Earth’s next Mars rover will NOT be made in USA. President Obama has killed NASA funding for the ExoMars Rover joint project by NASA and ESA planned for 2018 Launch and designed to search for evidence of life.  Credit: ESA - Annotation: Ken Kremer
Earth’s next Mars rover will NOT be made in USA. President Obama has killed NASA funding for the ExoMars Rover joint project by NASA and ESA planned for 2018 Launch and designed to search for evidence of life. Credit: ESA - Annotation: Ken Kremer

esa, ExoMars, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Mars, Mars Science Laboratory, Missions, Moon, NASA, Science, Solar System, Space Exploration, Space Flight, Space Shuttle

Experts React to Obama Slash to NASA’s Mars and Planetary Science Exploration

17 Feb , 2012 by

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Earth’s next Mars Rover – NOT Made in USA

Just days after President Obama met with brilliant High School students at the 2012 White House Science Fair to celebrate their winning achievements and encourage America’s Youth to study science and take up careers in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) technical fields, the Obama Administration has decided on deep budgets cuts slashing away the very NASA science programs that would inspire those same students to shoot for the Stars and Beyond and answer the question – Are We Alone ?

Last year, the Obama Administration killed Project Constellation, NASA’s Human Spaceflight program to return American astronauts to the Moon. This year, the President has killed NASA’s ExoMars Robotic Spaceflight program aimed at dispatching two ambitious missions to Mars in 2016 and 2018 to search for signs of life.

Both ExoMars probes involved a joint new collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) carefully crafted to share costs in hard times and get the most bang for the buck – outlined in my earlier Universe Today story, here.

Expert Scientists and Policy makers have been voicing their opinions.

President Obama meets America’s brightest Young Rocket Scientists
President Barack Obama hosted the winning science fair students from a range of nationwide competitions at the 2nd White House Science Fair on February 7, 2012. The ExoMars missions were eliminated from the NASA budget announced on Feb. 13, 2012.

All of NASA’s “Flagship” Planetary Science missions have now been cancelled in the 2013 Fiscal Year Budget proposed on Feb. 13, and others missions have also been curtailed due to the severe economy.

“There is no room in the current budget proposal from the President for new Flagship missions anywhere,” said John Grunsfeld, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Science at a NASA budget briefing for the media on Feb. 13.

ESA is now looking to partner with Russia as all American participation in ExoMars is erased due to NASA’ s forced pull out.

On Feb. 13, NASA’s Fiscal 2013 Budget was announced and the Obama Administration carved away nearly half the Mars mission budget. Altogether, funding for NASA’s Mars and Planetary missions in the Fiscal 2013 budget would be sliced by $300 million – from $1.5 Billion this year to $1.2 Billion in 2013. NASA was forced to gut the Mars program to pay for the cost overruns of the James Webb Space Telescope.

Mars rover scientist Prof. Jim Bell of Arizona State University and President of The Planetary Society (TPS) told Universe Today that “no one expects increases”, but cuts of this magnitude are “cause for concern”.

NASA’s robotic missions to Mars and other solar system bodies have been highly successful, resulted in fundamental scientific breakthroughs and are wildly popular with students and the general public.

“With these large proposed cuts to the NASA Mars exploration program, there will be a lot of cause for concern,” said Bell.

“The Mars program has been one of NASA’s crown jewels over the past 15 years, both in terms of science return on investment, and in terms of public excitement and engagement in NASA’s mission. It would also represent an unfortunate retreat from the kind of international collaboration in space exploration that organizations like The Planetary Society so strongly support.”

NASA Budget Cuts in Fiscal Year 2013 will force NASA to kill participation in the joint ESA/NASA collaboration to send two Astrobiology related missions to orbit and land rovers on Mars in 2016 and 2018- designed to search for evidence of Life. Credit: ESA - Annotation: Ken Kremer

Bell and other scientists feel that any cuts should be balanced among NASA programs, not aimed only at one specific area.

“Certainly no one expects increasing budgets in these austere times, and it is not useful or appropriate to get into a battle of “my science is better than your science” among the different NASA Divisions and Programs.” Bell told me.

“However, it would be unfortunate if the burden of funding cuts were to befall one of NASA’s most successful and popular programs in a disproportionate way compared to other programs. As Ben Franklin said, “We should all hang together, or surely we will all hang separately.”

Bell added that science minded organizations should work with Congress to influence the debate over the coming months.

“Of course, this would only be an initial proposal for the FY13 and beyond budget. Over the winter, spring, and summer many professional and public organizations, like TPS, will be working with Congress to advocate a balanced program of solar system exploration that focuses on the most important science goals as identified in the recent NRC Planetary Decadal Survey, as well as the most exciting and publicly compelling missions that are supported by the public–who ultimately are the ones paying for these missions.”

“Let’s hope that we can all find a productive and pragmatic way to continue to explore Mars, the outer solar system, and our Universe beyond,” Bell concluded.

“The impact of the cuts … will be to immediately terminate the Mars deal with the Europeans,” said Scott Hubbard, of Stanford University and a former NASA planetary scientist who revived the agency’s Mars exploration program after failures in 1999, to the Washington Post. “It’s a scientific tragedy and a national embarrassment.”

“I encourage whoever made this decision to ask around; everyone on Earth wants to know if there is life on other worlds,” Bill Nye, CEO of The Planetary Society, said in a statement. “When you cut NASA’s budget in this way, you’re losing sight of why we explore space in the first place.”

