NASA has long said it would be able to send a manned mission to Mars, sometime during the 2030s. Now, in a bombshell announcement, the space agency has admitted it can’t afford the price tag. On July 12, during a propulsion meeting of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics, NASA’s William Gerstenmaier, the agency’s chief of human spaceflight, said the funds just are not there for a mission. “I can’t put a date on humans on Mars, and the reason really is … at the budget levels we described, this roughly 2 percent increase, we don’t have the surface systems available for Mars,” Gerstenmaier said, according to an Ars Technica report. “And that entry, descent and landing is a huge challenge for us for Mars.” NASA could not be reached for additional comment for this story. For the 2017 fiscal year, NASA has a budget of $19.5 billion, a figure that many scientists have cried is inadequate. The proposed total Federal budget for 2018 is $4.1 trillion. For several years, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has derided NASA’s budget. The cost of a manned mission to Mars has varied greatly in recent years. In 2012, the head of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Brent Sherwood, said it could cost approximately $100 billion over 30 or 40 years. Director of the Mars Institute Pascal Lee recently said it could cost up to $1 trillion over 25 years. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has also come up with a cost for a manned mission to Mars. He estimates it would initially cost $10 billion per person to get a colony up and running, but believes the cost could drop to $200,000, according to a paper published by Musk in June 2017. Part of the cost drop could be reusable rockets, something SpaceX and Musk have been working on perfecting. Using private industry may be the way to go for humanity to get to Mars, at least according to some in the Trump administration. Vice President Mike Pence recently said, “American business is on the cutting edge of space technology.” Pence has also spoken at NASA, calling for a return to the Moon, saying, “America will lead in space once again.”
Let’s hope so. But, it certainly won’t happen at the current, pathetic, funding levels. As many of you know, here at The Daily Buzz we’ve been calling for the doubling, if not tripling of our space budgets, both civilian (i.e. NASA) and military (i.e. U.S. Air Force’s Space Command and the U.S. Army’s Space & Missile Defense Command or “SMDC”), since day one. Of course we’re also for consolidating efforts, and using those funds more efficiently, as there is far too much waste in our federal budget. BUT, in order to keep pace with adversarial nations like Russia, and China (which is making tremendous leaps in space), we need to invest in those programs…while also partnering with private U.S.-based companies like United Launch Alliance (ULA), Blue Origin, and SpaceX.