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. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "It's time to stop mucking about and get your ass to Mars. That was the message delivered by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall"

    It was actually "now this is the plan, get your ass to mars" although I would have LOVED to hear the governator saying "mucking about".

    "Vood you stap mack-ing ab-out nd get yo ass tOO mArs"

  2. Buzzword

    Humans > robots?

    What can a human do on Mars that a robot can't? It's safer and far cheaper to send robots, as we have been doing. The only reason to send humans is for PR.

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Re: Humans > robots?

      You should have told that to Columbus. The poor chap had to go all the way to America and all because someone like you forgot to tell him...

      1. Mystic Megabyte

        Re: Humans > robots?


        Yes but there is useful stuff in the Americas and bugger all on Mars, not even any air.

      2. DocJames

        Re: Humans > robots? @Vlad

        Yeah, if only Columbus had sent some robots.

        Admittedly I'd have more respect for the man's intellect, but I'm not sure about the plausibility.

        1. Don Jefe

          Re: Humans > robots? @Vlad

          We don't do weapons system work here, and people think that's because I'm taking moral high ground. The truth is, I'm just saving Karma Points for when we discover intelligent life on another planet. At which time the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria Commerce Class vessels will carry 6,000 Columbus Wage Arbitrator and Labor Management Droids to negotiate preferential terms for the alien labor including free transportation to Earth with guaranteed employment in fabulous Wales, Texas, Afghanistan and whatever resource rich African nations are open for business at that time.

    2. Originone

      Re: Humans > robots?

      A human or humans on Mars with sufficient infrastructure can survive an apocalypse on earth that current robots can't. That's one thing humans can do on Mars that robots can't. They can also test the techniques and technologies required for human survival on Mars in a way that robots can't so that's two things. Oh and you're right about the PR, that's kind of the argument of the report.

    3. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Humans > robots?

      Bump uglies, film it and beam it back for all the fanbois to fap over.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Humans > robots?

      It's the same in orbit too. Manned space programs are extremely expensive, the only justification for sending humans into space seems to be to find what effects spaceflight and zero g has on humans.

      People talk about the scientific benefits of research into vaccines and new alloys produced in zero g. But big pharma companies make billions in profit, spend much of it on research and yet they're not buying seats on Russian rockets at 20 million bucks a go. The astronauts are doing all that 'research' because they're on a space station and need to do something there that looks useful. It would be far cheaper to send robots up to mix a few vaccines and so on, we only use people for this because they're there.

      Much as I confess I am fascinated by spaceflight, the technology, the moon landings, and would be thoroughly excited to see people land on Mars, it's going to cost a shitload of money and there really are better things to spend it on. We don't put switchboard operators in orbit to run communications satellites, we don't really need humans in orbit to grow kidney beans or hatch chicken eggs either.

      1. Chizo Ejindu

        Re: Humans > robots?

        "Much as I confess I am fascinated by spaceflight, the technology, the moon landings, and would be thoroughly excited to see people land on Mars, it's going to cost a shitload of money and there really are better things to spend it on."

        Here's a few choice items from the US Federal Budget for 2013 (in billions of dollars)

        Department of Defense including Overseas Contingency Operations: 672.9

        Department of Homeland Security: 55.4

        National Intelligence Program: 52.6

        NASA: 17.8

        As you say, better things to spend it on.

        1. tom dial Silver badge

          Re: Humans > robots?

          But if the future is similar to the past, there will be no money left for NASA from any "peace dividend". Between 105% and 110% will be allocated to visible things to induce votes for incumbents. Martians, if any, do not vote in US elections. NASA, its dependents, and its employees and their dependents are few enough and scattered enough to be given low priority.

      2. Don Jefe

        Re: Humans > robots?

        We put Humans in space for the same reasons we put toilets on ships, seats in airplanes and windows in passenger rail cars. Everything begins, and ends, with Humans; that's Introduction to Engineering 101.

        Sending robots isn't exploration, that's an automated study and can never provide information beyond what the study was designed to deliver (assuming its a well designed study). The Humans are there to make observations about things other than the studies. Little things like 'holy fuck, it's really, really stupid to build inter module connectors that are too small for a person to turn around in' or 'ratcheting tools are prone to seizing if left unused in microgravity environments too long'.