“There is no other country or agency that can do what NASA does—fly extraordinary flagship missions in deep space and land spacecraft on Mars.” Bill Nye said. “If this budget is allowed to stand, the United States will walk away from decades of greatness in space science and exploration. But it will lose more than that. The U.S. will lose expertise, capability, and talent. The nation will lose the ability to compete in one of the few areas in which it is still the undisputed number one.”

Ed Weiler is NASA’s recently retired science mission chief (now replaced by Grunsfeld) and negotiated the ExoMars program with ESA. Weiler actually quit NASA specifically in opposition to the Mars Program cuts ordered by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and had these comments for CBS News;

“To me, it’s bizarro world,” Weiler said an interview with CBS News. “Why would you do this? The President of the United States, President Obama, declared Mars to be the ultimate destination for human exploration. Obviously, before you send humans to the vicinity of Mars or even to land on Mars, you want to know as much about the planet as you possibly can. … You need a sample return mission. The president also established a space policy a few years ago which had the concept of encouraging all agencies to have more and more foreign collaboration, to share the costs and get more for the same bucks.”

“Two years ago, because of budget cuts in the Mars program, I had to appeal to Europe to merge our programs. … That process took two long years of very delicate negotiations. We thought we were following the president’s space policy exactly. Congressional reaction was very positive about our activities. You put those factors in place and you have to ask, why single out Mars? I don’t have an answer.”

Space Analysts and Political leaders also weighed in:

“The president’s budget is just a proposal,” said Howard McCurdy, a space-policy specialist at American University in Washington to the Christian Science Monitor.

The cuts “reflect the new reality” in which the economy, budget deficits, and the federal debt have elbowed their way to the top of Washington’s agenda, McCurdy adds.

“You don’t cut spending for critical scientific research endeavors that have immeasurable benefit to the nation and inspire the human spirit of exploration we all have,” said Rep. John Culberson (R-Tex.). Texas is home to NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who represents the district that’s home to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), released this statement following his meeting with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to discuss the agency’s 2013 budget proposal:

“Today I met with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to express my dismay over widespread reports that NASA’s latest budget proposes to dramatically reduce the planetary science program, and with it, ground breaking missions to Mars and outer planetary bodies like Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, and to inform him of my vehement opposition to such a move.”

“America’s unique expertise in designing and flying deep-space missions is a priceless national asset and the Mars program, one of our nation’s scientific crown jewels, has been a spectacular success that has pushed the boundaries of human understanding and technological innovation, while also boosting American prestige worldwide and driving our children to pursue science and engineering degrees in college.

“As I told the Administrator during our meeting, I oppose these ill-considered cuts and I will do everything in my power to restore the Mars budget and to ensure American leadership in space exploration.”

In an interview with the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Schiff said, “What they’re proposing will be absolutely devastating to planetary science and the Mars program. I’m going to be fighting them tooth and nail. Unfortunately if this is the direction the administration is heading, it will definitely hurt JPL – that’s why I’m so committed to reversing this.”

NASA still hopes for some type of scaled back Mars missions in the 2016 to 2020 timeframe which will be outlined in an upcoming article.

In the meantime, the entire future of America’s Search for Life on the Red Planet now hinges on NASA’s Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory rover speeding thru interplanetary space and a pinpoint touchdown inside the layered terrain of Gale Crater on August 6, 2012.

Curiosity will be NASA’s third and last generation of US Mars rovers – 4th Generation Axed !

NASA’s Opportunity Rover is now Earth’s only surviving robot on Mars

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By  -      
Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, research scientist, freelance science journalist (Princeton, NJ) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calendars including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, NASA Wallops, NASA Michoud/Stennis/Langley and on over 60 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter



68 Responses

  1. meekGee says:

    What an inflammatory heading.

    The NASA Budget was not reduced. Mars programs were cut because the Webb Space Telescope was over-budget – plain and simple.

    My personal choice would have been to cut Webb and save planetary science, but this is about which program has more congressional support.

    For example, when Obama tried to propose a Mars-centric plan based on private-sector launch, he was almost lynched for “killing HSF”, and now we’re stuck with the Zombie SLS.

    This kind of headline is beneath UT. Stick with Astronomy, not politics.

    • squidgeny says:

      The NASA Budget was not reduced.

      2011: $18.448m
      2012: $17.770m

      How is that not a reduction?

      • meekGee says:

        I stand corrected.

        Instead – The small reduction in NASA’s budget is not why those missions were canceled. Instead, cost over-runs like Webb’s (>$5B), and congressional-mandated money hogs like SLS, are eating up every bit of NASA’s budget.

        The blame-Obama game is getting old, and this is from someone who thinks the Mars program is extremely important and should rank #1 in science priorities.

        This is generally a nice quiet science/astronomy board, I wish it’d stay that way.

      • Alexandre Desbiens says:

        From 2011 to 2012 the Space Shuttle program got a billion dollar reduction. So what you actually have is an actual increase for all of the remaining programs. Even though the budget was cut by 700million.

        The JWST Budget also did a fair amount of damage towards the Mars Exploration program.

        And if you go into the actual budget details, you’ll notice that Science actually recieved a 200million$ bump in 2012. Not to mention there wasn’t actually more than an 8million dollar difference in the science budgets from 2011 to 2013.

