President's Space Initiative Will Have Hefty Price Tag
The White House is
running up the flagpole not only a manned trip to Mars in the next
ten years, but the establishment of a permanent colony on the moon.
One thing that could very well shoot big holes in the bright banner
of space exploration as set forth by the president: Money.
And it looks like President Bush will have to do battle with
conservative members of his own party if his legacy is to include a
renaissance in space exploration. All the way back in October,
Congressman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), warned, "The federal
government has too few resources and too many obligations to give
NASA a blank check. Any vision that assumes massive spending
increases for NASA is doomed to fail."
Even the little sniff of Bush's plan as revealed by sources at
the White House indicate a permanent base on the moon and a manned
flight to Mars would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of a
half-TRILLION dollars. It would also involve a lot of technology
that hasn't been invented yet -- and we're not just talking Tang
A permanent manned
station on the moon would require new types of heavy-lifting
rockets. In the past, such vehicles have been almost the exclusive
domain of the Russians, with the exception of the American-built
NASA would need new orbital vehicles as well.
It would also require technology to house men and women in an
environment that most expressedly forbids humans. Temperatures on
the moon range from 250 above zero to 250 below.
The Mars mission would be even more taxing on our technological
prowess. Not only would NASA have to develop a new vehicle capable
of reaching the Red Planet, but it would also have to come up with
a tried and true Martian lander. And if the year-long journey were
to be worthwhile, humans would have to stay for some length of
Robot ships might have to be sent along with the mission to
ferry supplies from the mothership in orbit to the explorers on the
Martian surface below.
But this is what NASA has been dreaming of for decades --
perhaps since the advent of manned space flight. "Space activities
so far have been largely episodic, when, in fact, the need to
become ... a way of life," said former NASA official Michael