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Should Mars be the main mission?

09:13 UK time, Friday, 16 April 2010

Barack Obama believes it should be possible for astronauts to orbit Mars by the mid-2030s. Is his space vision on the right course?

The White House has been under fire since announcing in February that it wanted to shut down Constellation, the current programme to replace the ageing space shuttle.

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon said a decision to cut funding for Nasa was "devastating", but White House officials insist Mr Obama's new plans are ambitious, with the ultimate goal of reaching Mars.

Is this the right approach to space exploration? Is President Obama correct in focusing on Mars? Do you work in this science field? What are the advantages of space travel?

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Comments

Page 1 of 7

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Why???

  • Comment number 3.

    yet another waste of money, joint effort whould be more appropiate in the present climate.

  • Comment number 4.

    Should Mars be the main mission?

    Why the heck not - if Obama feels the US has the money to spare on prestige projects like this - although in the case of Mars and the asteroid exploration which Obama mentioned it does sound a bit like the US may now be focusing on the possibility of extracting mineral wealth from space rather than just exploring for the glory of it.

    Though I wonder thow the the average US citizen will feel when China or India get to the moon and park their space ships right on top of the Stars & Stripes....

  • Comment number 5.

    Yes, it is the right decision. I`ve followed the space mission`s since `Sputnick` right up to the present day. And I`ll bet there are not many on HYS who know that there is a British satellite - Prospero - `still` orbiting Earth, launched 28 October 1971 aboard the `Black Arrow` R3.
    Man`s conquest/exploration of space can only benefit us in the years ahead.

  • Comment number 6.

    We need to have a firm footing in space and a solid goal to aim for.

    This is what united the US in the 60's and this has the potential to unite the world. The world as we know it has changed dramatically because of the science innovations from such missions. We take most of this technology for granted nowadays.

    This is a very exciting mission to aim for although i would have thought 2020-2025 would have been more fun to aim for.

    Good luck either way!

  • Comment number 7.

    People in orbit around Mars by 2030 is just what the world needs isn't it? What other priority could there be?

  • Comment number 8.

    It would be a fantastic achievement for mankind if this happened, and yet again it is the USA that leads the world, i wish the worlds best minds all got together, our governments around the world all made peace with each other, all the cash we spent an the military was ploughed in to a space programme, then we would reach the stars

  • Comment number 9.

    Having watched enterprising and brave people put a private project into space at much lower cost than NASA, I believe that the whole world needs to settle down and think about what we should and shouldn't do. Space travel should not be a lottery because it is a race.

  • Comment number 10.

    Mars is definitely the way to go. Whether now is the time, is the big question. The Sun will die and destroy our planet in around 4.5 billion years time and apparently we could be hit by a meteor or an asteroid at some stage in the future with the potential to create global devastation. Maybe we should think about alternative places to live. A little too soon in time for the demise of the Sun, but probably soon enough for other issues that might affect our planet. But hey, Humans have always migrated and the school boy in me is excited by the prospect of a Mars landing.
    There will be a lot of concern about cost in the face of other priorities, but that has always been the case since the days of the Space Race from the 1950s onwards. We celebrate the 1969 Moon landing as a landmark achievement and of course it was just that, but the promises that it gave us haven’t quite manifested in the way I dreamed about as a child at the time. As a kid in the 1960s and 1970s, I thought we would have a Moon base by now and a Mars colony and trips into space would be commonplace for mere mortals. I thought the future would be as depicted in TV shows and films like Space 1999, 2001 A Space Odyssey and UFO but it hasn’t happened. Perhaps we can start to make it happen. The 1969 Moon Landing seemed to unite the world in awe for a short moment, a distraction from war and other Human catastrophes. We need another event to give us the same effect, if but for a moment.

  • Comment number 11.

    Possible by the mid-2030s? It's been possible since the 1980s!

    It is a lack of will that is impeding space exploration, and high time people woke up to the possibilities, the discoveries that are just waiting to be made.

  • Comment number 12.

    There´s too much pride in space. Yes, I understand that the world has learned a lot thanks to space exploration, but can we be surethat the same money spent on earth hadn´t been even more effective? There are 7+ billion people, how many will ever go to space?

    I don´t know the real arguments to compare Mars, the moon and the Constellation programme, but choosing one and sticking to it for a few decades sounds like the only feasible option.

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    "Before spending more money on space, How about sorting out all the probelms on Earth.Mars has been they a long time. but people world- wide die every day for the want of a few dollars.

  • Comment number 15.

