back to article YOU - NASA. Enough with the ROBOTS, get some PEOPLE to MARS

It's time to stop mucking about and get your ass to Mars. That was the message delivered by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall, but it's also the advice proffered by a report into NASA's interplanetary activities. The National Research Council (NRC) has published a report in which it told NASA that its ultimate goal should …

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  1. Beachrider

    Are some Europeans just poking sticks...

    Hmmmmm, this looks like some non-USA-taxpayers are trying to cajole USA-taxpayers into ante-ing up for MUCH more NASA bucks while the EU de-federalizes and the ESA has LOWER budgets.

    As a taxpayer: I love NASA, the USA may be able to ramp NASA up as the deficit comes under control, but if the Europeans REALLY found this important...

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Are some Europeans just poking sticks...

      > The National Research Council (NRC)

      > non-USA-taxpayers are trying to cajole

      What.

  2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Joke

    Whats that noise?

    Ahhhhh its the conspiracy nut jobs preparing all the stories about how humans could never have got to Mars and it was all filmed in a backlot at area 51

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Whats that noise?

      It's actually just colorized B&W footage unreleased from the earlier lunar 'missions'. Budget cuts you know. Use what you've got and all that.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Whats that noise?

        I was in front of the TV when they shot the landing with O.J. Simpson.

        Who was later set up for murder so that he wouldn't be able to let the cat out of the bag.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We need to get over our obsession with safety

    Space exploration is difficult and risky, trying to make it as safe as flying a commercial jet makes it so expensive that we can't afford to do it.

    People seem fine with loss of life in war, or even during basic training when there is no war. Why are they so worried that someone might die pushing the boundries of human endeavor? All the people who came across the ocean to the US in the 1600s and 1700s, or crossed the US to the west in the 1800s endured more risk than astronauts do today. If they were as risk averse as the leaders of our space program, the US would still be wilderness populated by native Americans living in teepees.

    That there are seemingly no shortage of people willing to volunteer for a one way mission to Mars where you knew you would last only a few years at best, and a few seconds at worst shows how out of touch NASA's administration and congress are over this.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: We need to get over our obsession with safety

      "... there are seemingly no shortage of people willing to volunteer for a one way mission to Mars"

      Call me cynical, but how many of them are willing to volunteer for the second and subsequent one-way missions to Mars? (Quick test: Fill in the next ten names in this sequence: Armstrong, Aldrin, ...?)

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: We need to get over our obsession with safety

      The reluctance of NASA to take the 'big risks' with manned space flight is one of the many Cold War artifacts that still impact the West. I do not remember the name of the Office that wrote the paper I read during the heady days of my hiding from Bush MkI cost analysts in the archives at ORNL, but it was an old policy briefing that dealt specifically with US science policy.

      There was instruction from the highest levels for a science policy sort of 'Prime Directive' that held the 'sanctity of Human life' as the core that any and all US science (even where it applied to military research) was based on.

      It sounds like a 'nice guy' attitude, but the idea was to contrast US science efforts with those of the USSR. The Soviets were (in)famously 'results oriented' and an unknown number of lives were callously lost as a result. I say 'unknown' because like most Cold War era things the truth is buried beneath propaganda so deep (from both sides) that it is forever obscured. Both sides practiced revisionist propaganda strategies that saw old information changed to reflect the issues of the day. So we'll never know the actual truth, but it's a fair assumption, I believe, to say the Soviets didn't have the best HR and workplace safety rules :).

      My point is, that the 'Humans First' policies were institutionalized ages ago and there's not a soul still at NASA who was alive when that policy wasn't in place. The very idea of taking 'big risks' doesn't exist, at all, anywhere in their culture anymore. Most of the aerospace folks generally agree that the Columbia disaster was responsible for the end of the Shuttle program far more than budget issues or 'anti-science' idiots. Sadly, personnel attrition and something grand to aim for are the only hope for any influential US space program in the future.

