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Unformatted text preview: e Institute 2011
Politics Mars Mission – Popular – Political Support
Mars is the only mission that can generate political support
Thompson, Lexington Institute Chief Financial Officer, 11
[Loren, April, Lexington Institute, “Human Spaceflight”, p. 1,
http://www.lexingtoninstitute.org/library/resources/documents/Defense/HumanSpaceflight-Mars.pdf , accessed 6-2711]
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s human spaceflight program is one of the
greatest scientific achievements in history. However, the program has been slowly dying since the
Challenger Space Shuttle disaster 25 years ago. Faltering political support, failed technologies and
competing claims on an under-funded federal budget have made it difficult to sustain a coherent
program from administration to administration. The Obama Administration has offered a bold plan
for nudging human spaceflight out of its decaying orbit, but the plan received only mixed support in
Congress and looks unlikely to sustain political momentum over the long term.
Although NASA consumes less than one-percent of the federal budget, it does not connect well with the
current economic or social agendas of either major political party. The broad support for the human
spaceflight program early in its history was traceable largely to the ideological rivalry between America
and Russia that produced the Moon race. Today, no such external driver exists to sustain support of
human spaceflight across the political spectrum. The program therefore must generate some intrinsic
rationale -- some combination of high purpose and tangible benefit -- to secure funding. Recent efforts
at generating a compelling rationale, such as the “flexible path” and “capabilities driven” approaches
currently favored by the space agency, are inadequate. They do not resonate with the political culture.
In the current fiscal and cultural environment, there is only one goal for the human spaceflight
program that has a chance of capturing the popular imagination: Mars. The Red Planet is by far the
most Earth-like object in the known universe beyond the Earth itself, with water, seasons, atmosphere
and other features that potentially make it habitable one day by humans. In addition, its geological
characteristics make it a potential treasure trove of insights into the nature of the solar system -insights directly relevant to what the future may hold for our own world. And Mars has one other key
attraction: it is reachable. Unlike the hundreds of planets now being discovered orbiting distant stars,
astronauts could actually reach Mars within the lifetime of a person living today, perhaps as soon as
20 years from now.
This report makes the case for reorienting NASA’s human spaceflight program to focus on an early
manned mission to Mars. It begins by briefly reviewing the history of the human spaceflight program and
explaining why current visions of the program’s future are unlikely to attract sustained political
support. It then describes the appeal of Mars as an ultimate destination, and the range of tangible benefits
that human missions there could produce. It concludes by describing the budgetary resources and scientific
tools needed to carry out such missions. The basic thesis of the report is that human missions to Mars can be
accomplished within NASA’s currently projected budgets; that proposed missions to other...
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This note was uploaded on 01/14/2013 for the course POL 090 taught by Professor Framer during the Spring '13 term at Shimer.
- Spring '13