    We are a remarkable species, incredibly innovative and inquisitive.
    Just over one hundred years ago, man made the first powered flight; less than seventy years later, he set foot on the moon. Our technology advances at an amazing and accelerating rate, albeit not always constructively.
    Of course we should, and will, land on Mars. Eventually, we will land on a planet in a far galaxy, and that may well be in the lifetime of my grandchildren.

  • Comment number 16.

    I always hoped to see the first man land on the moon in my life-time, I never thought I'd see the last man on the moon too.
    However we now know the race to the moon was political in motivation and not knowledge based.
    Space exploration drives technological advances so I'm all for it. It's the pursuit of abstract knowledge which has driven mankind forward.

  • Comment number 17.

    There is an assumption that the money spent on a mission to Mars would be better spent on something else. Unfortunately, in my experience, if the money is not spent on space exploration it will will be spent on some other project that the same people would consider a waste. Such as a new fleet of aircraft carriers. It's the way governments work. Mankind must go forward into space exploration. If we stop space exploration, it will seem to me to be the beginning of the old age of the human race - a little like when you are no longer able to drive through senility.

  • Comment number 18.

    The USA spent $75 Billion (thats $75, 000, 000, 000) on global warming, the biggest scam in the history of science. No investigation into the lies, intimidation of 'skeptics', fraudulent scientific reporting, conspiracy to decieve, basic incompetence (Himalayan glaciers gone by 2035!).

    I would rather the US spent their money on vanity projects such as this than another military venture or to stuff more bogus environmental pseudo-science down the worlds throat.

  • Comment number 19.

    Space is the future of the Human race, without future exploration and eventually colonisation/use of raw materials then we are inevitably going to exhaust this planet. So a mission to Mars would be most welcome.

  • Comment number 20.

    Ultimately if the human race wants to survive it has to move into space, and going to Mars is obviously one of the first steps that need to be taken to achieve this.
    As others have said the Earth has a finite life as the sun will explode at some time in the future. This is likely to be millions of years in the future, but might actually be much sooner. We also have the risk of asteroids hitting the planet, it has happened in the future, and will happen again.
    A further reason for exploring other planets is that resources are finite on earth. Some metals will run out, and new sources will have to be exploited.

  • Comment number 21.

    #15 Philip

    "We are a remarkable species, incredibly innovative and inquisitive."

    So are ants. What's your point?

  • Comment number 22.

    How much is this going to cost?

    Maybe we should spend some of that money sorting this planet out first before spending it on flying people around others.

  • Comment number 23.

    The exploration and eventual colonisation of the solar system has to be the most important challenge mankind as a species must face up to.

    We must move off our little ball of dirt if we are to survive any number of possible catastrophies or disasters, some of which are only a matter or when and not if.

    Example : impact by a large space object. If we dont, we risk going the way of the dinosaurs.

    Think Tunguska in the early 19th centuary and picture that over any large city. Think about the near earth object that passed between the earth - moon system in the 1990's.

    Personally, I thought by now the moon at least would have a permanent base but it seems the political will is not there. We'd rather kill each other than spend the money on a truly worthwhile endeavor. And yes, I am a trekkie.

  • Comment number 24.

    Space travel now at the point air travel was in the 1920s. It’s time to stop pumping in state money and start getting private enterprise involved. In those days government encouraged private development, e.g. by awarding mail contracts to the most able airline, instead of competing with them.

    Apart from true research missions, like the outer planets, they should be doing the same today.

  • Comment number 25.

    Mars is a great goal, but I feel that they should look for landing on the moon again first.

    The reasons for this are as follows.

    1) The possiblity of water in craters at the moon's poles give access to cheap fuel.

    2) You only need 1/6 the energy to take off from the moon. Therefore you can send a larger craft.

    3) The moon gives you an over 2000 miles an hour "slingshot"

    4) Alternatively, the space craft can be built modularly in space and fuelled from the moon

  • Comment number 26.

    Mars, I'd be quite satisfied with getting back to Aberdeen (volcanic ash has us stuck).

  • Comment number 27.

    We are running out of room and resources on this planet. It's time to look for somewhere else just as, perhaps, we were set up here, but have we the technology yet to achieve it?

  • Comment number 28.

    Given the current economic climate, there are more important things to spend money on than space exploration. However, orbiting Mars by the mid-2030s sounds disappointingly far away. Perhaps a joint venture between NASA and the European space agency, the Russians and the Indians and the Chinese and so on might be the best way to go about it. We're all in it together, etc, etc.

