back to article Obama: We're off to Mars

President Barack Obama yesterday insisted that US astronauts will reach Mars by the mid-2030s, during a speech in which he stressed "nobody is more committed to manned spaceflight, to human exploration of space than I am". Speaking to a "polite" crowd of around 200 staff and guests at the Kennedy Space Center, Obama dismissed …


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  1. TimNevins
    Thumb Down

    Priorities sorted then POTUS?

    "The rise in the poverty rate, to the highest level since 1997, portends even larger increases this year, which has registered far higher unemployment than in 2008, economists said.

    The bureau said 39.8 million residents last year lived below the poverty line, defined as an income of $22,025 for a family of four. "

    Source :

    1. Martin Silver badge

      Oh, please.....

      If you want to look into priorities in the US, then you might start looking at the multi-trillion defence budget.

      Yes, it's appalling that so many people live below the poverty line. But the sort of budget we're talking about for space exploration is a drop in the ocean compared to what is required to sort out those sorts of problems.

      1. Mike Flugennock

        re: Oh, please...

        "If you want to look into priorities in the US, then you might start looking at the multi-trillion defence budget."

        If you want to look into priorities in the US, then you might start looking at the multi-trillion war budget. ...There, fixed it.

        But, seriously... Phil Plait, over at his Bad Astronomy blog, published a chart which displayed the USA's budget categories displayed as various-sized nested rectangles according to how much money they got. Guess which one was largest. Uh huh, that's right. By comparison, the rectangle representing NASA was so small that you had to zoom in to full-res to see it properly.

    2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      And ...

      ... your point is what, exactly? Put space exploration on hold until everyone has swimming-pools in their back gardens, maybe?

      There are SIGNIFICANTLY better things to be complaining about the priorities in the US. For starters, the obscene amounts of money spent on "defence" (both military and "Homeland Security"), crap healthcare policies (even with the recent laws) that lead directly to poverty for millions, and stupid levels of unionisation. Get a sense of perspective - spending on space exploration has far more benefits than disadvantages.

      1. Justin Clements

        health care or car payment

        Never ceases to amaze me this crap about US healthcare.

        If you have a job, you can opt in for very little into a company scheme. Or, you can eat at MacD's each evening.

        If you don't have a company (unlikely) then you can choose that nice new Camry for $500pm, or choose a health insurance policy for you and your family for $300pm. Many Americans have got this bit wrong.

        Now, if you choose the Camry and MacDonald's combination package, you still get free health care - because you just turn up at A&E and tell them that you can't pay. They are obliged to give you free health care.

        And as for US healthcare and UK healthcare, totally different. Had to use both recently and the differences could not be greater. Our doctor couldn't even diagnose the skin complaint, Urticaria.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Health Care in the US

          Not wanting to totally change the topic, but I have to respond to the odd views of Justin Clements above. Having lived in both the US and the UK I have a reasonable perspective on things, but also just look at the stats. The US has higher infant mortality and lower life expectancy than the UK, and the total healthcare bill is twice that in the UK. If you can afford healthcare in the US then it can be argued that it is slightly better than the UK (maybe 10% better), but if you can't afford it, the healthcare is significantly worse than the UK. Also, using A&E instead of a local doctor is MUCH more expensive, and is one of the reasons that the US spends over twice as much per capita (and twice as much as a percentage of GDP) than the UK on its healthcare.

    3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Big Brother

      According to...

      ...US social security is current 106 trillion (yes, that's a T) dollar off goal. Income tax will have to be upped by 81% to cover that. Will the MarsObama Program survive longer than the Mars program by Dubya. Taking bets now.

      "nobody is more committed to manned spaceflight, to human exploration of space than I am"

      As if he had any say in what happens in 2035.

      Big Brother icon, because Big State.

  2. Simon Woodworth

    Bad speech. Good policy move.

    Obama's speech was very poorly delivered. Several jokes tanked and he seemed to stumble quite a lot. Lack of preparation perhaps? Anyway, scrapping Ares I and Ares V is a good move. Jupiter Direct is allegedly cheaper, safer and provides just as much heavy lift capabilitiy. And you can put an Orion capsule on top if you wish. Elon Musk has every right to be happy as Falcon 9 is emerging as the front runner for transport to LEO. And it's human - rated.

    The beer is for the Apollo 13 crew.

  3. Daniel Harris 1


    Should try making it to the moon again/for the first time, depending on what you believe really happened.

    Haven't been there for over 30 years (last landing was 1972 google tells me?)....So surely there may be more to discover with over 30 years of tech advances.

    Seems odd nobody has been for so long as you'd think it would be relatively easy (albeit expensive) now that we are in 2010.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Sorry, Mr. Pres - you're not allowed to go there...

      We "haven't" been back to the moon officially since 1972, because any "civilian" mission could accidentally discover the permanent manned bases established there in the 80's.

      Can't let the cat out of the bag, can we?

  4. Thomas 18
    Thumb Up


    I love this title, so jovial. More joviality please, especially on Friday.

  5. Gordon is not a Moron


    ." So we'll start - we'll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history"

    Isn't the asteroid belt further away than Mars? Making the effort of landing on a relatively small relatively fast moving piece of rock, even larger than landing on the bigger slower moving piece of rock?

