Mars, Congress, and what we’re doing when

Contributed by
Jul 5, 2006
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Courtesy of NASAWatch is a link to a Congressional debate about Mars reported by The Hill, a newspaper about Congress. Although dated July 5, the debate over Mars happened last week, as I discussed a few days ago.

In an unusually lucid moment -- really unusual, given we're talking about Congress -- this exchange took place:

After a few other members, Republicans and Democrats alike, rose in opposition, Frank became exasperated. “Can’t we get an honest debate about whether or not to go to Mars?” he asked.

“Not in five minutes, unfortunately,” conceded Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.).

I applaud both Representatives: Frank for wanting an honest debate, and Mollohan for understanding it's not a simple issue. Even scientists disagree over this, but that's because the real debate isn't whether or not we should go to Mars, but whether we can afford it in the current environment. I think we should go to Mars eventually, but it's a dream to think we can have the tech know-how in less than 20 years. And that's assuming the funding starts flowing... and even if it does, the timeline is a serious issue, since the plan to phase out the Shuttle in the next few years assumed NASA would have had ten flights under its belt over the last two years. We've had two flights, and the schedule is for more than 4 per year.

This is a very serious issue, and it calls for serious debate. To be honest, I haven't seen much of it, whether it's in Congress, or in NASA. I would love to hear NASA Administrator Mike Griffin talk about the impact to the schedule due to the Shuttle's slowdown-- if he has, I didn't see it. Seriously, if someone has heard him talk about it, please leave a comment. I'd like to read what he has to say.