May 15, 2013
Poll: Americans Overwhelmingly Support Doubling NASA’s Budget, Mission To Mars
The American public overwhelmingly support a doubling of NASA’s budget in order to fund a mission to Mars, according to a recent survey. The poll, commissioned by Explore Mars, a nonprofit organization, and aerospace contractor Boeing, also demonstrated a high degree of enthusiasm about human exploration of Mars.
The survey found that 76 percent of Americans agree that NASA’s budget should be increased to 1 percent of the total federal budget to fund initiatives, including a mission to Mars. Currently NASA’s budget represents less than 0.5 percent of overall federal spending.
Poll respondents said they think a manned mission to Mars should be the country’s top priority in space exploration. The poll also showed that, in spite of the current budgetary climate, Americans remain very optimistic about the prospect of putting humans on Mars within the next two decades, with 71 percent saying they expect it will happen by 2033.
April 01, 2013
MISSION TO MARS: My Vision for Space Exploration
In a new book from National Geographic, celebrated astronaut and bestselling author Buzz Aldrin boldly advocates continuing exploration of our solar system. In MISSION TO MARS: My Vision for Space Exploration (National Geographic Books; ISBN 978-1-4262-1017-4; on sale May 7; hardcover), by Buzz Aldrin and Leonard David, Aldrin lays out his goals for the space program and how he believes we can get humans to Mars by the 2030s, a vision shared by President Obama and one that is fortified by private industry and international cooperation.
In the book, which includes a foreword by Aldrin’s son Andrew, Aldrin makes the case and argues passionately for pushing our boundaries of knowledge and exploration of our solar system and presents his “unified space vision.” Aldrin discusses the history of space flight, including a reflective, not nostalgic, look at the people, technologies and steps that were taken to accomplish America’s Apollo moon landings, and plots a course of future exploration. He says “Do not put NASA astronauts on the moon. They have other places to go.” And he emphasizes that the path forward is not a competition; we cannot restart an engine to rerun a race we previously won. This is a controversial notion that causes significant division among astronauts.
March 20, 2013
NASA Passed on Mars Flyby Mission in 1990s
U.S.News & World Report
Millionaire entrepreneur Dennis Tito got space enthusiasts excited last month when he announced a project to fly a married couple around Mars in 2018—but NASA may have passed on a similar mission when it was proposed in the late 1990s by a prominent aerospace engineer.
According to Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society and a prominent advocate for exploration of the red planet, he had meetings with former NASA administrator Daniel Goldin in the late 1990s to pitch him a nearly identical mission to Tito's that would have launched in 2001 and cost the agency about $2 billion.
Dubbed Athena, the mission would have used technology that existed in 1996 on a two-year Mars flyby mission. Two astronauts would have orbited the planet for about a year, remotely-controlling rovers on the Martian surface with about 100 times less lag time than rovers controlled from Earth. The spaceship would never land on Mars, which Zubrin contends was Goldin's problem with the mission.
February 21, 2013
Americans Support Humans to Mars
The Huffington Post
A new national poll released two weeks ago helped to characterize the level of American support for Mars exploration. In these complex times, are Americans in favor of human exploration of the Mars? The answer is an unequivocal YES.
Basically over 70 percent of "the" Americans believe that we should send humans to Mars to explore the planet, and that it is ok to spend up to one percent of the federal budget on NASA (over twice the agency's current budget) to do so.
February 12, 2013
Americans Anticipate Manned Mission to Mars Within 20 Years
According to a poll dubbed Mars Generation, Approximately 75% of Americans are excited for and anticipate a manned mission to Mars in the next 20 years, with more than half of American's feeling NASA should "play a strong role" in assisting a commercial company, or head up a mission themselves.
In the same poll, conducted by Phillips & Company and sponsored by The Boeing Corporation and Explore Mars, a majority of respondents incorrectly answered that they felt NASA's budget represented 2.5% of the federal budget (~$88.5 Billion). When presented with the reality that NASA's Fiscal Year 2013 budget sits at about .5% ($17.7 Billion) of the federal budget, 75% of those polled felt the Agency's funding should be doubled to 1% ($35.4 Billion) of the federal budget, with the express purpose of funding a manned mission to Mars.