    Or am I missing something?

    1. Anonymous John

      Re Or am I missing something?


      The target will be one of the Near Earth Objects, close enough to our orbit to pose a potential risk to us sometime.

      There was even a proposal to use an Ares I for such a mission.

    2. Random_Walk

      Yes and No.

      The Asteroid Belt is indeed beyond Mars, but there are plenty of asteroids that pass closer to Earth than Mars ever does. IIRC, many of these are large enough to land something (maybe even people) on.

      The only thing I wonder about is that asteroids (even ones big enough to land on) typically have ultra-low gravity, enough that an astronaut could literally jump himself into orbit around it.

      1. Mike Flugennock

        Asteroid mission

        "The only thing I wonder about is that asteroids (even ones big enough to land on) typically have ultra-low gravity, enough that an astronaut could literally jump himself into orbit around it."

        Yeah, I was thinking about that, too; that's why the Eros (?) orbital probe mission about eight or ten years ago, when targeted to impact the asteroid's surface, didn't so much impact the asteroid as much as bump into it (and, sadly, touched down in an orientation that didn't allow its antenna to transmit images from the surface).

        I suspect that any manned mission to an asteroid won't be so much landing on it as docking with it, and any EVA will be done more in the manner of mountain-climbing than walking in a normal fashion.

        Oh, and am I the only one here who gets a bit of a laugh out of the idea of an astronaut standing on the surface of an asteroid accidentally launching himself into orbit if he jumps too hard?

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @gordon is not a moron

      You're forgetting the ones which periodically come much closer into the Earth (unsurprisingly called Near Earth Objects).

      Depending on which ones you dock with ("landing" is a bit overblow for something with a surface gravity 100x or less than earth) you might get minerals or more volatile stuff. Possibly the kind of thing you would need to top up a 1st generation closed cycle life support system.

      Which *is* the sort of tech we will need *if* we want to be serious about long duration space voyages.

  6. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    All that effort to find ice on the moon ...

    ... and now no plan to use it.

  7. Tieger

    sounds good

    without space travel, we (as a species) have essentially given up. we've accepted our fate as a planetbound creature, that will die out and be forgotten. Obviously Obama can't come out and say it, but the expansion into space of mankind as a species is worth any cost, imo. in the last 30 years, we've progressed in leaps and bounds in other areas, but in the field of space travel we've regressed - attempting to reverse that trend is one of the best things i've seen from the US in years, quite honestly.

    (of course, i'm someone that thinks project Orion should never have been cancelled, so its possible not many would agree with me.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re : sounds good

      Does anyone really think we're ever going to travel significantly outside the Solar system?

      Four years at least to the nearest star - even allowing for relativistic effects shortening the time for the traveler the energy involved is enormous. The galactic center is 25000 light years away!

      Warp drive, hyperspace jumps, wormhole travel - nice in fiction

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


        "Four years at least to the nearest star"

        No. According to this calculator

        at 99% light speed you time sense would slow down to roughly 14% of real time. The journey would take roughly 6 months ships time.

        The question is if you did would anyone you left behind still be there when you came back.

        1. Chemist

          Re : AC@14:29

          That was covered by the poster. " even allowing for relativistic effects shortening the time for the traveler the energy involved is enormous."

          A more realistic calculation is traveling at ~10% light speed when it would take ~40 years but allowing for acceleration/deceleration it would take much longer to travel and arrive at the nearest star.

          The energy to drive acceleration to 99% c would truly enormous due to the relativistic effects - a good example is the kinetic energy of the fraction of a mole of protons in the LHC having the energy of an aircraft carrier at 12 knots or whatever.

          It has been calculated that at least 100 times the total energy output of the entire world would be required for the voyage (to Alpha Centauri) even at modest fractions of c

        2. Graham Dawson Silver badge


          Given that the closest star is a mere 4 light years away and assuming you have sufficient fuel and thrust to reach 99% of light speed, figure maybe six months or a year for the mission itself, that's an 8 or 9 year round trip earth relative time. So they'd age a year or two, we'd age eight, everyone would still be here.

          It's when you're off flying to Lave or Achenar that you have to worry about whether anyone will still be around when you get back.

          <-- Uhm... yeah, the one with the NERD FAIL tag on the back thanks.

        3. Chemist

          Re : 99% ofl ight speed

          Suggest you find a calculator that gives the energy required for 99% light speed.

          I calculate the energy ( expressed as electric power at 100% efficiency) to get 1 tonne to 99% light speed at ~150 million million kWh - that's quite an electric bill!

        4. No, I will not fix your computer

          Re: The journey would take roughly 6 months ships time.

          John, even if we could travel at 99% of light speed (and do it alive, see other reg articles), it would be an 8 year round trip, communications would be impossible as you'd be going at 99% the speed of the communication one question/answer pair would be all you get, it would be an 8 year round trip, to find what? the next closest star to us doesn't have anything livable around it, so ramp it up to something earth like, 20 light years (Gliese 581c) and you're talking a 40 year round trip, 2.5 years onboard.