  2. backinbowl says:

    Let me get this straight. The U.S. government is now removing 300 million dollars from NASA’s already severely constrained budget, thereby effectively killing the moon AND Mars programs. Meanwhile, this same government apparently thinks it’s perfectly fine to spend just under 400 BILLION dollars on thousands of F-35 warplanes when the Cold War those fighters were intended for no longer exists. Conclusion: aside from the obvious cause/purpose of feeding the unfettered greed of the corporate defense establishment, this misapplication of already-over-extended financial resources indicates a complete breakdown of U.S. government mental cohesion as clearly demonstrated by the above detailed wholesale descent into incontrovertible intellectual, social, and ethical pathology. I therefore have no doubt whatsoever that in this particular case, the fat lady has indeed already sung.

  3. EricEdwin says:

    NASA only makes up for 0.03% of federal spending.. But as mentioned below, it’s not exactly the presidents problem, more of a congressional problem. How can we fairly allocate such little investment?

    We’ve managed to rack up quite the national debt, but no one can pin that on NASA.

  4. correctu says:

    I’d rather see rovers on Titan rather than Mars.

  5. newpapyrus says:

    There’s no evidence that NASA spending hurts the economy and tons of evidence that it helps economic growth. And during the time when America spent the largest percentage of Federal spending on our space program, we suddenly also started to have the largest economic growth (under Kennedy and Johnson).

    Since NASA spending was dramatically reduced, however, starting with Richard Nixon, the US economy’s rate of growth has fallen dramatically.

    Investing in science and technology helps economic growth, it doesn’t hurt it! And there are plenty of countries around the world that don’t spend money investing in science and technology: they’re called Third World Countries.

    Marcel F. Williams

  6. Sam Reid says:

    I would have rather had this program cancelled than the James Webb Space Telescope. Not to be that guy, but I think that Cosmology and experimental observations of Primordial Black Holes, the origins of Large-Scale Super Structure, etc. are more important topics with a guaranteed return than the possibility that we get the answer, “Oh, there’s no life on mars. We have some interesting planetary science papers about the chemical composition of martian rocks and soil though.” I am very pleased the JWST was decided to be kept over this program, which still may fly without NASA help.

    • Torbjörn Larsson says:

      I like astrobiology, and _I_ would take JWST over planetary science for that reason, characterizing stars and habitable planets et cetera. Also its larger STEM basis that makes more public goodwill.

      A search for fossils or extant life is a gamble, though organics may be everywhere, and I doubt one rover now and then will help on that score.

      • lcrowell says:

        To be honest I think Mars is the best bet for finding ET-life up close. Europa is a maybe, but I fail to see how we can drill through many kilometers of ice that at those temperatures is as hard as steel. Mike Brown in the UT interview did though suggest the coloration on Europa might be from salts in the interior that are deposited by geyser action. Enceladus might be worth a fly through of its geysers. However, I do think the closest and probably the best bet is Mars. Mars Jupiter and Saturn strike me as the most important planets to study. Mercury, Venus and further out strike me as less important, or that have a lower results/investment ratio.

        LC

  7. Daniel Beck says:

    I like the intended goal of NASA, I like space, and I think our future is in space and that we should all support space exploration.

    HOWEVER

    We do not live (at least not originally) in a soviet style communist state, we live in what was supposed to be a free market capitalist state (which is different from what we have now, as what we have now is a Corporatist state, which is a FASCIST state according to Mussolini). However the government under our laws is supposed to be able to spend money for national infrastructure and similar public works projects that benefit us all. Still what we need is private enterprise. Until there is a “Reason” economically to go back the moon, it’s a much harder sell.

    Our country is spending trillions of dollars of debt (not actual tax payer money) to wage wars in foreign countries to protect their borders and look for men in caves. We could cut all our costs by closing a majority of foreign bases and bringing home our troops. Doing so would allow us to increase national defense spending (instead of foreign military spending) to protect our border and also free up a LOT of money to pay for public works programs (which IMHO NASA falls under, everything else is USAF).

    Our taxes do NOT go directly to anyone other than foreign off shore banks that have been given unconstitutional power over our national economy in the form of the Federal Reserve, which creates out money through fractional Banking. Our country used to use the Gold standard and constitutionally has the power to create money. So we don’t technically even need to tax people for the budget to pay for the space program! Your personal income tax ALL goes toward the debt, not the principle, but the INTEREST! Our yearly interest is so high our National GDP is barely enough to cover it, which is why every quarter our congress goes nuts on a budget crisis and created the super unconstitutional Super Congress.

    Whether this article is inflammatory or not is irrelevant. The fact that NASA is less than .03% of our national budget is irrelevant.

    What IS relevant is that so long as we continue this strange socialist and NEOCON trend (they are both doing the same thing with a different set of mechanisms), our country will be bankrupt before the turn of the next decade, our countries economy is literally on life support as it is… NASA, for the all the wonderful things we gain from it, has very little value to a nation of impoverished slaves.

    So while I LOVE space, and NASA, NASA’s budget is just a sign that something horrible is going on, that most people don’t seem to care to deal with or even take notice of.

    I support Ron Paul, I know he will probably AXE the Space program, and as a Science nerd this makes me very sad, but every now and then a science nerd needs to accept they cannot afford yet another new telescope. Sometimes they have to pay the mortgage, or better yet, never get into debt in the first place and simply wait till they have saved up the money for the telescope to buy it outright.

    RonPaul 2012… (go ahead, flame me for this).

    • SJStar says:

      Do you already live on Mars? Your overall grasp of economics and political science here is quite strange. You sound like an isolated American who thinks the rest of the world is just an attached addendum or footnote. Do you work for the New York Times, perhaps?

      • Daniel Beck says:

        No, I don’t work for the left wing outlet known as the NY times, nor the right wing propaganda service at Fox, or any other media outlet.