        Things we take for granted here all have to be reassessed before we ever get very far from Earth, and the number of everyday things we take for granted is stunningly large. Every single day Humans spend in space provides the basis for studies done here that improve things here and in space as well.

        In truth, there's zero requirement for justifying any of it. Humans explore and expand their realm and knowledge. That's what they do. Trying to stop it is not only pointless, it creates situations where those who are willing to go, just for the sake of going, are rewarded with knowledge and treasure that allows them to completely alter the balance of power. For example, the British Empire would never have lost control of their American colonies if they had been willing to send meaningful representatives of the Crown beyond the established towns. They feared the costs, the environment and the natives so much that by the time Crown officials felt they could travel safely they were traveling in occupied territory they couldn't even begin to control, they simply didn't understand how that environment worked.

        Fighting Human nature is naught but fruitless and expensive folly. If one person doesn't do something,

        another will and they'll reap the benefits. You can't put a price tag on that. Those who attempt to do so have reached the limits of their value. If they can't see beyond today then cut them off from the future and let them wallow in some underdeveloped wasteland of superstition, bigotry and poverty: Send them to Texas, we don't need them here.

        1. hplasm
          Thumb Up

          Re: Humans > robots?

          " Everything begins, and ends, with Humans"

          This. Exactly.

          If we don't go into space, what the hell is the point of us as a race?

      3. John 110

        Re: Humans > robots?

        Hands up anyone that thinks that we might need the expertise to live in a less-than-human-friendly environment one day (possibly soon).

        You at the back! Is your hand up or what?

        1. Don Jefe

          Re: Humans > robots?

          Or send less than friendly Humans to their own less than friendly environment. There's precedent, we can call it New Australia. Presumably they'd eventually turn it into a neat place full of interesting people and, presumably, that's where we would also discover the first forms of hostile alien life. Just like happened here :)

        2. Gannon (J.) Dick

          Re: Humans > robots?

          Mars: it's just like London (was) before the invention of umbrellas and liquor.

    5. Captain DaFt

      Re: Humans > robots?

      "What can a human do on Mars that a robot can't?"

      assess and adapt to new information on the fly make immediate decisions when faced with unexpected situations and adapt accordingly.

      Also, the probes we've sent to Mars have done amazing work over the decades, but a human crew could have done a similar amount of work in months.

    6. Gav

      Re: Humans > robots?

      "What can a human do on Mars that a robot can't?"

      Move faster than 0.18 km/h.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Humans > robots?

        "Move faster than 0.18 km/h."

        Given Opportunity's budget, I very much doubt whether you could put a man on Mars in any condition other than dead, so your >0.18km/h is looking suspect.

        Conversely, given the budget discussed by this report, you could put a legion of powerful and mobile robots all over the Martian surface and probably a number of interesting places underneath it.

        But hey, if the US wants to splash the cash on vanity projects whilst other countries zoom ahead with actual exploration, I'm sure the other countries won't mind.

    7. tom dial Silver badge

      What can a human do on Mars that a robot can't? (was Humans > robots?)


      The Earth-Mars communication time round trip is more than 6 minutes, a bit much for remote control.

  3. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Well, NASA

    You heard them. Go on, now. Chop-chop!

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Of course

    They won't plan a manned mission to Mars...

    It's waaaaayyy more important to spy on each other and kill one another...

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Of course

      Plan it, schmamet, Janet.

      1. A Twig

        Re: Of course

        Oh Brad, oh Janet...

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Of course

          "What's it like up there?"

          "Oh, Rocky!"

  5. Don Jefe


    'The technical analysis completed for this study'... What? Why the hell did they need to do a technical analysis for the grand conclusion that Mars is as far away as we can possibly send Humans (if we want them back alive).

    I get that 'Research' is right there in the name, but Christ. It's not like they were going to stumble upon some fabulous new warp propulsion system somebody forgot to mention. Proven space exploration technology hasn't moved in quite a while and it sure as shit won't be the NRC that brings us the news when something exciting does happen. They should do an analysis of their analysis policies.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: What

      Tenured navel gazing in a cul-de-sac?

      This is not how the future was meant to look like when I was reading Neuromancer!!

  6. Moosh
    Paris Hilton

    I understand a huge issue is cost; but wouldn't setting up a workable base of operations on the moon be a much better first step to anything mars related than what we have currently?