January 18, 2013
NASA Mohawk Guy to Ride With Mars Rover in Obama’s Inaugural Parade
Presidential inaugurations are big deals, and tend to attract high-profile stars like Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Bruce Springsteen who are eager to rub elbows with the newly inaugurated commander-in-chief. But next week, a very unusual celebrity will be appearing in President Obama’s parade: the NASA scientist known as “Mohawk Guy.”
Bobak Ferdowsi, who earned the love and admiration of nerds everywhere as the vertically coiffed activity lead for NASA’s mission to Mars, will be rolling with his fellow scientists in Obama’s inaugural parade on Jan. 21 and a full-scale model of the Curiosity rover that they safely landed on Mars in August of last year, as well as a life-size replica of the new Orion capsule. And in true Ferdowsi fashion, he’s also planning a new haircut for the event – but all he’s saying right now is that it will be a “surprise.”
December 11, 2012
The resurrection of Mars Sample Return
The Space Review
There had been rumors for a couple of weeks that NASA would make a big announcement about Mars at one of the largest annual meetings of scientists, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference in San Francisco. The rumors were about the possibility that NASA’s Curiosity rover had discovered something very interesting on Mars. As it turned out, the Curiosity science results, although interesting, were not nearly up to the hype. But NASA did make a major announcement at AGU: NASA is taking the first step towards the ultimate scientific goal for the red planet, Mars Sample Return.
You can be forgiven if you missed it, because NASA was careful not to use the words “Mars Sample Return” in their press release. Instead, they announced that they are going to build another rover, based on the successful Curiosity design and using some spare parts manufactured for Curiosity, to be launched in 2020. In the official press release, NASA stated that the instrument suite is still to be determined. But make no mistake, this is the first step toward sample return, and in many ways represents a major reversal for the Obama Administration.
To understand what happened, you have to know the context.
December 04, 2012
NASA Announces Robust Multi-Year Mars Program; New Rover to Close Out Decade of New Missions
Building on the success of Curiosity's Red Planet landing, NASA has announced plans for a robust multi-year Mars program, including a new robotic science rover set to launch in 2020. This announcement affirms the agency's commitment to a bold exploration program that meets our nation's scientific and human exploration objectives.
"The Obama administration is committed to a robust Mars exploration program," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "With this next mission, we're ensuring America remains the world leader in the exploration of the Red Planet, while taking another significant step toward sending humans there in the 2030s."
The planned portfolio includes the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers; two NASA spacecraft and contributions to one European spacecraft currently orbiting Mars; the 2013 launch of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiter to study the Martian upper atmosphere; the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission, which will take the first look into the deep interior of Mars; and participation in ESA's 2016 and 2018 ExoMars missions, including providing "Electra" telecommunication radios to ESA's 2016 mission and a critical element of the premier astrobiology instrument on the 2018 ExoMars rover.
November 07, 2012
Op/Ed - Obama win should keep NASA's asteroid, Mars plans on course
No one knows how the federal government's space agency would have fared under a President Romney -- though it's not hard to imagine a smaller budget and more privatized space exploration and research efforts.
But the re-election of President Barack Obama on Tuesday likely preserves NASA's current plans, which include sending Americans to Mars by the mid-2030s.
The Mars goal is the second part of a two-step mandate from Obama to NASA in 2010, when he directed the agency under a new law to land astronauts on an asteroid near Earth by 2025 and to send a manned mission to orbit Mars about a decade after.
October 02, 2012
ESA May Have Role In NASA Mars Sample Mission
Aviation Week & Space Technology
NASA has decided it can do a Mars sample-return mission on its own, but it will continue to collaborate with the European Space Agency on Mars exploration despite dropping out of Europe's ExoMars program last year.
Even though Europe has shifted to working with Russia on ExoMars, the program's 2016 orbiter could help provide data and command relays between Earth and a 2018 NASA rover on the surface of Mars. However, it remains to be seen if there will be such a rover, and what it could do if NASA finds the funds to build it.