          Lets face it, if you want to live off the planet you must build a self sustaining biosphere, one that not only recycles all oxygen, hydrogen and carbon but has all the other minerals we need, not just for a few days, weeks, years, decades but forever, we'll need a vegitarian diet as keeping enough biodiversity in humans will be hard enough let alone animals as well, the sheer logistics of trying to keep "the human race" alive off planet, one mutant virus will kill everything as you wouldn't be able to get away, so you'd be needing multiple biodiverse colonies that you could travel between, imagine trying to find the resources (in space) to build something as complex as a spacecraft, from scratch, all the mining, processing, building, engineering, just look at the number of NASA employees and the ease we can dig things out of the ground and transport it on earth, you'd need to do that in space!

          But people will believe what they want to believe, some people believe that we are the products of two people and their incestous children (followed by Noah and his similar incestous family), which is a little mental.

          Think about it, all the billions spent so far, and the best non orbital human archievement was putting 12 men on the moon, for at most just over 3 days, and how have we benefited?

          This is all science fiction, will remain so long after my bones have turned to dust, we should look at energy production, efficient, environmentally sound food production, birth control and world peace, if we ever do invent the technnology to live off planet then we'll need these things first and foremost (they may come in handy for earth, right now), what we don't need is a mars mission.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        travelling outside the solar system

        Of course we will. It seems hard/impossible for us now but then most things we have already achieved would seem like magic to someone living 300 years ago. Plus we think our science has disproved faster than light travel but then today's science will seem like the mumblings of a shamen to future generations. Humans have always suffered ego-centrism with regards to their own knowledge. Every generation laughs at the era before them and thinks that 'this time' we know what we talking about.

        1. Chemist

          Re : travelling outside the solar system

          So your 'answer' is that everything we can possibly imagine is going to be feasible.

          Trouble is we've found that certain principles e.g thermodynamics are always obeyed. These are always going to be a limit.

    2. No, I will not fix your computer

      Re: sounds good

      So Obama says we'll be going to mars in 20 years? nice plan, he will be tucked up in bed with his cocoa by then, he can plan and promise what he likes, he'll never need to deliver.

      >>the expansion into space of mankind as a species is worth any cost, imo

      Cock, seriously, you cock, where are we going to go? we have never found anywhere else to live, the closest (other) star is 4.2 light years away, the closest earthlike planet found so far is over 20 light years away, mars is about 0.00000075 light years away (25 million times closer), so lets pretend we would take three months to get to mars (nothing we have is that fast yet) to go 20 light years at the same speed would take six million years, you probably want to take a book to read.

      A truism is that science fiction often becomes science fact, but talk about running before we can walk, we're not even out o fthe womb. Lets solve food and energy production on earth first, if we want to find or make biospheres off this perfectly good one that we're standing on then we need to solve that first really.

      1. Rattus Rattus

        He's right, though.

        We need to go into space, for resources and lebensraum. If we never leave the Earth, we are doomed as a species. Sure, we're not going to be traveling to any other star any time soon, but we need to get off this rock. We need to learn how to live in space, build habitats, dig them into asteroids, colonise Mars, the lot. Until we do, all our eggs are in one basket and a sufficiently large disaster will mean no more humans. Seen any dinosaurs around lately?

        Food production is not a problem, we already produce far more food than is needed by the world's population. Hell, the US pays farmers to not grow food! The problem is working out a way to share it fairly. Energy production is further behind, but we are working on that and could be putting a lot more work into it if we weren't pissing away money on stupid shit, like pulling banks out of the hole they dug for themselves or fighting a war that should never have been started.

        “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re : He's right, though

          Well I'm sure we're going to be able ship enough off the planet to make a difference!

          The energy/materials involved would be gigantic assuming a significant number would WANT to live anywhere where you can't go outside without a space suit, get hit by micrometeorites, and live an incredibly artificial lifestyle - if you can call it living. Shipping a few off the planet is NOT going to ensure we survive as a species

          It's not going to happen except for a few hardy explorers.

          We're all going to have to learn to make Planet Earth work or die-out in the attempt.

          1. Rattus Rattus

            Enough to make a difference

            Sure it will! All we really need to have off-planet is a few thousand individuals to form a minimum viable population. With a bit of research and investment we'll easily be able to launch a lot more than that. Natural human urges will take care of the rest. It probably wouldn't be that many generations before there would be more space-born than Earth-born.

            As for the "lifestyle" you describe - again, with research and investment it can be a lot more pleasant than that. And even if it wasn't, I'm still happy to put my hand up right now if they'd take me and I don't think it'll be hard to find enough volunteers. The biggest hurdle is simply the money which, as I said, we're currently wasting in huge amounts on pointless crap.

            The sooner we start, the sooner we can make it comfortable, safe, and routine.

          2. Rattus Rattus

            I forgot

            Also, AC, I do want to say I agree with you whole-heartedly that we need to learn how make society work right here on Earth too. That's not in doubt. In fact, spin-off from the research required to begin to make life viable in space will help vastly in that regard. Energy research and resource recycling (including gases, biowaste and even "waste" energy) will be particularly important in this regard, as will the psychological and sociological work required to let large numbers of humans live in constructed environments without killing each other.