  • Comment number 29.

    "22. At 10:47am on 16 Apr 2010, Mark Smith wrote:
    How much is this going to cost?

    Maybe we should spend some of that money sorting this planet out first before spending it on flying people around others."

    War and space exploration drive technological advancement. The potential new propulsion systems needed to get to Mars would have a huge impact on commercial energy needs, for example. Try looking further than the end of your nose sometime.

  • Comment number 30.

    Well, we've been choking and overpopulating our planet for too long now. About time we looked at making a start on doing the same to others.

  • Comment number 31.

    While they're up there, can they try and collect up some of the rubbish that's already been left floating around in space from other missions?

  • Comment number 32.

    This planet we live on is becoming over crowded and we are depleting its mineral wealth at a prodigious rate. We have 2 options. Cull the population, something only religious/racist bigots would condone and only if it did not affect them or we do what we have done since the dawn of mankind we migrate to new lands. The mission to Mars could be likened to the early hominids that left Africa and spread across the world, if we do not follow their example then we will be doomed to a cycle of wars as we fight over declining resources.

    Mars should be just the next step on a journey to the stars

  • Comment number 33.

    Also – 2030s? Remind them to pack a Chinese phrase book … so they can talk to air traffic control when they arrive.

  • Comment number 34.

    My dad could remember the first bicycle in the village. He served an apprenticeship as a steam fitter, He worked on petrol engines, made the mechanism that started the motor of the torpedo that crippled The Bizmark and lived to see television pictures of men walking on the Moon.
    Time moves on! So must we!

  • Comment number 35.

    Yes yes. The future is out there. It would be a great achievement. As for the moaning Minnies who go on about the cost of space exploration: remind them that redistribution of wealth is political suicide in our conservative culture; that money saved if space exploration was cut would not be used to help the sick and needy; it would go to warfare, lavish payment for bureaucrats and bankers and the promotion of further social inequalities.
    Go for Mars, learn how to terraform this inhospitable planet, learn from the science and technology, and the spin offs we might all benefit from, and one day our future generations will leave the dump that was once our planet.

  • Comment number 36.

    29. At 11:08am on 16 Apr 2010, yeahman wrote:

    War and space exploration drive technological advancement. The potential new propulsion systems needed to get to Mars would have a huge impact on commercial energy needs, for example. Try looking further than the end of your nose sometime.

    ---

    Oh well, if you put it like that, as long as long as there are new propulsions systems being developed having an impact on commercial needs for example, then we don't need to bother our consciences about millions of homeless starving people all around the world. Good point.

  • Comment number 37.

    We have to keep progressing and exploring. It enhances our understanding and betters our world and ways of living.

    We have been doing it from the dawn of time, so no reason to stop now.

  • Comment number 38.

    Yeah lets get people excited about something again am fed up of the doom and gloom media. Every time this topic comes up the same gloomy people drone on around fixing all the problems here first, without realising that no matter what we will never ever believe we have fixed all the problems here, so saying that is is the same as saying Never Explore Again. Out nature does not allow us to accept the status quo, no matter what we do we want it better. Exploring will not slow down our abilitiy to fix our problems here, and it could even speed them up.

    Lets get out into space and start exploring again!

  • Comment number 39.

    "The main mission"? For who? Surely the question should be "Should NASA's main mission be Mars?"

    Come on BBC, stop being up America's ar** and start realising there is a world out there (beyond the US) with real stories.

  • Comment number 40.

    Obama has a $1.3 trillion dollar budget deficit and $12.5 trillion national debt. Where is the money for Mars?

  • Comment number 41.

    I am very glad the whole idea of going to Mars and beyond has not been dropped. Many who think this is a waste of money, have missed the point... This goes way beyond meer finacially guantification, it's human evolution, we are running out of space and resources quickly, and could find potential solutions in other places we will never find here. Plus the idea that this just takes money and resources away from other areas is largly incorrect. This money gets spent on developing tools, paying wages, employing people in jobs, who then pump that cash back into the local and global economy. Would you prefer they just gave it to some bank, who just gamble it all on sugar or just hold onto it to boost profits? We as a species are in a very dangerous place. A small blue-green rock huttling at a million miles an hour in a bit of space full of other rocks hurtling this way and that, our resources are few and far between, and at the end of the day consits of aa small amount of what the rest of the universe does. Will you complain when on Titan or somewhere they find a fuel that has no emmisions and is vastly more efficent? We know so little about this world or others but I dont think we are going to find any solutions or anything out just looking at the ground. The Universe does not end a few feet about you head, and is not simply full of dead rock - if that was the case why do we live on a rock that is clearly thriving.