        I am a person who happens to know what he is talking about. That is probably why is sounds so strange. Because chances are the only source of news or opinion you have is some mainstream propaganda outlet like BBC, Fox, CNN or whatever. They don’t do anything but spin and lie. Check their facts sometime, it will blow your mind.

        As for your suggestion of me being isolated, and thinking the rest of the world is an attached Addendum or Footnote is kind of odd… We are discussing NASA, and it’s funding, that is an American Agency, not french, not British, not Chinese.

        So if my point of view sounds as if it’s biased toward what America does with it’s American agencies… I don’t think that’s exactly wrong, or have we dispensed with countries altogether now?

        As for Mars, I would love to live on mars. But no, sadly I am here on earth with the sheep.

        • SJStar says:

          Sorry, you make little to no sense at all. Raving on about some wild social or political ideologies just makes what you say just makes you look somewhat irrelevant.

    • So, what incentive does private enterprise have to engage in any space exploration at all? Private business’ only goal is short-term profit, and there isn’t much to be found in basic space science, so who’s left to do it? Government exists to spend money doing things that private entities won’t do or cannot be trusted to do. Yes, *gasp* socialism.

      I suppose I should also point out that national debt is nothing at all like personal debt. Please don’t compare them as if they are even remotely similar. The US does not have a particularly pressing debt problem, but rather a private cash-flow problem as corporations sit on huge piles of cash, afraid to invest it in a shaky market.

      As for Ron Paul, even if he were somehow elected, fortunately Congress would never let him implement any of his crazier ideas. The guy’s pretty straight talking, and I respect him for that, but a lot of what he’s talking is pretty disconnected from reality.

    • Daniel Beck says:

      “So, what incentive does private enterprise have to engage in any space exploration at all? ”

      You seem to think there is a reason, why don’t you go donate all your Net capital and invest in some private venture? Just because you favor exploration doesn’t give you the right to spend someone Else’s tax dollars (or in this case, Debt).

      I happen to support space exploration, but I don’t expect everyone to pay for a Telescope that will benefit MY intellectual interests… I will save up and buy one for myself.

      Which leads too –

      “Government exists to spend money doing things that private entities won’t do or cannot be trusted to do. Yes, *gasp* socialism.”

      You could not be more wrong – The sole purpose of at least the AMERICAN government is meant to be to protect our freedoms, NOT provide Any other socialist BS. PRIVATE industry is capable of doing all that.

      “The US does not have a particularly pressing debt problem, but rather a private cash-flow problem as corporations sit on huge piles of cash, afraid to invest it in a shaky market.”

      You obviously don’t know what your talking about. How can you say we do not have a debt problem when that is exactly why we got Downgraded? Wake up… This is not about Greedy corporations sitting on money… people, rich or poor, have a right to use their money however they want.

      Our market is made up of predominately service based industries, we are a nation of almost nothing but consumers, and we have ruined our own markets with both bad policy, and allowing Government to get into bed with corporations, which is Corporatism, which is a form of Fascism and only half a step away from Communism.

      Go take a real economics class and learn what the Federal Reserve does.

      “As for Ron Paul, even if he were somehow elected, fortunately Congress would never let him implement any of his crazier ideas. – Blah blah”

      The only one disconnected from reality in this discussion is you… The power RonPaul would have is in that he would be able to Veto THEIR crazy ideas.

      Congress has around a 9% approval Rating, Likes the idea of Indefinite Detention, Agrees that the president has the power to Violate your right to due process, and can assassinate you or put you in prison for life without trial, wants to censor the internet and LOVES ideas like Agenda 21, Rex 84, and more.

      I would rather have a president that restores the lost balance of power, repeals the harmful policy of the past, and vetos any further insanity.

      OR you can elect Obama, Romney, Santorum or Gingrich and enjoy 4 more years of the same old same old.

    • lcrowell says:

      This libertarian sort of politics is a theatrical production. In fact our whole political system is a sort of three ringed circus meant to bedazzle the average simple minded citizen. Our role is largely that of spectators and various cheering sections which have some marginal impact on which show case wins the day for a two or four year period. The people behind the scenes running the show are the sponsors, which are the major financial and corporate powers which really run this world. These various show cases we are presented with present us with various ways in which the world or society is divided against itself, where race or class or national identity are used to hook the minds of various people; meanwhile those who have corporate power and the money can run to the bank with more money. It happens to work, and spectacularly.

      Ron Paul can no more install some libertarian future for the US of America than could I build a starship and go to alpha centuri. If he were elected, which is very unlikely, he would within weeks of being in office have a meeting with a group of people who will set the agenda, which happens with all Presidents. Think of this as a meeting with various mafia Dons who present the real facts and an offer the President can’t refuse. Ron Paul would learn that the financial patrons who financed his campaign are the ones who set the real agenda. This happened with Obama, where he got nearly twice the campaign money McCain got, and within a year Obama was playing fiddle tunes his patrons wanted to hear. The next President in 2012 or 2016 will face the same thing.

      History is fairly clear on how foundational science or other cultural developments are fostered. From the time of Pericles of 5th century BCE Athens, the cultural development of civilization has always been done through the patronage of political power. The rise of the Italian city states and the cultural flowering of the renaissance were done through the patronage of the Medici and other political powers, which required an input from their financial backers. Much of this was also done with pressure from the Church (an ecclesiastical form of the Roman Empire), which did not want to see Europe develop into an economy solely based on money power. The US did not put astronauts on the moon by pure private finance, profit centers or market forces. The same goes for our knowledge of fundamental forces and particle, genetic research, early development of computer technology, medical developments and so forth. The same goes for the arts, or should I say the fine arts, and many other things.