            I want to see, eventually, multiple population centres of humans in this solar system, all at peace with one another and working together for the good of our species. I just don't want to see us remaining restricted to only the one world, and the longer it takes us to begin this kind of work the less likely it is that we'll survive that long.

        2. No, I will not fix your computer

          @Rattus x2

          >>We need to go into space, for resources and lebensraum

          Spiritual and racial nationalist expansion? wasn't it also the ideology behind Hitler's Operation Barbarossa? what a nasty little racist you are.

          >>Seen any dinosaurs around lately?

          Birds? Crocodlles? it's called evolution my friend, building multiple submerged, earhquake proof, nuclear powered biospeheres on earth is more practical would allow us to survive pretty much anything, we'd get a damn sight more people safe on earth than off (even hollywood bows to this in the 2012 film), and if you're suggesting something big enough to destroy the earth rather than just block the sun out then you'd need to be out of the solar system too (that is not going to happen, unless we discover a stargate!).

          >>Food production is not a problem

          Hahahahahahahahaha! food production today is not a problem for those that have it? OK, think water, think nitrates if you genuninly think that "we already produce far more food than is needed by the world's population" is all there is to it, think again, think sustainability.

          >>we weren't pissing away money on stupid shit, like pulling banks out of the hole they dug for themselves

          "The Banks"? it's your fault (and mine) for wanting something we don't have, that's a mortgage and an above avergage salary, "The Banks" are symptoms of society, the democratic pyramind sale of capitalism, the banks HAVE to crash occasionally because those that use banks greed them into it, the people that run banks do what the public need, take some responsibility for yourself man, (more) ethically sound banks (the the COOP in the UK) aren't popular because they don't make as much money and cost you a bit more (ethics aren't cheap).

          >>fighting a war that should never have been started.

          The US needs to maintain the oil supply, it's overdrawn and bancrupt, it had no choice, it had to start the war, "bringing democracy to the middle east" is a big fat lie, they had democracy until a UK/US funded coup ended it in the 50's.

          I offer you a big fat FAIL, you can accept (at least some of) the things I have said have a valid basis and try to think for yourself (in which case I'll take the FAIL back) or you can accept the FAIL written on your forehead (backwards, 'coz you wrote it in a mirror).

      2. Mike Flugennock

        re: sounds good

        "...where are we going to go? we have never found anywhere else to live, the closest (other) star is 4.2 light years away, the closest earthlike planet found so far is over 20 light years away, mars is about 0.00000075 light years away (25 million times closer), so lets pretend we would take three months to get to mars (nothing we have is that fast yet) to go 20 light years at the same speed would take six million years, you probably want to take a book to read..."

        One word: terraforming.

  8. Tom 13

    POTUS got bit, spins media types

    POTUS hates the space program because it detracts from his personal mission of redistributing wealth. Just like Libs really hated the space program back in the 60's but had to be cautious about criticizing it because Kennedy proposed it. This is just spin to kill the American space program.

    Oddly enough, I actually prefer the concept of using more private industry for space over the continuation of government only programs. But he provided no road map. And while you can debate the relative merits of near-earth vs. geosynchronous construction stations vs Moon landings/construction site work, you need some platform near the Earth to build the Mars rocket. Personally I'd probably opt for near earth with some manned missions to the moon launching from there (testing of Mars equipment processes plus science research on the moon), but cases can be made for the others as well. That POTUS made none of these cases is the biggest indicator his speech is smoke and mirrors intended to fool the rubes.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Poverty, Defence, Space

    TimNevins - 39.8 million residents last year lived below the poverty line

    The high cost of energy is killing the poor. Allow the market to drill everyhere and drill now - this is the only short term solution to bring down the cost of energy. Government to tax after (on low cost energy) and shift funding to alternative energy could start a transistion. POTUS can't figure out that there is no capital to make jobs for the poor or for investment in alternative energy when capital is traveling out of the United States. Obama is a stupid and impotent potus.

    Martin - look into priorities in the US, then you might start looking at the multi-trillion defence budget.

    If defence budget just evaporates, Obama is still running a budget defecit. Defence is the only explicit obligation of the United States federal government - yet Obama borrows from China for voter bribing programs while helping to keep them uneployed??? His wife was proud of the US for the first time when her husband was getting elected. Obama know what he is doing, Communist ACORNy Obama is driving the US to self destruction with the help of Communist China, the same way the Communists drove the USSR dissolution. Obama is just a puppet.

    Daniel Harris 1 - Should try making it to the moon again

    That would make sense. Moon, Mars, Asteroids. Close & Big with gravity first, small and without gravity later. If 50 year old technology could make it to the moon, there is no reason why we have to wait 2 more decades to get back. No one ever accused US potus Obama of making sense.

    The Federal Government of the United States should concentrate on what the private sector can not do (national defence, space travel) and leave the rest of the world wide economy (energy, jobs) alone. All the dumb ACORNy US voters do was screw up the global economy, when the election of a Communist/Fasist to the POTUS was clear.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      You do remember...

      ... that the economy was wrecked on Bush's watch, thanks largely to policies introduced by Clinton and reinforced by Bush that forced Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to lend money to people who couldn't pay it back.

