Mars Society: Go Directly to Mars, Do Not Pass Augustine

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The Mars Society has released a statement in which it basically rejects all five options for the American human spaceflight program put forth last week by the Augustine Commission.

Instead of accepting the limited options presented by the Committee, we urge the Administration to follow a sixth option: Task NASA to develop, within 120 days, a minimum cost, minimum schedule mission to land humans on Mars…

Ain’t going to happen. But, good luck with that…

If you’re interested, the full statement is reproduced after the break.

MARS SOCIETY STATEMENT

The recently released report from the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee (AKA: The Augustine Commission), Seeking a Human Space Program Worthy of a Great Nation, states that “A human landing and extended human presence on Mars stand prominently above all other opportunities for exploration. Mars is unquestionably the most scientifically interesting destination in the inner solar system. It possesses resources which can be used for life support and propellants. If humans are ever to live for long periods with intention of extended settlement on another planetary surface, it is likely to be on Mars.”

The Mars Society is in perfect agreement with this statement and we hope that NASA will pursue a program that will realize this goal as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Unfortunately, the Augustine Commission report then goes on to state that we are not ready to go to Mars with current technology and we can go nowhere in the next decade, even with the expenditure of over a hundred billion dollars. While challenging, sending humans to Mars is possible with current technological expertise and we could have humans on Mars in the 2020s.

As The Mars Society stated in response to the preliminary report of September 8, 2009, according to the Augustine Committee, despite spending nearly five years and billions of dollars on the new Constellation Program, NASA is nearly twice as far from the Moon today as it was in 1961. At that time, NASA had conducted only one manned space flight when President John F. Kennedy committed the Nation to land a man on the Moon before 1970. The Committee claims that sending humans on a similar mission is a distant goal, even if tens of billions of dollars of additional funding are added to NASA’s budget over the next 15 years. It presents a decadal plan that will get us nowhere in the next decade.

Even if one believes the assumption that we cannot move at the pace that was achieved during the Apollo Program, the pace that is proposed is too slow to maintain momentum. Lethargy virtually guarantees program failure. The American public, Congress, and the next administration will be unlikely to continue support for a program that states that we will not be able to go anywhere until the 2020s and those goals will be far less ambitious than what we achieved in 1969.

Instead of accepting the limited options presented by the Committee, we urge the Administration to follow a sixth option: Task NASA to develop, within 120 days, a minimum cost, minimum schedule mission to land humans on Mars. The cost and mission plan should be reviewed by an independent entity, such as the Government Accountability Office. Once the plan and numbers have been reviewed, the Administration and Congress will be in a much better position to weigh the costs and benefits of this option, which the Augustine Commission notes “stands prominently above all other opportunities for exploration,” against the other options presented by the Commission. We note that a minimum cost, minimum schedule plan to explore Mars could, in fact, include pre-cursor missions to the Moon and Near Earth Objects. Also, such a plan could, as suggested by the Commission, assume that the ISS will be extended to 2020 and that there will be a modest extension of the Shuttle schedule.

Americans want and deserve a space program that is actually going somewhere and is worth the risk and monetary costs. In order for that to happen, a radically different methodology to that being accepted by the Augustine Commission must be employed. A real, purposeful goal, worthy of spending serious money, must be selected. That goal should be humans to Mars.

We appreciate the hard work that the Augustine Commission put in over the past several months and we support having Mars as the primary objective of the space program, the support for a true heavy-lift vehicle without which we will go nowhere except in circles, the utilization of indigenous resources (in situ resource utilization), and better utilizing private sector capabilities. But The Mars Society believes that the United States is capable of a far more ambitious program than this report proposes and that the proposed plans are not worthy of a great nation.

  • Michael Turner

    Not that I expect any different from Zubrinistas, but … isn’t calling the current Moon exploration plan “similar” to Apollo somewhat disingenuous? It’s “similar” insofar as the same celestial body is targeted, but otherwise it’s considerably more ambitious.

  • An interesting collection of ideas and opinions. I feel that our immediate objectives should be to begin establishing self-sustaining manned outposts on the Moon and then Mars.