    Yes, we have the ISS, but an actual moon base would surely help out? We could work to perfect our off-world lodgings and work out the things we need in a much safer environent much closer to earth. Granted there's no atmosphere and it doesn't have the same dangers as mars, but its a start, and better than us only finding out how good our stuff is when we actually get to the planet.

    I know we've already been there, but I'm pretty sure a MOON BASE would be something people could get behind. After all, we've been seeing them in movies for decades.

    1. Don Jefe

      A manned lunar base is a territory war waiting to happen and nobody wants that. Contrary to popular belief, the US and the USSR did agree on quite a few things during the Cold War, and one of them was that occupying the moon is a stellar clusterfuck of a thing waiting to happen.

      No country can sit idly by as a foreign nation occupies the moon. The big problem, identified in the 1950's, is still the same as today: You don't stop space programs in space. It doesn't make any sense to fight battles in space with exotic weapons and technology when you can stop the entire exercise with a missile full of good ole fashioned high explosive. Launch facilities are just ridiculously fragile. A single missile can disable a multibillion dollar investment and is guaranteed to start a multibillion dollar war. Nobody wants that, even the real policy nutjobs don't want that. There's just no point.

      There's no point, largely because there is a fabulous store of valuable resources and strategic value that's a lot closer. Antarctica contains more mineral wealth, by itself, than Humans have used in the entire history of the species. Plus whoever holds Antarctica sits on top of the Earth and can control every single aspect of modern commercial logistics. You can't move anything much larger than a breadbox without sailing within reach of military assets in Antarctica. Since so much policy is driven by spendthrift numpties these days they'll never aim for the moon when there's a lot more wealth in Antarctica just waiting to be thawed out.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge

        The big problem, identified in the 1950's, is still the same as today: You don't stop space programs in space

        And the other thing, learnt aeons ago is: He who occupies the high ground gains a big advantage.

        At least Mars is far enough away that it probably can't be considered to be 'higher ground'. But the moon is a pretty good place to stand if you want to throw things at an Earth bound enemy.

        1. Don Jefe

          The Human occupation of Mars will dramatically change the strategic nature of Luna. You can have a proper war if the other side actually has somewhere else to go and a thing in the middle for everybody to fight about.

          At that point people on Mars will begin to differentiate between themselves and the 'Terran's' on Earth. Long before the shooting starts a war of ideas and ideals (Ha! The Ides of Mars) will be taking place where the concepts of Wealth and Power as a function of Individual Strength are in conflict with Balanced Society and Strength Through Equality. After several years of heated debates the Martians will attempt to arm their cohorts on Luna only to be rebuffed at the last moment. A tense standoff of absolutely no value will go on and on and on and on until the whole thing is a laughingstock. Only the wealthy, Terran military and suspected Martian sympathizers selected for enhanced interrogation will be able to visit Luna but no power will really control it.

          Eventually people will just stop talking about it. Even though you can see the fucking thing when you're flying into Miami Earth, it'll just be some place nobody talks about and everybody wishes wasn't there, but can't get rid of because it'll only rouse the rabble on Mars.

          You know... Maybe we just shouldn't go. I'm not certain we're ready.

          1. Manual Shift

            This was a Greg Bear book, I think.

          2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

            At that point people on Mars will begin to differentiate between themselves and the 'Terran's' on Earth.

            "They" will only do that if they have a self-sustaining, stable, growing economy and industrial base.

            The wherewithal to get THAT going anywhere around Mars orbit is still a LONG way off. Where are those nanites?

      2. IglooDude

        "Plus whoever holds Antarctica sits on top of the Earth and can control every single aspect of modern commercial logistics. You can't move anything much larger than a breadbox without sailing within reach of military assets in Antarctica."

        Exactly! That's why Hitler stationed the Tirpitz in the fjords, to threaten the... wait, what?

        I get that if you can't transit Suez or the Panama Canal, Antarctica would be particularly threatening toward the Cape of Good Hope or even moreso Cape Horn, but... between pipelines, smaller tankers, Arctic polar routes, and the Straits of Malacca, I think you're overstating the case a bit.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Whoever holds Antarctica sits on top of the Earth

          It's because Antarctica is the entry to Hollow Earth.