      By the way, small and without gravity is largely easier than large and with it. It takes an enormous amount of fuel to escape the gravity well of something like the Earth or Mars. Taking all that fuel to Mars and bringing it back will be extremely difficult, doing a similar thing on an object with a tiny gravity well is much easier - even if it is harder to target that object because it is moving quickly.

  10. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Baby Steps along the Total Information Awareness Freeway.

    Do you not realise that Mars Exploration is an Advanced Intelligence Allegory. ....... for Virtual Machinery Turing Trips ....... delivering ESPecial Commanding Control Programs and Astute Remote Power Protocols?

    Sign on for that Expeditionary Journey and you are automatically a Leading Force Earth SourcedD.

  11. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Space is for robots now.

    Having said that, there are asteroids near to Earth. Occasionally one even hits us.

    What we found on the Moon is that it is made of Earth-rock, supporting a theory that its origin is from a planet about the size of Mars, named Theia for mythological reasons, colliding with let's say Earth 1.0, and bouncing a load of material up into space where it coalesced into a particularly large Moon. Meanwhile Earth 1.1 is a sort of compound of Earth 1.0 plus Theia. Theia may have originated as a Trojan companion sharing Earth's orbit, which apparently is a stable arrangement unless the smaller companion gets to be more than 10 per cent the mass of the larger, then watch out.

    This implies that most of what you find on the Moon you can find on the Earth anyway, except maybe for oher space stuff that hit the Moon later and grot preserved, whereas stuff that hits the Earth gets cooked in the atmosphere and then probably dissolves next time it rains, if it doesn't just land in the sea. However, stuff that hits the Moon usually hits hard enough all at once to be disintegrated anyway. And there's like nothing there that we can actually use.

    So, we could send some more robots to the moon, but otherwise, meh.

  12. TeeCee Gold badge

    "And I expect to be around to see it."

    Yes, but by then it won't be him paying for it.

    Which is the whole point. The only way this is going to mean anything is if someone shoots him. That seems to be the only way for a US President to oblige his successors to fund his grandiose project visions.

    1. Mike Flugennock

      re: "And I expect to be around to see it"

      "...The only way this is going to mean anything is if someone shoots him. That seems to be the only way for a US President to oblige his successors to fund his grandiose project visions..."

      Nahh, still wouldn't happen. From all accounts, the speech sucked, not exactly your Rice University "We Choose To Go To The Moon" speech (and I'm just barely old enough to remember that one).

      Not that I'm not behind the idea of shooting politicians, mind you.

  13. Intellect

    Reality check

    Manned space exploration is a hoax and POTUS knows it. He knuckled to the political winds and a bunch of aging astronauts, one of whom told me "they never gave a parade for a robot". The spectacular success of Spirit and Opportunity tell us most of what we need to know about Mars including that there is no reason to pay for and risk humans to go there and see the same thing. Short of repealing the laws of physics we are not going to leave our solar system, so face it and get on with unmanned probe exploration. For that matter you can stop all the junk science on the ISS and start using it for the only commercially viable purpose, a tourist destination for the ultrarich.

  14. Tom Fleming

    Many ulterior agendas here...

    Unless someone wants to argue that the species needs to get back to the Moon, then we have no arguments there. It is nonsensical to build Moon bases to stage towards Mars. Space stations make far more sense. I can't tell if the Cognoscenti believe that we should use an asteroid instead of a space station, though.

    Interplanetary rockets are clearly a decade away from any 'build phase'. I agree that spending NASA's scarce resources on heavy lift with current technology is unwise. Sorry about the job-losses, though.

    Privatizing LEO space lifts is an interesting gamble. Since it is the path, let the competition begin!

  15. A B 3

    3 is plenty

    Why were they trying to jam 5 astronauts into a moon capsule? Every kilo makes a difference. If rocket engines have gotten only 30% more efficient then 30% more weight should only be added.

    Also they should concentrate on making everything modular easy to assemble in orbit. Let the Astronauts travel in comfort.

    1. Mike Flugennock

      aauuggghhh, man...

      I think the biggest goddamn' mistake the previous NASA Administrator made was describing the Orion crew module as "Apollo on steroids", that friggin' idiot.

      The only thing Apollo-like about the Orion capsule was its shape, a quite common shape used before for unmanned spacecraft, a simple, aerodynamically-efficient shape suited to both acceleration out of the atmosphere and to atmospheric re-entry. Everything else about it was brand-new, and it was designed to fit a crew of five quite comfortably as it would've been much larger than the old Apollo CM.

  16. John 104

    No one cares more about the space program than me

    What a blow hard.

    Signed - me. a disgruntled US citizen.

  17. Eddy Ito

    Plenty of unknown right here

    I'm thinking you Brits have the right idea with the Cayman Trough expedition. Sure the whole "to the stars" rhetoric sounds fanciful and dreamy but on the practical scale, it's doubtful we'll ever become some other planets "E.T." Although I'm sure it will make a nice movie one day.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Who the hell is he kidding?

    Before yesterday's "big" announcement we heard that Florida stood to lose 9000 jobs. Now Obama comes in trumpeting that he's creating 2500 jobs.

    Isn't that still a net loss of 6500 jobs?

  19. gimbal
    Thumb Down

    I dunno....