  • Comment number 42.

    Yes it should be. Let it be a world venture between EASA, NASA and the Russian Space Agency. We had the space race which was driven by an ideological battle but acheived so much. We need something that will inspire humanity. As JFK said, we should do these things because they are hard.

  • Comment number 43.

    The entire NASA budget is one quarter of one percent of what the USA spends fighting in Afghanistan. Every 'space dollar' is spent here on Earth, keeping scientists and engineers in work, driving research forward and providing countless 'spin off' technologies for industry, medicine etc. By exploring space we ARE doing something for people down here. And the benefits of fighting in Afghanistan are....?

  • Comment number 44.

    I would prefer that the goal for 2030 be that it is possible to reliably orbit the M25 around London without problems before wasting money on space exploration.

  • Comment number 45.

    I think Obama has got it bang on - it is aboutt time someone seriously started contemplating and planning manned exploration of Mars. Just look at the wealth of information collected from the Apollo missions to the Moon. There is only so much exploration that can be performed remotely, with both telescopes and robots. But sample return missions, like Apollo, prove invaluable to the field of planetary science.

    I do not believe it to be squandering resources either. As Obama correctly states, this is an investment, one that will create new jobs and is ultimately inspirational.

    Anyone seriously thinking that this is a ploy for mineral extraction on Mars needs to consider how very very far away we presently are from that kind of capability.

  • Comment number 46.

    We already know that to find habitable planets we have to go beyond our own solar system. It's clear that rocket propulsion, our best means of space travel, is not nearly good enough for this purpose. If there is a budget for space exploration it should be directed at finding alternatives to rockets, difficult as this is.

  • Comment number 47.

    This sounds very sensible. If Obama succeeds in reducing expenditure on nuclear weapons, and perhaps US weapons expenditure generally, there will be spare high tech capacity in the US. Especially, when it is by no means certain that the recession is completely over, it is important that this capacity should be redeployed. Mars exploration should give us very useful information about the fate of that planet, which could be relevant to the future prospects for Earth.

    In any case the technical spin off from such work is likely to be very valuable. Money invested in high tech research and development in the past has produced valuable returns.

  • Comment number 48.

    i prefer him to cut half of space budget to salvage our planet from climate change.

  • Comment number 49.

    Hah! WHY ???

  • Comment number 50.

    If that mission would be done on similar manner as the Moon landing, than there would be no headaches, just great and mysterious expenses. However fly there really at the current state of technology would be a virtue, a great deal with great expenses and risks involved. The Mars was a habited place according to some scholars as short as ten thousand years ago (compare it to the real age of the great pyramid of the Giza Plato, which is 11.400 years old), so the first inter planetary move of man would be definitely there. Russians are imitating that flight already, so there is nothing special in Obama's intention.
    Good luck...

  • Comment number 51.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 52.

    Obama promised change. He then cancelled a space programme to divert the money to earthbound problems. As has been done for the past three decades. No change there then!

    So this is much better news. Just stick with it and don't cancel it

  • Comment number 53.

    JFK luved doing hard things good on him when they get there they can sort that lion's face out turn it into a disney place

  • Comment number 54.

    Mars is the place to study the result of nuclear catastrophe of cosmic magnitude.
    Refer to NASA for hints...

  • Comment number 55.

    To davidethics 11.27
    What a load of old horse apples! Scientists already suspect what's there - if we're lucky! - wait for it - frozen water?! Don't know if you've heard or not but we've still got loads at each end of this planet! The saved money wouldn't be spent on weapons, not if you vote Nick Clegg next month that is! :)

  • Comment number 56.

    I cannot understand why anyone is interested in a planet that is so far away, and freezing cold and cant support life.

    What a waste of money. By 2030, I will have just past my 3 score years and 10, so I could be dead.

  • Comment number 57.

    15. At 10:25am on 16 Apr 2010, Philip wrote:

    We are a remarkable species, incredibly innovative and inquisitive.
    Just over one hundred years ago, man made the first powered flight; less than seventy years later, he set foot on the moon. Our technology advances at an amazing and accelerating rate, albeit not always constructively.
    Of course we should, and will, land on Mars. Eventually, we will land on a planet in a far galaxy, and that may well be in the lifetime of my grandchildren.

    -----
    I admire your optimism, but travel to the nearest star would currently take about four years if we could travel at the speed of light, and our nearest galaxy is 2,500,000 light years away (2.5 million years to reach at the speed of light!)