      This libertarian notion is a peculiar social mind set that has entered the American psyche. It compares any collective action or development as “stealing,” and has been promoted by some curious characters like Ayn Rand — who early in her career found the escapades of a serial killer to be a heroic example of someone motivated by their own self interest. Of course the last thing those in financial and corporate power really want is to see a libertarian America. They want the power of the treasury to support them, and they need the power of the military to make “necessary adjustments” needed to keep their profit margins in the red. This libertarian idea of things is one of the political show cases presented in this three ringed circus meant to bait the average simple minded citizen.

      LC

    • Danny Nye says:

      Most new technology comes from the aerospace sector, at least since the 1930s. I doubt that you can find one new made item in your house that did not benefit from or was created for the aerospace industry. polyesters, light structures, computer design and guidance software, microelectronics, medicine….. get the picture. Ron Paul is a joke, the future is off planet.

      The best thing for this planet is to scrub the test tube and start over. We are coming very close to failing the test of longevity with the little mass extinction party that we are hosting, but in 60 million years or so even that won’t matter, not to earth.

  8. SJStar says:

    America should be putting increased money into the education of new economists to seriously solve the US debt problem — do things that generate taxation/profit on an internationally basis . Get the economy back on track, then you can use these surpluses towards any higher goal that Americans wish to follow.
    NASA’s woes are just the reflection of the true precarious danger of the whole American economy.

    • Tony Power says:

      Economists are the reason the world is in the state its in and you want MORE!!?? Are you a succker for punnishment or something?

      • Duncan Ivry says:

        Now, this gets interesting. If you don’t want economists — as I would say: in order to solve economic problems — then what kind of experts — or “experts” — do you want? Ordinary, greedy Americans who want to own a house they can’t afford? Politicians who direct banks to give money to those people? Punishers who punish *all* those people? Tell me, please!

        • Peristroika says:

          The reality of economists is that they are as self-serving as anyone else. Economists also work for Banks and the like who DID create the American fiscal problem. Because they can “play” with money beyond the ken of the average Joe, they often use that to spin more of the money in their direction, protect wrong doers or actively work for the economic downfall of enemy states. Note: at no point did I colour all Economists with the same brush nor did I say they were any more evil than anyone else. It’s just that they play with very big stakes that often end up affecting us all.

  9. Steve Nerlich says:

    Really? The EU and Russia are just flowing with cash and they will see all this through? Really?

    We are dwelling on some Mars missions that are barely off the whiteboard on the eve of the crucial decision about the SKA – one of the first examples of a genuine global democratic (and scientific) decision.

    If we have money to burn, let’s build an asteroid defense system – Mars isn’t going anywhere. We can go visit in the 22nd century if we have to. Notwithstanding Curiosity lands there in 6 months.

  10. ITSRUF says:

    A lot of folks seem to be under the impression that the US budget crisis comes from defense spending and “unpaid for wars.” Actually, the US budget crisis comes from entitlement and welfare spending. “Unpaid for entitlements” seem okay to the same people who rail against “unpaid for wars.”

    • ToSeek says:

      Yeah, funny how some people think it’s better to help people than to kill them.

      • drew.shedwick says:

        Yeah, let’s send money to the people who attacked our nation and want to kill us all for not being muslim. You are a dhimmi.

    • William Sparrow says:

      Er, Sorry, I hit the wrong button, I DON’T like your post, in fact I disagree vehemently. To Seek said it all…..

    • http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/02/01/us/budget.html

      Here’s a visual graph of the 2011 budget. You can see how right you are by how small the National Defense square is.

      Oh, wait, I’m wrong, it’s the exact opposite!

      In all seriousness, not to say that Medicare and what not aren’t expensive and probably taking up more money than they should, but to pretend that our rampant military spending isn’t a problem takes an amazing amount of denialism. A huge amount of the entitlements you’re complaining about are Social Security, medicare for the elderly, and unemployment for people who lost their jobs in the economic meltdown. If you’re going to get all high and mighty about entitlements, maybe you should go tell your grandmother she needs to go be homeless and not have healthcare because she’s destroying the US economy.

      • wjwbudro says:

        I do not understand why folks don’t understand! Social Security is NOT an “entitlement”! You pay into that system all your life and btw a temp reduction in that payroll deduction is what just passed the house and senate and is on the way to the presidents desk. Oh, and the Social Security trust fund should have been solvent at least through 2070 had the government not replaced the fund with IOUs. AND if I recall the last figures, some 37% of what folks paid into the system isn’t even paid back and is pocketed by the Government because a lot of those poor bastards die before collecting or shortly after retiring. AND btw, medicare (not medicaid) premiums (~10%) are deducted from your monthly S.S. payments. Unemployment is not an entitlement either. You also have unemployment insurance deducted from your payroll by your state. It’s just unfortunate that for the first time that pool of money has run dry due to the long term stagnate job market and the feds had to jump in to subsidize the states to keep folks heads above the water.
        Now, “medicaid”, food stamps, low income housing and a host of various other programs meant for the “below poverty” folks, paid by the states and subsidized by the feds, are “entitlements” and unfortunately is where most of the fraud is taking place.

        • Torbjörn Larsson says:

          Europeans have no problem with (a modicum) of Social Security. In fact it makes societies thrive.

          But social security, at large, threatens religion, a lower Gini index correlates with less religion. (Paul et al statistics & hypothesis.) That may be why it is vehemently opposed by some.