    Approaches of dramatic overachievement, in light of the brutal necessities of long-duration space exploration, will probably *not* go well in hand, together. I mean, shall we have Rosanne Barr design us a proper human-payload-carrying Martian LEM then?

  20. Anonymous Coward

    While I agree that we have to leave earth

    Chemical rockets simply aren't going to get it done. Until we have a cheap way to get to low earth orbit, our "colonists" into space would find themselves severely outnumbered and in danger of getthing their butts kicked by the passengers and crew of the 17th century Mayflower that landed the Puritan pilgrims at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts.

    Thats not a practical way off the planet, that is a lifeboat.

  21. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    When you know 6500@$125000 PA* minimum

    You know why getting 1Kg to LEO costs so damm much.

    In contrast it takes *roughly* 450 staff to get an airliner ready for its next flight.

    Operating cost for an airliner is roughly 3x the cost of fuel. For the shuttle that is roughly $14m.

    It's been known for *decades* the #1 cost of space flight is this "Standing army."

    They got to go.

  22. Ammaross Danan


    We've done well with robot explorers, and I believe that is always the best "first encounter" with new environments. However, a human on mars could do more than a robot (at least the ones currently designed) could. For one, get unstuck. Perhaps clean/empty a testing container (soil sampler currently has only 6(?) testing chambers).

    Of course, while we're still squabbling over who has to foot the bill for exploration and scientific progress, progress will be slow indeed. Just think of the progress that would be made if we knew, 100%, that a rock would smash Earth in 30 years. I guarantee one of two things would happen: 1) We invent/build some tech that will blow up/push the rock, regardless of global cost (yes, a global effort. funny huh?) or 2) the very wealthy would pool their money to life-boat themselves off until it is safe. (yes, I know, it sounds awefully 2012ish, but which is most probable?)

    I for one vote for the original plan. Heavy lifters to get the crap up in the debris field known as LEO, construct the ship there, then ferry our happy, curious selves to wherever our propulsion can get us. Perhaps we'll have something akin to warp drives by the time those in charge finally figure it out. (I'll let you figure out which is more likely to happen first)

    1. Mike Flugennock

      Human vs. robot

      "We've done well with robot explorers, and I believe that is always the best "first encounter" with new environments. However, a human on mars could do more than a robot (at least the ones currently designed) could. For one, get unstuck..."

      ...and, for another, no matter how excellent the quality of images and data returned, the MER rovers can't pause from their work, take a look at the scenery around them and sigh, "Magnificent desolation".

      Robots can do a lot, but they can't have experiences. That's a part of manned space exploration that's a lot more valuable than a lot of people think.

  23. Craig 28


    I wonder if it might be possible to snag asteroids going by for resources, rather than having to lift them from Earth. Don't know how the maths stacks up though.

    As to eggs in one basket that's exactly the point, we don't just need to have people up there we need to establish infrastructure. That can't happen until we have explored and developed the technology of spaceflight, so the sooner they stop sodding around in LEO the better for humanity as a whole. It'll take a long time and there will always be something "more urgent" down here so stop putting it off.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      @Craig 28

      "I wonder if it might be possible to snag asteroids going by for resources, rather than having to lift them from Earth. Don't know how the maths stacks up though."

      You need to look at "Near Earth Objects," or "Rosetta" mission, IE asteroids whose orbit periodically come somewhere close to Earth.

      What you would get depends on the makeup of the object. that could range from minerals in extractable quantities to hydrocarbons and other organic material which might be able to top up a life support system.

      To be of any use you have to dock you vehicle with the object then either process it or get it into an orbit with Earth. Ideas include solar sails, ion drives or a mass driver using some of its mass to make the orbit change. JPL know a lot about orbital mechanics and orbit change maneuvers using gravity and aerobraking.

      Possible in theory. Interesting mission to try. Commercially viable?

  24. Ben 42


    I take it there was no point in Columbus making his voyage then, as it was well known that all he was going to do was fall off the edge of the world and there was nothing out there for him to find but sea monsters. I mean who would want to go exploring on the off chance that you might find something you don't expect?

    I feel sorry for the people so bereft of imagination and curiosity who feel that way. Apparently someone forgot to inform me when our understanding of the universe became so complete that there was nothing useful left to learn.

    1. Chemist

      Re : Sorry

      It wasn't KNOWN he would fall off the edge it was just a conjecture by mainly uneducated people . They had no way of looking beyond the horizon - ~4 miles at sea-level. In any case since classical times there was good evidence the world was spherical. (Aristotle 330 BC). Columbus was aiming to sail round the world to the east. I'm sure he was expecting problems but falling off the edge wasn't one of them.

      In any case most seamen would know that a ship, mountain, tower appeared to drop below the horizon within a short distance but could reappear again.

      On the other hand large amounts of money and effort have been spent mapping the universe so we have a good idea of what's out there. I'm sure there are many things waiting to be discovered. Doesn't mean we will ever have the means to try.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Columbus's voyage was quite the opposite

      The voyage that "discovered" America (first European public disclosure anyway; probably the Norse & Basque knew of it) was a commercially backed venture to find a quicker/cheaper route to the trading riches of the "Indies". Everyone knew perfectly well that the world was round by then, but Columbus thought it was rather smaller than it is and hence going the opposite way would be a splendid shortcut. Happily enough for him he bumped into something just as valuable when only 1/3 of the way...