The U.S. space agency has 4-6 months to decide how it will proceed under its reduced Mars-exploration funding plan. That decision will be shaped by a new set of mission options from the agency's Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) instrument landing system, and possibly by congressional signals on fiscal 2013 funding levels for Mars. Also in the mix is the role of potential collaborators outside NASA's Science Mission Directorate, including the European Space Agency (ESA).
September 27, 2012
The Mars Society Launches Major Membership Drive
The Mars Society has launched a new campaign to add 1,000 new members to the organization by December 31st. If you’re not already a member, join us today. Also ask your friends and relatives to consider becoming part of our effort to educate the public, the media and government about the importance of an expanded Mars exploration program and the need for a humans-to-Mars mission in the coming decade.
September 26, 2012
Mars Sample-Return Goal Drives NASA's Exploration of Red Planet
The next steps in NASA's Mars exploration strategy should build toward returning Martian rocks and dirt to Earth to search for signs of past life, a new report by the space agency's Red Planet planning group finds.
The report, released September 25th, 2012 by the Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG), lays out a series of options that NASA could employ to get pieces of the Red Planet in scientists' hands here on Earth. The space agency is now mulling those options and could announce its chosen path by early next year, when the White House releases its proposed budget for fiscal year 2014.
"The first public release of what plans, you know, we definitively have would not be until the president presents that budget to Congress in February of 2013," John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, told reporters today.
August 06, 2012
Statement by the President on Curiosity Landing on Mars
The White House
Tonight, on the planet Mars, the United States of America made history.
The successful landing of Curiosity – the most sophisticated roving laboratory ever to land on another planet – marks an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future. It proves that even the longest of odds are no match for our unique blend of ingenuity and determination. Tonight’s success, delivered by NASA, parallels our major steps forward towards a vision for a new partnership with American companies to send American astronauts into space on American spacecraft. That partnership will save taxpayer dollars while allowing NASA to do what it has always done best – push the very boundaries of human knowledge. And tonight’s success reminds us that our preeminence – not just in space, but here on Earth – depends on continuing to invest wisely in the innovation, technology, and basic research that has always made our economy the envy of the world.
I congratulate and thank all the men and women of NASA who made this remarkable accomplishment a reality – and I eagerly await what Curiosity has yet to discover.
August 05, 2012
Is exploring Mars worth the investment?
Los Angeles Times
NASA's Curiosity rover, slated to land next week, is the centerpiece of a $2.5-billion project. Some argue for rolling back spending, but proponents say knowing our celestial neighbor is in the nation's best interest. Saturn has its famous rings and Jupiter is the granddaddy of the solar system, but no planet has entranced earthlings quite like Mars.
Humans have launched 40 spacecraft to the Red Planet, lured by the prospect that life might once have existed in what is now dry rocks and sand. The latest machine to make the journey isNASA'sMars Science Laboratory, a hulking, souped-up lab-on-wheels that will plunge toward the Martian surface next week.
But even as excitement builds, some wonder: Is Mars exploration a good investment?
February 15, 2012
Op/Ed : Obama Wrecks the Mars Program
National Review Online
In its budget submitted to Congress on February 13, the Obama administration zeroed out funding for NASA’s future Mars-exploration missions. The Mars Science Lab Curiosity, currently en route to the Red Planet and the nearly completed small MAVEN orbiter, scheduled for launch in 2013, will be sent, but that’s it. No funding has been provided for the Mars probes planned as joint missions in 2016 and 2018 with the European Space Agency, and nothing after that is funded either. This poses a grave crisis for the American space program.
NASA’s Mars-exploration effort has been brilliantly successful because, since 1994, it has been approached as a campaign, with probes launched every two years, alternating between orbiters and landers. As a result, combined operations have been possible, with orbiters providing communication links and reconnaissance guidance for surface rovers, which in turn can conduct investigations on the ground to verify and calibrate orbital observations. Thus, the great treks of the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, launched in 2003, were supported from above by Mars Global Surveyor (MGS, launched in1996), Mars Odyssey (launched in 2001), and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO, launched in 2005). But after serving ten years in orbit, MGS is now no longer operating, and if we wait until the 2020s to resume Mars exploration, the rest of the orbiters will be gone as well. Moreover, so will be the experienced teams that created them. Effectively, the whole program will be completely wrecked, and we will have to start again from scratch.
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