    • backinbowl says:

      I would like to call attention to the fact that so-called, entirely (and purposely so, for obviously nefarious reasons) misnamed “entitlement” spending is in fact entirely prepaid by the same taxpayer who is then, and rightly so, the eventual recipient of the return on the lifelong investment he/she has made in the Social Security fund.
      On the other hand, the so-called “Defense” /War Department continuously and shamelessly dips it’s bottomless scoop into the national treasury to which it has not ever contributed even one red cent, thus making the U.S. military apparatus the worst deadbeat and biggest ongoing welfare recipient in the entire country.

  11. Peristroika says:

    This is a very biased and misleading headline/article. Please UT, I’d rather you tell me there was no new news today than throw in such drivvle. Nasa is going to have some lean years. As are we all. Obama did not create this economic debacle but as sure as hell, he has to try to get us out.

    • drew.shedwick says:

      He sure has FAILED, he fails to see that socialism always fails because sooner or later you run out of other peoples money to spend.
      His buddies created it (Doud, Frank, Soros) and he made it worse (>10% real unemployment). Obama is and always has been an empty suit and empty head.

      • Torbjörn Larsson says:

        Obama strikes me as the most intelligent president after Clinton.

      • Peristroika says:

        Again the word “Socialism”. Please look it up. It has VERY LITTLE to do with American policy. Canada is NOT socialist and we welcome government involvment because it assures us of rights, fairness and protects us as well. Thanks but I’d rather pay taxes and have good roads and schools and hospitals than pay some idiot in a toll booth everytime I want to go anywhere, educate my kids or break a finger. You libertarian types have to remember that it would be a pretty horrible place to live (USA) if everyone currently on welfare or unemployment were on the street either begging or mugging everyone without a body guard.

  12. Todd Reece says:

    What’s amazing is that you’re amazed and shocked.

    You think the “Green” lobby is going to let Americans foul another planet?

  13. Unfortunately it is the insistence of congress that son of constellation SLS/MPCV are funded to $3B per year that eats so much of the NASA budget. Scrap SLS/MPCV and there is plenty of money for everything else and you will have manned flight sooner and cheaper access to beyond earth orbit.

  14. Todd Reece says:

    backinbowl says:”Meanwhile, this same government apparently thinks it’s perfectly fine to spend just under 400 BILLION dollars on thousands of F-35 warplanes when the Cold War those fighters were intended for no longer exists.”

    No, you’re quite incorrect. The Cold War is not dead and gone, it merely went into hibernation for a quarter century. As misplaced as that system is (money wise) there is still a great need in refining and pushing the defense envelope.

    As far as governmental spending, what do you expect when other people are allowed to spend YOUR money??? Corruption, maleficence, greed will always surface.

    I wonder what a Sat-V clone’s carbon footprint would be and how the .gov would ask ME to offset it? Talk about the 1%!!!!

  15. Thomas Houck says:

    Once again another perfect example of Obama’s, “Do as I say not as I do.” Go into science, study hard and when you graduate I’ll have your back with food stamps and an unemployment check…hee, hee, hee.”

  16. zetetic elench says:

    NASA gives us something to look up to. literally and figuratively.
    debt monkeys are a dragdown.

  17. ToSeek says:

    I wonder if this is actually a clever strategic move by Obama: cut back on one of NASA’s most popular programs and get the credit for the courage to do so, then watch as Congress, responding to public and scientific protest, increases NASA’s budget to restore the program.

  18. HeadAroundU says:

    Ding! Obama did it. How deep.

    Let’s attack Iran so more money can go into study of life as we don’t know it–Iranians.

  19. lcrowell says:

    It is regrettable that this is happening. However, the JWST is far enough into development that abandoning it would be to my mind a far greater loss. My personal bias is towards astronomical instrumentation that collects data about the structure of the universe over planetary studies. Clearly there are those who due to their interests would disagree.

    Mars is primarily of interest from the standpoint of extraterrestrial life. There are reasons to think life may have existed there in the past. If so life may have adapted to the extreme cold and dry environment on Mars and continue to exist. It would also be interesting to have another mission to Jupiter or Saturn. I would be interested to see a Gravity B type of probe put in orbit around one of these planets to get more solid data on the frame dragging physics of general relativity. A fly through of the geysers of Enceladus might also be interesting, with a return capsule.

    I would not put much trust in the Republicans or the right wing to turn this around, or to see this exclusively as some Obama attack on NASA. The GOP consists to three camps. The first wants to return the nation to some cold war situation. The defense industry and their political lackeys wield considerable influence, which include both Dems and Reps, though the Reps are more solid on this front. The second camp consists of those who want to return the United States to some idyllic past of splendid isolation and the economics of the 1920s. This is the Ron Paul – tea party camp. The third wants to turn this country into some Christian paradise, which includes things advocated by some as a return to death by stoning for various offenses including blasphemy. Some also salivate at the idea of the US launching a global nuclear war to bring Jesus back. In all of these cases the thinking is retrograde and unrealistic, and if any of these were implemented it would not have the effect of delivering the nation to their vision of a “promised land.” This sort of thinking does not in any way bode well for ideas of having a robust national space program.

    LC

    • drew.shedwick says:

      You are obviously an anti-Christian bigot. I am a strong conservative, a veteran and a strong advocate for the expansion of our space program. Many of my conservative friends agree with me. It is Obama who is destroying every vestige of American exceptionalism. Oh, the last time I checked it was muslims who are stoning people for blasphemy, not Christians, most of our astronauts are Christians. Please get over your bigotry and prejudice.