      So note the dissimilarity: Columbus was trying to find a cheaper way to provide control and exploitation of something well known to have huge immediate value, with Queen Isabella backing him for solid economic reasons and imagination & curiosity hardly in sight. Manned exploration of space? Nobody has any idea how to make a return on that - orbital space tourism merely weakens a catastrophic loss to an appalling one (when considering the total space investment: as with Concorde if you eliminate all preceding costs then it almost makes sense)

      Which I think is a real shame - I'd *love* to go into space. But robot probes make sense until something transformative (eg limitless energy supply and/or warp drive) arrives - just look at what Spirit & Cassini have achieved...

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


        "orbital space tourism merely weakens a catastrophic loss to an appalling one "

        The market for which NASA denied even the existence of for several decades.

        I imagine it's possible to prove that when the *total* cost of *any* major development is factored in no *one* has *ever* made a profit on the deal.

        Warren Buffet once said of airline stocks that given how much they have lost investors over the years for what they cost if he had a time machine he would have shot down the Wright Flyer on takeoff.

        So what. That's why *serious* investors perform due diligence. That did not stop VC's loosing c$950m on Kistler ( Handy hint. If you want to deliver a viable launch vehicle on time and budget *don't* hire ex-NASA managers with *no* practical experience)

        Please note that *most* of SpaceX's development work has been on Elon Musk's dime and the Virgin Galactic operation is not looking at *any* US or other government funding. Yes I am aware VG is sub-orbital, but it seems to making substantial progress.

        "Which I think is a real shame - I'd *love* to go into space. "

        Get $200k together and book a ticket. Or do you mean into *orbit* which will be more expensive.

    3. No, I will not fix your computer

      Re: Sorry

      >>I take it there was no point in Columbus making his voyage then

      Well, it wan't too good for the Native Americans, the Vikings were been there before (a colony in what became canada).

      >>as it was well known that all he was going to do was fall off the edge of the world and there was nothing out there for him to find but sea monsters

      Most educated european people believed the earth was round the the 15th century.

      >>I feel sorry for the people so bereft of imagination and curiosity who feel that way.

      Unmanned space exploration: good, manned space exploration: bad, lets go further with more things for less money.

      >>Apparently someone forgot to inform me when our understanding of the universe became so complete that there was nothing useful left to learn

      You are being sucked up with the propaganda, that's all, if you wanted to learn guitar and had a choice between a £3000 1975 Gibson sunburst or a £100 Squire strat and professional guitar lessons for three years, your heart would shout Gibson! but your head would say Squire, you end up either playing like a pro or "all the gear and no idea", which is the better idea? think about it, that's all I ask (that said, I've had my Squire for three years and I'm still crap on it).

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anonymous coward

    Everyone here is so negative about something actually exciting i'm going anon. This is great i 100% support it. Space travel is something that ignites passion in people like you wouldn't believe. It is the focus of human achievement I honestly think it will motivate a generation, again. What have young people got to look forward to without this program? Slowly improving electronic tech.. great..... Green energy...?

    1. Chemist

      Re : Anonymous coward →

      It might seem negative but reality can be like that. You might like to step out of the window and float but I'm not being negative when I say that (unaided) it's not ever going to happen.

      There are plenty of immense challenges for people to get engaged with and focus effort on - space exploration is just a side-show.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: Anonymous Coward

      "What have young people got to look forward to without this program? Slowly improving electronic tech.. great..... Green energy...?"

      Well, if the less lunatic of the current predictions for when oil runs out are true then there might not be enough to get us to Mars in 2035 unless we have some other kind of fuel source... green energy, maybe. How to power a rocket with a battery might be a tricky problem to solve though!

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Great idea

    Can we send Barack Hussein Obama and his band of Alinskyites on a one-way rocket trip to Mars? Please? Please?

    1. Solomon Grundy

      What? Really?

      Is there a valid reason for your silly comment or are you just rattling off something based on sound bites and Google headlines?

      How is this comment even possible? The Reg has a pretty good track record of refusing comments that get too far from the point. What's up with this one?

  27. M Gale

    The moon...

    ..allegedly has water on it.

    And various minerals.

    Enough, presumably, to mock up some kind of power generation. Solar maybe.

    Water plus electricity = hydrogen and oxygen. If you're looking for an incredibly potent rocket fuel, you couldn't ask for much better.

    This is why hitting the Moon first (preferably not too hard) is a damned good idea. Automated fuel production facility? No environment to ruin while making said fuel? Yes please.

  28. AndrewG

    Same As usual then

    Its just more of the usual political rubbish. Cancel Ares with a claim of "we need new technology" and then hand 6 Billion in pork over to an aerospace industry that never seems to have to actually produce something that works- Actually 6 billion would just about keep the ISS up until 2025 and pay for crewing so maybe not that much pork, just enough to look like the whole program isn't collapsing.