    Inventing light, or near light speed travel would crack that, but outside of Star Trek......

  • Comment number 58.

    Wouldn't it be better to spend it on healthcare, peace, education, employment, living standards, etc?

    And with the state we've got this planet into, I pity the next lump of rock we land on.

  • Comment number 59.

    To those asking why we aren't spending this money on Earth's local problems; space exploration is probably the best bet at sorting our earths problems, long term. More living space, and resources so abundant that they'll make scarcity of certain many metals and chemicals a distant memory. The two main causes of human strife on Earth have historically been exactly that; living space and resources. Surely you can see how Space Exploration is a potential solution to so many of our problems here? Just look at the asteroid 16 Psyche; holding 1% of the belts total mass, it could probably supply enough nickle and iron for literally millions of years, at our current consumption rates.

    It would be show a complete lack of compassion for current and future generations if we didn't explore this potential to it's fullest.

  • Comment number 60.

    Too many people on HYS clearly quite obsessed and to worried about green bits of paper and numbers in an account to get the application of space travel.

    I agree in the sense we should deal with some of the world’s problems before putting all our time and resource into space travel, but holding back because of world debt? Who isn’t in debt? Does it really matter? If we let money hold us back I don’t think as a species we would of come this far.

    If it means more space and resources, developments and discoveries that can ultimately benefit man kind then im all for it. If it stops us spending money on bombs then that’s a plus too.

    Bout time we wiped clean all 3rd world debt. Shared technology and outlaw backward brain washing religions (including this modern day money worshipping) and start exploring space!

  • Comment number 61.

    Space exploration is akin to humans leaving the caves and seeing what's over the hill. It's a fundemental part of being human.

  • Comment number 62.

    No, focusing on a Mars mission at this time is just pointless. For sustainable deep space exploration, which is what i hope the focus will be on in the future, we need to utilise the water resources that have been discovered on the Moon. The best way to do that would be to build a moon base mining facility. This will be used as the main facility to extract the water from the lunar soil but also as a deep space exploration dock for exploration space craft.

    One of the biggest problems for a mission to Mars is payload, you need to build big oversized rockets to carry enough fuel to project the vehicle through the Earths atmosphere and into space, once in space the fuel requirements are comparatively very low. So the best way forward is to have separate vehicles, a lunar shuttle will be used to carry astronauts and equipment to a Moon base. At the Moon base a deep space exploration vehicle can be constructed, equipped, fueled and manned for repeated deep space exploration missions from the Moon base and with fuel requirements for transit to Mars being very low this would allow for a possible landings on the surface. It will also allow for deeper and more interesting space exploration missions to places like the Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callista which are Moons orbiting the gas giant of Jupiter. Because of the low fuel requirements for deep space exploration the space craft can be more spacious and therefore more comfortable for astronaughts and also carry more equipment.

    I think in this age of space exploration the ISS is the first step (although pointless)to a global united space organisation and for missions to places like Mars global co-operation is exactly what we will need to get the program up and running, the second thing is the Moon base and if Obama wants people orbiting Mars by 2030 we need to start construction pretty soon.

  • Comment number 63.

    Daisy Chained wrote:
    #15 Philip

    "We are a remarkable species, incredibly innovative and inquisitive."

    So are ants. What's your point?


    Ants are today what they have been for thousands of year; nothing more, nothing less. What's your point?

  • Comment number 64.

    Some shrewd thinking by the US President here.
    The moon exploration program was and still is an evolutionary and financial dead end for the space program. It represents pretty much the very best that current chemical rocket technology can do, and still costs in the order of $100 billion, all to get us less than a million miles from earth.

    Orbiting Mars is a clever medium term goal. By not landing, the design complexities, costs and dangers of landing craft are bypassed. The designers can concentrate on an advanced propulsion system instead.

    There are lots of plans for Mars manned missions that use chemical rockets, any internet search shows that. But they are just that - plans, or more accurately (pardon the pun) pure moonshine. They invariably involve 3 year missions, lightweight spacecraft with poor radiation shielding, ridiculously cramped crew compartments and pretty much zero mission abort capabilities. Attempting it would most likely result in tragedy and Nasa knows this.

    With a lightweight nuclear reactor powered drive system, we could be there and back in 6 months in a nice big spacecraft with lots of shielding and engineering redundancy in case things go wrong. And for the greens out there, a Uranium 235 based system can be launched safely in inert pieces that won't go live until put together at a safe distance from earth.

  • Comment number 65.