      • lcrowell says:

        I am not a bigot against Christians or Muslims. I am though not particularly enthralled by either of these ideas about an invisible man in the sky of infinite dimensions. I don’t entertain ideas about some cosmic Santa Claus.

        There are some of these theocratic wannabees who do want to bring forced conversions and executions or stoning against those who do not conform. The Rushdoony followers or dominionists have advocated these things.

        The notion of American exceptionalism is an interesting bit of national mythology. To be honest when powerful states or empires begin to more strongly believe in this sort of thing it is usually the beginning of their decline. The Ottoman Turks thought more and more of their special and uniqueness in the world as the chosen people to be the Caliphate by Allah, all the while their empire began to rot away. The British got into a bit of this as well. Now it is America’s turn.

        See below my comment on politics. The greatest political thinker of all time was not somebody know for that: PT Barnum. The whole business of politics is a complete farce, and I strongly question the intelligence of people who are political true believers — of either the right or the left.

        LC

        • anjew says:

          how did religion get pulled into the picture? obviously you needed to vent against religion in general based on your bashful remarks. Take this out of here, you are “part of the problem” just like the religions you despise.

          • SJStar says:

            I disagree. Considering the continued attack on science by religious dogma on things like climate change and evolution, no wonder there is such a serious problem.

            While I do think that most of the woes stem from economic mismanagement, which is why program cuts across the board are needed, it might not be this solely. Its is the prosperity doctrine advocated in American christians already thinks that all it need to do is pray to god, and the money will just fall in your lap. Hence no need of economic reform at all! Explaining the economic mess is more due to sinnin’ of its politicians than personal or collective responsibilities of its citizens.

            God bless America — literally!

          • lcrowell says:

            This is an example of how certain things are “off the table,” which are usually icons of the right wing. Religion is one of those things, where to bring a critique of religion is equated with some sort of bigotry or hatred. It is not exactly that, but religion is based on as Paul put it in Hebrews ch 11, “Faith is the evidence of things not seen, …,” see Proverbs 3,5 as well, and is then not a rational basis for either scientific understanding or national policy. Yet these religious right winged types seem very willing to push their religious faith forwards as a principle of science and as a basis for policy.

            There are six bills aimed at undermining the teaching of evolution before state legislatures this year: two each in New Hampshire and Missouri, one each in Indiana and Oklahoma. And it’s only February. For the most part, the authors of these bills are singing a song we’ve heard before. Jerry Bergevin, the Republican sponsor of one of the New Hampshire bills, says of evolution that “It’s a worldview and it’s godless.” He blames the teaching of evolution for Nazism and Columbine. Josh Brecheen, the sponsor of the Oklahoma bill, wants to stop the teaching of “the religion of evolution.” These legislators trot out the hoary line that evolution is “just a theory” and that real science means saying that every point of view is just as good as any other. The Oklahoma bill isn’t properly speaking just an “anti-evolution” bill; it is just as opposed to the “theory” of “global warming”. A bill pending in Tennessee likewise targets “global warming” alongside “biological evolution”.

            As a matter of clarity, I would be just as tough on the left wing if it were pushing some sort of Marxist ideological screed down our throats. However, the left is virtually toothless. Further, anyone who thinks Obama is a socialist or further a communist simply does not know what they are talking about. In fact they might as well say, “I am an ignorant stupid moron.” It is one thing to have critiques and objections to Obama’s policies, but it is another to engage in this insane nonsense trumpeted by Faux News and the right wing, such as the whole birther flapdoodle, which had the implicit message, “He is not one of us.”

            All of this then amounts to intellectual obstructionism, and the corruption of education. It is being carried forwards even to higher education, where Horowitz is leading a one manned campaign to get politically right winged instruction and research imposed on university departments. When I get something from somebody on the religious right wing I tend to have pretty negative reactions, for this stuff is pure balderdash being thrust upon us all as some patriotic theme wrapped in the flag and wearing a cross.

            This also indicates how our society has becomes frustrated and incapable of solving problems. We can’t even address some of these problems, where climate change or heating is a problem that “does not exist,” or where the problem of infrastructure (an issue raised by the American Society of Civil Engineers) is equated with communism and so forth. We no longer can move forwards, but we sure get a lot of national mythology like our “exceptionalism.” This kind of thing is very common for civilizations facing a crisis or the beginning of their decline.

            LC

          • Aqua4U says:

            Thanks LC… always the voice of reason! It is appreciated.

            P.S. Thank god for people like Bill Moyers, Kathleen Jamison and Naomi Klein! Reminds that NOT everyone has ‘lost it’!

      • Torbjörn Larsson says:

        If you describe what is, you can obviously not be a bigot.

        Quite the opposite: it is the special pleading of religion that want to withdraw it from criticism that is bigoted and prejudiced. I wish you could stop being such, even if ~ 2000 years of brainwash makes it difficult for you.

        I also concur with Lawrence as much as he identifies religious threats on education, science and a prosperous society. I wish that religious could stop commenting on science.

        I also wish that pigs can fly.

    • Danny Nye says:

      Isn’t retrograde synonymous with conservative?