    Make broad statements about targets with no roadmaps and no conceivable way of doing it (At least his predecessor had at least some sort of idea about what he wanted)

    Everyone wants a space program, no-one wants to pay for it, which is the kind of thinking that turned NASA into the third world bus company it is today. Want to feel good about your country claiming Mars...take Chinese citizenship now

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Politically popular...

    "Obama: We're off to Mars"

    From what I'm seeing every day, about 50 percent of US voters would consider that a good start. (Out of the Solar System altogether would suit them even better).

  30. Mike Flugennock

    I've been to the circus...

    ...and I know a trick when I see one.

    This sonofabitch wants to privatize NASA, plain and simple. No goddamn' wonder Elon Musk's nipples are exploding with delight.

    Just you wait; in terms of spacefaring nations, the USA is going to wind up being the Portugal of the 21st Century, and more's the pity.

  31. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    @chemist, not, I will not fix your computer et al


    I was just responding to the the AC@14:29 comment about it taking just over 4 years. It was just a little though experiment. Essentially however long it really took you it would not be just over 4 years to get there. Any vessel ( or ideally multiple vessels) would be truly *alone*.

    Energy requirements were not part of the problem. On the subject you might like to check how much the Sun puts out in Watts. I'd guess a light collecting shell could generate enough power to accelerate a substantial vehicle to a large fraction of c. Not perfect (plenty of gaps) reasonable efficiency (15% overall?). Nothing fantastic. Just modern known energineering on a very large scale.

    My closing question "The question is if you did would *anyone* you left behind still be there when you came back" is because the odds on bet would be that the round trip at a more *realistic* speed would be close to the length of a human lifetime. There would be *no* one to come home to.

    FWIW my gut feeling says we are a *long* way from having the lowest cost chemical launcher to reach orbit, a *long* way from the fastest inter planetary space vehicle and a *long* way from what we could achieve in interstellar flight (I was most impressed seeing a modern heart/lung bypass with the patient drained of blood and *zero* brain activity warming up then "waking up" afterward)

    We are nowhere *near* the top of any of those curves.

    Historical note. During the founding of NASA a book was in circulation within the agency which discussed the historical idea of a frontier and societies need for such a place (IIRC it was with particular reference to the Wilson and Clarke explorations of the continental US). NASA histories allude to it and indicate that there was something of a sense of "Manifest destiny" about America's sending people into space to extend and ultimately colonise.

    This may sound very politically suspect, but it has been mentioned in various NASA histories of the early space programmes. Finding some of the motivations distasteful does not change them from having those views. Ignoring them and their context is revisionism of the worst sort.

    1. Chemist

      Re : @chemist, not, I will not fix your computer et al

      "Energy requirements were not part of the problem"

      Can't let that go - you can't claim time dilation at 99% c without considering the energy!

      The sun is not relevant - the energy at earth orbit is ~1400 W/m^2 so the collector would be enormous. To accelerate to 10% light at 1G would take ~1 year by which time the sun would be a dot. and you'd still have 40 years to go. + deceleration.

  32. John Smith 19 Gold badge


    Please accept my apologies for not expressing myself more clearly. I meant a Dyson sphere, with the shell *around* the Sun. My copy of the AIP Handbook lists the light output of the Sun as 4x10^26 W. let me emphasis the "on a *very* large scale" bit again.

    To get a feel for the power involved I assume a Solar thermal systems (no band gap absorption issues) can easily manage 20% conversion (reasonable for systems already built in Spain and the US) and microwave conversion at of 85% efficiency from solar power satellite studies gives a 17% overall efficiency. But for real BOTE security lets assume we can get at *most* 1/1000 of that. giving 6.8x 10^22 W. Microwave to electrical conversion on board looses us another 15% so we're left with 5.78x10^22 W (unless you fancy a microwave driven solar sail). Assuming c=2.9979250 x10^8 ms^-1 and g (Little g, Earth surface gravity at the equator) of 9.78ms^-1 it would take 355days to get to light speed (*presuming* you have enough energy to continue accelerating as your mass increased and I have not factored in the reduction in acceleration rate due to mass increase). What do you expect the mass growth to be?

    How *big* an object you could accelerate would depend on mass growth as the objects accelerated. I ran this calculation to see how much power a serious civilization could muster even if the you did *not* have fusion. Personally I still like the Bussard ram jet.

    One interesting side effect of this acceleration (or is it?) if *observable* mass of the object increases at what point (if any) *could* you expect to detect gravity waves?

    I've often wondered why G wave detectors have not been set up in different alignments with a large storage ring. I get that G waves are *very* low energy but these devices seem so sensitive (and source so close) that it's hard to believe they would not detect *some* kind of *cyclic* variation as the particles in the ring sped up and slowed down. AFAIK minute effects which have been made cyclic are ideal candidates for lock-in detection.

    Disclaimer. I'm not a rocket scientist, or indeed any kind of scientist. I have a background knowledge of physics and some other subjects and a lifetime's noseyness.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Go Mars

    We are all fed up of eating cheese but mars - now you are talking. I'll take choc over cheese any day.

  34. phil8192

    Typical Obama Lies

    Announce big plans while simultaneously sabotaging the means to carry out those plans. When will people learn that every time Obama opens his mouth, a toxic, foul-smelling gas comes out?

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