    There's plenty of sand on Mars, perhaps the arabs will put their hands in the pockets with the hope of finding oil...

  • Comment number 66.

    By the law of averages it is probable we have been visited by superior alien life on numerous occasions, notably on the rocks that crash into our planet from time to time. We should not assume that having a large brain, an ego and a vivid imagination leads to a brighter future for any species.

    Until we attain speeds faster than light I fear we are not going anywhere interesting for a very long time. But I did see a strange dark shape hovering over my house the other day.....well I think I did. I will be out there again tonight on the off chance they'll have room for one more.

  • Comment number 67.

    24 - Ben Essada wrote:
    "Space travel now at the point air travel was in the 1920s. It’s time to stop pumping in state money and start getting private enterprise involved."

    When private money is in space they will look to every which way to genberate money - they will have to. So how long will it be before see see huge advertising banners floating across the night sky as they orbit the earth. I think that would be the end of beautiful starry nights.

    Also, it has to be regulated otherwise we stand even more risk of becoming prisoners on our own planet trapped by an inpenetrable layer of deris and bits of space junk orbiting the planet.

    I'd rather see space being conquered through international co-operation between governments.



  • Comment number 68.

    Putting Men or Women in orbit around Mars is as easy as orbiting the moon. It just takes longer to get there. That is no ambition. We need to find a way to utilize the resources on the Moon and Mars. We can not do this until we learn to live in such environments. So why not start with our Moon and then look at visitng Mars. As usual for Obama, he is trying to say something that would appeal to the science community for votes. It is all about the votes here.

  • Comment number 69.

    Obama’s speech is just so much political window dressing. It’s like Kennedy announcing the Apollo programme and then saying that NASA will only build the Command Module and that private industry must build everything else. Neither Obama or anyone else alive today will be around to see a Mars landing in 2030 because thanks to the current administration it won’t happen this century. Obama has leapt not into the future but into the past. But then what do you expect from a lawyer!

  • Comment number 70.

    What is the point of spending billions to land on another planet that cannot support life as we know it?

    The only reason I can think of is to rape it in the same way we have done on the Earth.

    It would be much better to spend a tiny fraction of the space budget on contraceptives for Third World countries.

  • Comment number 71.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 72.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 73.

    ''12. At 10:15am on 16 Apr 2010, tonne18 wrote:

    There´s too much pride in space. Yes, I understand that the world has learned a lot thanks to space exploration, but can we be surethat the same money spent on earth hadn´t been even more effective? There are 7+ billion people, how many will ever go to space?''

    It is precisely because we have 7 billion people that we need to go into space. The Earth will only support us for so long with the way we are using it now. If we had taken steps years ago to reduce birth rates minimise our population growth we would have more time. But we are running out of raw materials, space to grow food and even space to bury our rubbish. In the next 50 years ournumbers will skyrocket. If you think this planet is over crowded now, just give it twenty years.

    It will take decades, if not centuries, to get beyond our own system and look for other places to support life, and we need to start looking now.

    My only criticism is that we should be looking together, as one race, for a global solution. but then on the other hand, competition and arms races push technology forward the fastest.

  • Comment number 74.

    Believe...

    Maybe IKEA will develop special flat-pack,open plan space furniture/buildings so we can colonise the place. It's one of the few things humans are good at.

    Capitalists must love this too... the New Aspiration... space tourism. Keeps the money rolling in.

    Madge at the moonbase thinks this is too early. She says about the 2nd half of the Century will be soon enough.
    Other specific, scientific benefits need to be included for the trip to be worthwhile anyway.

    Funny isn't it??
    We can send people to the Moon, climb the highest peaks and explore the greatest depths but we don't know what the person next to us is thinking on the bus/train or plane.
    Maybe we should ask.

    ''Daddy, I want to escape this planet and go to the Mars.''.

    But is this form of escapism healthy ???

    [NB.thanks to H Cecil for the placement of Diescentric(Diesis -Hawzah(Green Desert). who would have thought it could win at HQ first time out ??]

  • Comment number 75.

    65. At 12:44pm on 16 Apr 2010, Brian wrote:
    There's plenty of sand on Mars, perhaps the arabs will put their hands in the pockets with the hope of finding oil...

    --------------

    Funnily enough finding oil on Mars or anywhere else in space would be absolutely staggering, if you think a little bit about where oil comes from....

    However there are huge mineral resources out there as well as Ice and gases- we don't have the technology to make use of them yet but its certainly not too soon to start catologuing which resources exist where for future use.