          And once you manage to make a pact with the Greys and the Nazi Colonists from the Inner Core, all bets are off.

        2. Don Jefe

          Overstating? Hardly.

          I'm not sure you realize how modern shipping works. People have absolutely no idea how many ships are in the oceans. It's a world beyond the knowledge of just about anybody put commercial mariners. The vast majority of everything you own and see around you came via ship and the low, low price of the garbage consumers buy doesn't support small ships and lock fees the same way they used to: Fruits and livestock being the most notable exceptions and boring, stuff like car parts and some high demand cereals that don't have very dynamic markets.

          Everything that involves canals is so out of touch with modern, globalized, logistics. It's a complex, insanely expensive pain in the ass and by the time you pay the fees and gratuities you start getting into the end users wallets. Fast.

          For example. We have a ship carrying a piece of equipment to China later this year. Leaving from Baltimore, MD and going around Cape Horn saved me $1.3m, for a single voyage. That's money in my pocket. I can get four more engineers or pay the fuel and maintenance bill for our plane for all of 2015 with that. I can add another 300 acres to my farm or buy a couple of new cars or offset 80% of what I paid for the bourbon distillery I bought a couple of years ago. $1.3m is a shitload of free money and that's actually what makes the world go around. The logistics for oil and such is calculated 10 years out and is stable. More than 70% of global commerce is done with lots of small(ish) transactions, not the bullshit you see in the news.

          Each of those small(ish) transactions is an adventure of its own and is vastly more complex than just 'shipping stuff'. Continuing with my example, which isn't a fringe experience: There are no ships going through the Panama Canal for the entire quarter that have the equipment I need onboard. It's just a phone call and any number of custom refitters will be more than happy to modify a vessel, but that means I'm not just paying an obscene amount for the labor, I've got to buy or rent (for $4.5k per day) the equipment and I have to do it on their schedule.

          Or just put the equipment on a properly equipped vessel and not have to worry some shoddy refit is going to destroy a $45m piece of equipment that's taken four years to design and build. That same calculation occurs thousands of times everyday, in every country on Earth. Shipping isn't just 'put stuff on a boat'.

          Furthermore, Arctic Polar routes are valuable only because they don't exist, at least not at a financially viable level. If the Canadians and Russians kept useful navigable sea lanes open year round, and did it for free, (which they won't be doing, ever) you still can't send much traffic via Arctic routes simply because it's far too wild for Man to control reliably. Arctic shipping is always going to be a fast paced, load and go effort that's 100% not inline with an industry where waiting months for things to happen is common. Shipping is not 'agile' in any possible sense of the word.

          Southern route shipping is where it's at and that's just going to become more of a factor. Consumers simply won't pay for stuff to go through canals and deal with wonky fees, the vagaries of international diplomacy (ships sitting in Panama for months because Ambassador Soandso wants to make a point to a trade partner) and the crazed restrictions and specialty bullshit (plus no Canadians or Russians).

          You feel free to invest in Arctic shipping. I'll send you some fine Chilean coffee beans to warm you up while you're freezing your ass off waiting on God or Tim Horton to get your ship free :)

      3. OrsonX

        re:a territory war waiting to happen

        The answer was on the calling card "We came in peace for all mankind".

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Black Helicopters

      I know we've already been there, but I'm pretty sure a MOON BASE would be something people could get behind.


      I think you'll find there's been a moon base for ages. Unfortunately there was an accident 15 years ago (in 1999) and the base was lost. Actually so was the moon, but there's been a satellite flying round ever since with a big white disk on it to avoid panic.

      Fortunately that wasn't in the files that Edward Snowden had access to, so the public have never found out.

      Ooops! How do I delete this thing! What's that noise? That helicopter sounds really loud. Almost like it's hovering overh...




  7. Measurer

    'So what's getting in the way of landing the stars and stripes on another planet? It's the economy, stupid.'

    No, as Elon Musk is proving, its the leaches who see the NASA budget as a gravy train.

    1. Chizo Ejindu

      "No, as Elon Musk is proving, its the leaches who see the NASA budget as a gravy train."

      Interesting point you make, I assume you have some citations you can link to to show how these "leeches" are using the NASA budget?

