President Barack Obama may be the largest obstacle facing NASA’s plan to land humans on Mars in the next 15 years.
The Obama administration stymied two separate projects initiated during the Bush administration designed to take humans to Mars. The Obama administration is accused of leaking information to the press about the Mars programs, and has threatened to veto the projects.
“Every year, the Obama administration proposes funding cuts to the programs that will eventually take American astronauts to Mars – the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion spacecraft” Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith , chairman of the House Science Committee, said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Obama has repeatedly tried to slash space exploration funding and redirect it to Earth science programs — which just so happen to include climate modeling programs to measure global warming. Obama increased NASA’s budget for these enviromental programs by 63 percent.
“It is difficult to take seriously the administration’s recent ‘Journey to Mars’ report,” Smith said. “It contains no budget, no schedule and no deadlines. A few pretty photographs and some nice words do not constitute a strategic roadmap.”
“Unfortunately, this is all the administration is allowing NASA to talk about,” Smith continued. “The Science Committee has consistently worked to restore the President’s cuts in order to keep SLS and Orion on track. But despite strong bipartisan support in Congress, this administration continues to try to strangle these programs.”
Last year, Bill Nye the “Science Guy,” who’s also the CEO of the Planetary Society, criticized Obama’s attempts to cut NASA’s space exploration and planetary science programs. NASA’s planetary science program was forced to hold car washes and bake sales to gain political support to maintain its funding.
America is currently better prepared to visit Mars than it was to visit the Moon in the 1960s, according to a study authored by Dr. Bret Drake of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. A single satellite launch costs from $100 million to $260 million a few years ago, but today the private company SpaceX claims it can launch a satellite for $61 million because it works more efficiently than a government agency. NASA’s Mars plans, however, are hampered by budget issues and a lack of political support.
The “Journey to Mars” plan bears close resemblance to two past failed space exploration programs: the Space Exploration Initiative (SEI) and the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE).
The SEI was initially projected to cost $400 billion in 1989 over a 20 to 30 years, but the program never got off the ground — in no small part because it would have been the single costliest government undertaking since World War II.
The VSE would have cost $230 billion in 2004 and managed to attract much more political support. The project was canceled under Obama despite having spent most of the money that appropriated for it. The remaining funding was given to NASA environmental programs and the Asteroid Redirect Mission — a program that’s been criticized for lacking scientific merit.