  • Comment number 76.

    I suppose twenty years to get out of the current economic mess and onto an ambitious project like inter-solar system exploration is do-able. I know it's hard to see the future when the present is so glum, but that's no reason not to plan for it. I say go for it!

  • Comment number 77.

    It always surprises me the number of people who think exploration is a waste of time and money.

    What whould our world be like if the same attitudes were applied to the early explorers such as Columbus and Cook, or trail-blazers such as the Wright brothers.

    Exploration and solving the problems of the planet is not an either/or issue... we CAN do both if the will is there to do it. Critisising the spending on space is just a distraction - there is more than enough money and know-how in the world to cut starvation, reduce conflict and improve the environment; its just that we as a society choose not to.

    It is part of our make up to explore our environment and may even be critical to our survival. We must always seek knowledge and strive to increase our understanding.

    Also, the earth's days as a viable planet are numbered with or without our prediliction for damaging the environment; the planet cannot sustain the current population and in any case our sun will die eventually. Space may give us resources - and in the longer term it may provide a safe haven for the human race. Our exploration of our environment may also answer more pressing needs such as clean energy as our understanding of the universe at all scales increases.

    So to those who say money on space exploration is a waste and money on the Large Hadron Collider could be better spent - I say go back to your prehistoric caves!!!

  • Comment number 78.

    ''51. At 11:59am on 16 Apr 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    What Barack Husein considers viable or not viable is irrelevant.

    The former labor lawyer and a community organizer has no clue.



    And that our current Commender-in-Chief is simly incompetent is obvious to everybody; unfortunately, also to America's enemies.''

    Actually I think you'll find that, unlike your last president, Obama is seen by the rest of the world to be doing a pretty good job. He has also raised America's image, and overall you are far less hated than you were under Bush. We still think you're a bit crazy for having a problem with the healthcare reforms. Again, he's made a good decision here, I just feel very sorry that he has such ungrateful people to lead!

    Before, you had a president who started two illegal wars and was instrumental in plunging the world into depression, as well as becoming a global laughing stock, now you have a president who wants to bring free health care to millions of people and explore space and you hate him. That's far more crazy than going to the moon.

  • Comment number 79.

    Barack Obama says it should be possible to send astronauts to orbit the planet Mars by the mid-2030s and return them safely to Earth, but is it possible to pay down the American debt.
    The Outstanding American debt as of 16 Apr 2010 at 12:01 PM is:
    12,829,999,542,468.82.
    The estimated population of the United States is 308,203,997;
    so every American citizen's share is $41,628.27.
    The National Debt has continued to increase an average of
    $4.11B each and every day since September 28, 2007.
    Mr. Obama, where will you get the money?

    About 40 million people in the USA, including 13 million children, live below the poverty line. Requests for emergency food assistance are steadily rising; some of these requests must go unmet due to volume.
    Mr. Obama, where will you get the money?
    Home foreclosures are still at a record high; eviction notices are even higher. The number of homeless is breaking records.
    Mr. Obama, where will you get the money?
    I can’t help but think that the continuation of the space program is an elitist project. It is being designed as an escape mechanism for the scandalous bunch who created the mayhem to escape & ride out the catastrophes in space while we the people starve, drown, kill each other (maybe even eat each other) in desperation...or otherwise decrease the surplus population.
    When the little blue planet has calmed herself, "they" shall return - new Gods to a new world with new survivors to worship them.

  • Comment number 80.

    I'd rather see money spent on exploring space, than frittered away fighting unwinnable wars.

  • Comment number 81.

    Unfortunately the odious, corrosive left wing influence in western democracies these days (especially the UK) means that space exploration has become unfashionable. Spending the money on "public services" i.e more civil service jobs or more 'community cohesion' groups is preferable to that lot, rather than giving humanity hope & inspiration. Rather than having something amazing to strive for, to explore beyond our planet which is a natural part of human curiosity and development, the left wing shower will have us remain the miserable, cynical lot we have all become - multicultural robots under the gaze of CCTV, brainwashed by the BBC, taxed to death and nothing to show for it.

    The left wing must be removed from all positions of influence i.e. Government and media, or we will stagnate.

    Thank goodness for America.

  • Comment number 82.

    Why do we do this? Because Earth will not be able to sustain us forever, no matter how 'Green' we are - Humanity needs to explore, learn and take our place in the Universe at large.
    How we do this is a more important question - Reaching planets such as Mars would be much easier if the Moon was used as a launch site, so establishing a Lunar colony with launch facilities would be a better way to start. The Mars mission, whilst exciting, runs the risk of becoming just another spectacular one-off, like the Apollo program....