      Also what Elon Musk is proving is that it is commercially viable to haul cargo into orbit. Do you think commercial viability has anything to do with going to Mars? There is not a company on earth that would bankroll such a massively expensive propostion without a CAST IRON guarantee of substantial profit in the medium term at most.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Actually, it's not the NASA budget, it's the DOD/NSA budget for spysats, which is a far larger gravy train.

        Look at what Boeing/ULA are charging for Atlas V launches, look at how much SpaceX says they can launch for, and look at how hard Boeing/ULA are fighting to keep SpaceX out of the USAF bidding because they know he can do it too.

        Elon Musk proved that it is commercially viable to haul cargo into orbit, when all the conventional wisdom said it would never ever be cost-effective, and that everyone would have to suck gov't funding teats forever.

        He's also doing the first original research into basic rocket technology in 40 years. Everyone has talked about booster recovery since Apollo, but no one has ever done the smallest effort toward it, other than possibly DC-X.

        So when he says "Hey, I want to go to Mars, and I think I can afford it" I tend to think he has a chance.

  8. MrXavia

    I still think Russia, ESA & China should team up on manned moon/mars missions, the bulk of the space station was not built by NASA it was Russia and the ESA......

  9. William Hinshaw

    Moon base first

    I would think that it would be much easier to launch from the moon wouldn't it? Send and or build modules on the moon, (hey make use of the He3 there too) then send them off to Mars. You could build a much larger better supported system at a moon base. Hell we really should just make use of the moon for resources anyway and what better way than to further the human plague by going to the moon and then to Mars?

    1. Martin Budden Silver badge

      Re: Moon base first

      Maybe that is one of the "baby steps" they talk about:

      NASA is urged to take baby steps towards the "horizon goal" by setting out a series of missions and accomplishments which would eventually lead to human boots on the Martian surface.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Moon base first

        That obsession with "boots on the ground".

        It's practically Freudian, polymorphically perverse.

  10. Gannon (J.) Dick


    Could it possibly be that the business of Travel can not be monetized incrementally ?

    Columbus and NASA have more common methods than they would care to admit. Columbus sailed west and stopped at the nearest beach to ask directions. The Chinese or Vikings may have suggested that approach. NASA went to within an inch of the Moon and crash landed. They are hoping to serialize the navigation failure with other celestial bodies.

    Meanwhile, the Titanic hit a floating rock and sunk. Who knew rocks float ? Now you know why cynics say "Basic Research is what you do when you don't know what you are doing."

  11. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Stupid kids saying stupid things

    Also, Uncle Sam is in debt to the tune of 21 trillion (or was 120 trillion), growth exponential. Yeah Humans on Mars. That's gonna fix things,

    “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."

    The US has FAILED at human space exploration and the ultra-expensivy gypsy hotel in orbit is not "approaching maturity" unless you count permanently imminent plans for deorbiting as "maturity".

    The only thing that "the US" (more like JPL, amIrite?) has been good at is robotic space exploration. It brings the bacon home. That's want you want. There is no point firing bacon into faraway sandy lands (it might even enrage people of certain religious tendencies).

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Stupid kids saying stupid things

      Unfortunately we stopped any sort of actual exploration the moment the USSR got wobbly. We've made some advances in observation but not exploration.

      If nothing else there's a really strong argument for having ideological wars with enemies who have technology instead of with illiterate subsistence farmers: Terrorists are Bad for Space - Vote Putin.

  12. Chris G


    Having a good incentive to go to Mars is the only way to get the necessary spending approved.

    So I would just like to mention that I have it on good authority there is an Islamic settlement on Mars, they have discovered oil with a projected 500,000 barrels a day production potential. In addition they have developed nuclear and other WMDs, so I think it would be fair to dip into these funds: "Department of Defense including Overseas Contingency Operations: 672.9" .

    I suggest sending John McCain,Victoria Nuland and Hilary Clinton first on a fact finding and opposition funding mission.

  13. DaveyG

    Mr Putin

    Time to show those Americans! Fly to Mars and show the US who is Daddy.

  14. 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


  15. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    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

        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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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

      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.


      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...

  18. OrsonX

    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...


      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?"

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. Wzrd1 Silver badge

    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!


    Cold war done. Who cares.


    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.

  22. 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?

  23. JCitizen

    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.

  24. 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.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mars Direct

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

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