  4. Dropper

    Deep Fried Humans

    I thought the real issue (cost has never really been an obstacle to stupidity) was that anyone sent on a jaunt to Mars would like end up being fried by radiation once they exit Earth's protective shield. I would guess it will be a tad embarrassing if we spent x number of billion dollars on flying a multi-person coffin to Mars.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Deep Fried Humans

      You can set up enough shielding (mainly by hiding behind the propellant tanks) and lost of plastic and a strong magnetic field. But to get coffin express to the reddish burnt-out cinder in a reasonable time, YOU BETTER HAVE THAT NUCLEAR PROPULSION THING DOWN PAT.

      WHY CAN'T I SEE ANY NUCLEAR PROPULSION NOWHERE, EH? EH??? NO NERVAs, NO ORIONs, AND THE NEXT-GENERATION NUCLEAR PROPULSION PROGRAM FLUSHED. WHAT IS THIS???

      Erm... sorry.

      Anyway, once you GET to Mars, you will still have to burrow fast like a creature from Watership Down because Mars has no magnetic field and no atmosphere...

  5. OrsonX
    Alien

    If YOU were the first man/woman on Mars...

    ...what would you say as you stepped off the bottom rung* of the ladder?

    *or walked down the ramp!

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: If YOU were the first man/woman on Mars...

      "Ray Bradbury was full of shit!"

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: If YOU were the first man/woman on Mars...

      OH FUCK THEY'RE HUGE CHRIST THEY'VE SEEN ME ARRRRRGHHHH

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: If YOU were the first man/woman on Mars...

        NASA politely reminds you to please use Religiously Neutral ™ language.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If YOU were the first man/woman on Mars...

          "Just want to make sure the deal's still on. You guys can eat the rest of my crew, and you'll hook me up with a few of those sexy green alien women like on Star Trek, right?"

  6. Vector

    Do we really need to go now?

    “The United States has been a leader in human space exploration for more than five decades, and our efforts in low Earth orbit with our partners are approaching maturity with the completion of the International Space Station."

    I'm sorry but three people floating around in a tin can is hardly what I'd call maturity in low Earth orbit. Show me a couple of stations with some centripetal gravity and room for lots of people and I'll start to believe.

    This is part of the problem with our space programs. We plop a dozen guys on the nearest rock for a couple of days and, Boom!, we're done. We put a modest presence in orbit and, Wham!, mission accomplished! Next!

    I'd love to see a mission to Mars. I was entranced with Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy. But rather than rushing off to the next target, wouldn't it be better to consolidate NEO so we'll have a better platform to move on in space?

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Do we really need to go now?

      A very unfortunate part of any NASA or ESA mission is how much crap can you cram into the mission that isn't necessary for the mission at hand. It's called lots of different things but all falls under the heading of 'strategic supply chain continuity'.

      The idea, is that there are so very many tiny specialty companies, legitimately, required for anything 'spacey' that those companies have to be kept in business so that space based defense programs can scale quickly if the need arose.

      The idea is sound. We provide highly specialized tooling and 'stuff' to a lot of those companies and if they weren't around it would be an acquisition nightmare every time somebody wanted to do something not related to death and destruction.

      But nobody really monitors the zillions of little programs involved. Somebody somewhere decides we need (x) number of photon drag detectors per year and nobody ever goes back to see if those initial estimates were accurate. Do those Model 12GYCX Photon Drag Detectors even fit the current equipment? The answer is nobody knows.

      I've said this on here several times, but we have clients we supply tooling for who make parts for things that everybody knows will never actually be used. But they've got a contract, so what are you going to do?

      I don't have all the answers, but I'm absolutely certain there are some, a bunch, of very talented people working away at pointless endeavors and they would much rather be making things that would get used. They don't get paid if the part gets used or not, they get paid for making the parts. Instead of wasting money, skills and resources on contractual autopilot schemes we need to dig in and at least get something useful out of those companies. They want to do something exciting and different and be able to tell their kids they helped put whatever into space.

      But nobody wants to dig through 40 years of complicated agreements and streamline everything. Because of that the best way to get mission approval is to make sure as many of those little things get into the acquisition motions as possible. Keep the waste rolling and you'll get your mission approved. It sucks, it's stupid, it's expensive, and tragically, entire careers are being wasted just so some fat ass Creationist Senator from Texas doesn't actually have to do anything but leave a greasy palm print on the mission budget approval.

