Here’s the question I have pondered a bit this year, for some unknown reason: Why do we care so much about going to Mars and don’t we have plenty of better things to spend billions (with a “B”) of dollars on?
No, this isn’t a rant – just something I don’t honestly understand. I am not a journalist, and not submitting this for publication, but I did do some basic research that I’ll share. Here are some random stats:
- NASA’s 2016 budget is about $19B. Going back to 2006, NASA has spent approximately $211.813B. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budget_of_NASA
- A ballpark cost of the first Mars mission in 2035 would total $230 billion. Second and subsequent missions, occurring at three-year intervals, would cost about $142 billion each including SLS and Orion costs. An expendable lander for the first and subsequent missions is not included in these estimates. (http://spacenews.com/op-ed-mars-for-only-1-5-trillion/)
- We sent nine Apollo crews to the moon (six landed); if we send nine crews to Mars, the total bill would be in the neighborhood of $1.5 trillion. (same article)
- NASA’s annual budget would need to be increased gradually to about $54 billion (in 2015 dollars) per year for the first trip to Mars and to continue at that level to support one mission per three years. That is still less than 1.5 percent of the federal budget. (same article)
- NASA’s human exploration budget is steady at $8 billion annually
- Industry sources offer rough estimates that, using NASA’s current practices, the cost of getting to Mars is likely between $200 billion and $400 billion.
Ok – so I’m not going to torture you with page of statistics, numbers, etc – again, this blog isn’t like to be published. But here is one more picture/statistic:
Lots of thoughts come to mind here, and I’d really enjoy your feedback. And to be clear, I am NOT suggesting that the NASA budget should be $0. But if they want/need to raise it from the current $19B to $54B, that is a 184% increase, if my numbers are correct. And if the $8B in human exploration number ratio stays the same, then out of $54B, NASA would be spending $22.7B annually on human exploration. That is a VERY conservative estimate, as it assumes the same ratio of human exploration to total budget.
My head just aches with the question of “Isn’t there something better we could be doing with $22.7B on an annual basis”?
And if I use the above numbers of approximately $250B to get to Mars in the first place, and maybe even $1.5T (yes, that is a “T”) for repeated trips, OMG there has to be something better we can do with that money. Right!?
I know, they say that it’s only 1.5% of the Federal budget. But education is only 3%. So is education only twice as important as Mars!?
Putting that aside, what is really the point of going to Mars? It’s entirely uninhabitable best I can gather, and while I did really enjoy the Matt Damon movie (the book is much better) where he gets stranded there, again I ask – WHY? Is there oil there? Diamonds?
To be double extra clear here – I believe that NASA has value. So don’t flame me or accuse me of trying to defund NASA or bring their budget to $0. I am not saying that at all. I just honestly don’t believe we should be even thinking about spending $1.5T to get to a planet that has ZERO value to us. It’s basically a big rock floating around the sun with zero life. If it’s a quick trip, then maybe we check it out. But currently it seems like a one-way trip. Who wants to do that? For what benefit? Did someone lose a bet?
I have no issue with private money being spent to get there. It’s your money – knock yourself out. You can put it all in a big pile and burn it if you want.
My issue is with taxpayer money – to the tune of $1.5T – being spent to go to a dead planet.
Maybe we spend it on things like:
- All the entitlement programs that need to be funded
- Benefits for our veterans
- Helping the Cubs sign some more pitching for 2017? (sorry – just kidding – mostly)
So I’m not going to rant much more here – and definitely not going to run for office with this as my platform. But I’d really appreciate some perspective here. Maybe I am missing the boat and just don’t get it. I’m open to that – happens all the time.