      • lcrowell says:

        There is a bit of a difference. In Europe these right winged people would be referred to as reactionary, which I think is different from conservative. The right wing crossed some ill-defined boundary and transitioned from being conservative into reactionary probably in the late 1980s. An honest conservative advances an argument for why some institutional structure needs to be preserved and either not abolished or at best modestly reformed. I do think there is a purpose and need for this type of polity. Reactionaries on the other hand advocate some retrograde movement and tend to have a very authoritarian social psychology. Even with the libertarian political movement there is this curious idea that we don’t need state support, even for public safety, but instead safety, security and rights are secured by the right to own a gun. Implicit in this is the idea “I am my own authority,” or those of like mind who might form militias are the authority. It could become a society of “every man for himself,” or something similar to vigilantism, but of course those who control the big money will keep “going to the bank,” and will live in their neo-feudalist gated communities guarded by private armed services. The average tea-bagger is basically a moron who is being baited into supporting something that really benefits those with big money and power.

        LC

  20. JWST is FAR more important than putting another orbiter or another rover on the red planet, cuts had to be made… the right ones were made.

  21. I think the blame goes all around, but mostly on Republican insistence on tax cuts for the wealthy. These tax cuts have to be paid for – that means reducing the money for much needed programs like funding NASA. I agree that we need to reduce Defense spending as well – we are the number one nation (by far) as far as spending on weapons and the military – we could reduce our military budget in half, and still be number one (easily). I also blame the president for not standing up to the Republicans – he has been worse than Neville Chamberlain when it comes to working with a hostile opposition.

    • drew.shedwick says:

      Obama just hates America and wants to destroy it from within. He never served this country. If he was actively trying to destro a free America, what would he do differently than he is now?
      Neville Chamberlain was a liberal who helped start WWII by being pacifist. Pacifists always start wars by being weak.

      • Torbjörn Larsson says:

        He serves US as its president, can a person serve better than that? And Obama is not a pacifist, he has had two wars ongoing and is responsible for one as we write.

        This isn’t an opportunity to blame an administration for imaginary offenses.

  22. mrsbryson says:

    I really hate that any Nasa programs get cut, i promise if i ever win the lottery i will donate to science, i find it all amazing but going to the moon would be so awesome.

  23. Very genius! I believe there are still more genius that are not yet known.

  24. Torbjörn Larsson says:

    I have commented on this before, to the effect of supporting the JWST for astrobiology and STEM and noting Weiler as arguably parts of the JWST financial problem. The article is a bit over the top, a 4th generation US rovers is expected (say, explicitly by Bolden) ~ 2018 – 2020 when the JWST financial burden is gone.

    The real worry is that this threatens to cut short ongoing successful programs like Opportunity.

  25. DarkGnat says:

    I am sad that these programs were cut, and I do think it was rather two-faced of Obama to take this action. However, I do not think that any other president would have done better. Romney surely doesn’t care about anyone other than his Wall street pals, and Gingrich is a hot-head who merely supported a moon base to get votes in Florida.

    I feel that the people simply have to choose between the lesser of two evils, both of which are well financed by certain organizations. It is truly sad that only the wealthy and corporately sponsored can become president. While candidates who genuinely want to make this nation better are shut out of elections. Where is the democracy in that? Shouldn’t all candidates be heard on an equal level? Shouldn’t people get a real choice?

  26. neil says:

    This is the message that many in congress said Obama and the Democrats “just don’t get it!” Well this seams like a response back that says, “Ok, we get it. Here you go…” Now if certain members have an issue with this they are certainly free to offer up…..compromises.
    Fact is this is the body of government that ONLY has whiners advocating for it. If enough people truly cared and put their money where their mouths are then this wouldn’t be an issue. This has historically always been the easiest part government to take from, idealism aside.

  27. ray gabe says:

    2/20/2012 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1st American to orbit the Earth. God Bless John Glenn and those who made the Mercury missions a tremendous success!

    While I continue to have great respect for John Glenn and always grateful to NASA for all the tremendous accomplishment, I am concerned that him suggesting the Bush administration is primarily to blame for our lack of domestic launch capacity when Democrats controlled congress from 2006 to 2010, is somewhat disingenuous. Let us never forget the tremendous accomplishments Americans made through sheer determination, commitment, and sacrifice. This could only have been achieved with a single-mined purpose and all sharing a common goal.

    While NASA’s portion of the Federal budget peaked in 1966 @ 4.4 % and fell to less than 1 % by 1975, the 2012 budget is expected to drop below 0.5 %. In terms of constant 2007 dollars, it is now about ½ of the 1966 level of $32 B at only $17 Billion for 2012. At the same time, taxpayers must insist on high value for all expenditures while minimizing waste, fraud, and abuse.

    The federal tax burden is primarily carried by the upper brackets who are paying MORE than a fair share. The top 5% of earners in this country pay 58% of all income tax and the top 10% pay 70% while the bottom 50% pay 2.7%. So, who’s NOT paying their “fair” share? The fact is that ALL taxpayers will eventually pay higher taxes to cover the annual $450 billion in interest on the $15 trillion debt. Also, while capital gains tax is “only” 15%, the money invested was ALREADY taxed as income typically at the 35% rate. BTW, almost half the country pays no taxes at all and half of those still get “tax credits” (a.k.a., redistribution of wealth)!

    The essential reason we MUST more adequately fund NASA is simply to retain our leadership position which provides immense, immeasurable returns – both tangible and intangible in terms of inspiring us all to reach for the stars (literally and figuratively). For without faith and trust in the concept of “What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve”, humanity is surely lost. The “space race” NEVER ends!

    For more perspective on NASA budgetary matters, see the following:

    http://www.rollcall.com/news/griffin_harris_jones_and_lampson_space_exploration_a_wise_investment_for-212493-1.html

    http://www.universetoday.com/93512/experts-react-to-obama-slash-to-nasas-mars-and-planetary-science-exploration/

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