  7. tempemeaty
    Big Brother

    NASA...No Actual Space Agency

    From where I'm sitting NASA can't do anything with humans beyond earth orbit. China can and will. NASA is only a carboard cutout.

  8. Wzrd1

    OK, a few things first

    My first niggle is, I'm not an American. I'm a citizen of the United States of America (and a few pet names, at some times, during certain political environments. Suggest fascist or similar). To call me an American is to diminish my neighbors of Canada and Mexico. Of variable worthiness, due to our own nonsense over the centuries.

    OK, the last century or so. Thank heavens for the north, as cold as it is... ;)

    OK, on a more serious and mixed honesty note, considering the above was purely honest, but some things I'm not permitted to speak of honestly...

    The moon thing: Pure cold war. Otherwise, it'd still be cream cheese, or whateverinhell your culture called it. Not a dusty, nasty, vacuum laden version that defeated Dante's hell in logarithmic spades!

    Mars.

    Cold war done. Who cares.

    Reality:

    Sun gets hotter and hotter.

    Earth gets more, erm, interesting due to our pollution.

    Meanwhile, the Earth *will* become utterly uninhabitable, regardless of human or political interests.

    But, zero planning is made for immediate changes, zero planning is done for short term changes, zero planning is done for long range reality.

    Humanity is doomed to undergo a brief period of strangeness, with some drowning, mixed desertification, really weird annoyances, then blast furnace on steroids heat that melts the crust of this pebble.

    Annoying to me is, I'm handing over this mess to my grown children *and* my grandchildren, knowing that assholes will continue to screw the works up.

  9. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Just Two Simple Questions to Answer and/or Attempt to Cover and Smother with a Complex Negotiation

    What would y'all think about, because there would be nothing that you could either really or virtually do to prevent it happening, if Martian life phorms started sharing with able enabling administrations the secrets of excessively pleasurable existence which guarantees mutual beneficial shared advantage to all and at all levels of primitive to universal understanding ..... greater knowledge?

    Would you play the Great IntelAIgent Game and learn quickly, or battle in vain with ignorance and prejudice against IT and Media Manipulation and Placement of Novel Noble Facts in Fictions and Create a Hellish Madness and Mayhem on Earth with Conflicts for Chaos rather than a Heavenly Space Place with Clouds Hosting Advanced Operating Systems which might very well be virtually secured and remotely protected by Alien IntelAIgents and CyberIntelAIgent Memes with Absolutely Fabulous Fabless Means at their Beck and Call for Disposal ....... Proprietary Intellectual Property Supply?

  10. JCitizen
    Boffin

    I see three factors..

    1. The only reasonable mission to Mars is to study the planet as if it were Earth in the near future, which could happen, if certain disaster theories come true. So that alone would make humans being there paramount. You can't have a study of how humans can survive a catastrophe, if there aren't any humans there to study it.

    2. The only real reason to go into deeper space is to mine the asteroid belt - do that and Mars will surely follow the money as a way station. Also doing manufacturing by robots there and on the moon would end industrialized pollution on Earth - well worth it!

    3. Private industry will beat the US or world cooperation to Mars anyway, so all we have to do is bide our time. Several billionaires have already chartered this path. Let the rich blast themselves into space - El Reg readers seem to like that idea very much already.

  11. The Grump
    Big Brother

    We need to fix our economy first.

    The face of capitalism in America is horribly blemished to those who will not help pull the Great Chain of Industry. These leaches, these takers, consume our resources but contribute nothing to our great country. Those who refuse to work should be jailed, and forced to work. Refuse, and the guards will happily introduce you to the firing squad. There will be no slackers in MY America.

    Only when the scourge of Socialism had been eradicated can we progress to the stars. Twenty one Billion in debt - our Founding Fathers would be in tears if they were alive today. They would also flog the current communist President out of the White House, and lock him in stocks. Obama is a shame on American Excellence. We can - WE MUST - do better. Hopefully in 2016.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      You need to move to Somalia. You'll feel right at home there.

  12. Esme

    Mars Direct

    Read Zubrin's book 'The Case for Mars' if you haven't already. Then discuss.

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