so subtle ploy to win back the scientific community. Politically it also has the benefit of appealing to the average American's glamorized view of space exploration, hearkening back to the heroic efforts of astronauts like Neil Armstrong. By making such a bold plan, Bush can equate himself with leaders such as Kennedy who set clear defined goals and had the will to see them through.

Overall I believe the Bush initiative is doomed to failure. Whatever is destroyed by partisan squabbling will be killed by lack of funding and public / governmental support. I wish that the quest to land on Mars could be accomplished, but based on Bush's reputation and the meager support the initiative has been given, I do not see this happening. Hopefully in the future our society will be ready to embark on such massive endeavor.
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