  • Comment number 83.

    The moon landing supposidly took place 40 years ago, with a computer system about as advanced as a modern calculator. Technology has advanced so much in that time that there should be regular tourist trips to all the planets, so why does it need a further 10 years to get into action. With all of the hops made by the space shuttle, a craft could have been constructed in space and trips to and from the moon at least be common. I don't beleive America ever had the technology and they certainly do not now to venture any further than the outer atmosphere. India will be the first on the moon, as there is no USA flag flying there.

  • Comment number 84.

    I think O'Bama's maybe not logged in to HYS -- too busy yet again helping his luminatii pals give us all the mushroom treatment look at easter island it's obviuous

  • Comment number 85.

    The story - according to the BBC - does not make sense.

    Send a mission to Mars to orbit then return, then a later mission has a landing.

    Why not land the first time there ?

    Good luck to NASA anyway.

  • Comment number 86.

    BluesBerry asks

    'Mr. Obama, where will you get the money?'

    when what he should be asking is

    'Mr Bush, where did all the money go?'

    You can't stop progress because of a little national debt, or we'd all still be hitting our dinner over the head with sticks. You bible-belters should have heard the saying 'the poor will always be with us' before. Technology will never advance if we stop to take care of everyone, it sounds mean, but it's true.

  • Comment number 87.

    Why do all humans beleive it is necessary to transport your body somewhere to be there?

  • Comment number 88.

    I'd be more interested in somewhere like Venus. It's warmer than Mars, and look at the scenerey, just canals and sand!

  • Comment number 89.

    Obama shuts down our space program...
    Tells us he is strengthening it...
    Then passes out the money to American freeloaders and welfare recipients..

    Obama wants to give up America's technological advantages in space because he is trying to weaken America he wants Russia, China and India to lead the world in space because he was born and raised to hate his own country. Then without putting any money into the program he looks at us through his telepromter and tells us he wants to go to Mars but without funding he might as well take us to Pluto.

  • Comment number 90.

    At 10:25am on 16 Apr 2010, Philip wrote:
    Eventually, we will land on a planet in a far galaxy, and that may well be in the lifetime of my grandchildren.

    We have to prove the whole of conventional physics wrong and develop faster-than-light travel first. Wanna bet when?

  • Comment number 91.

    I find it strange that people are so quick to argue against space exploration due to cost yet dont seem to care what it costs to go to war or do other things.
    The ENTIRE Apollo programe cost around 100 billion dollars (in todays money)which was about the same as was being spent PER YEAR in Vietnam during the height of the conflict. A year in Iraq and Afganistan is costing the US more than sending a man to the Moon (and thousands didnt die going to the moon). The Apollo program cost each man, woman and child in the US much less than a Doller a year for it. Thats pretty cheap dont you think? Just for the entertainment value its cheaper than going to the cinema! Thats not to bad for a 13 year program.

    It is allot of money but its not like they take a 100 billion dollar check and burn it. It was a huge benefit to the US from increased technological development (it help advance modern computing by 10 - 20 year), scientific research, and even to direct employment (over 400,000 employed by it at its height).

  • Comment number 92.

    3. At 09:39am on 16 Apr 2010, spud wrote:
    yet another waste of money, joint effort whould be more appropiate in the present climate.

    ....so it's a waste of money for the US to do it alone, but it's a good idea to do it with a group?

  • Comment number 93.

    81. At 1:17pm on 16 Apr 2010, SystemF wrote:
    Unfortunately the odious, corrosive left wing influence in western democracies these days (especially the UK) means that space exploration has become unfashionable. Spending the money on "public services" i.e more civil service jobs or more 'community cohesion' groups is preferable to that lot.

    ----

    Whoa hold the paranoia.

    Besides what is NASA other than a huge public service industry employing thousands of people who, in the UK would certainly be classed as 'civil servants'.

  • Comment number 94.

    Good idea. Make sure the first flight is full of bankers and only fuel it for a one-way trip.

  • Comment number 95.

    Space exploration is very interesting but offers very little in the way of returns on investment and the investment needed is absolutely huge. The human race should definitely be exploring places other than this planet but I am glad Americans will be paying for it and not us.

    I wish these missions all of the success in the world and hope that it provides a leap forward in scientific development.

  • Comment number 96.

    Mars?? Oh, no Nathaniel!

  • Comment number 97.

    #24 and 67

    Private enterprise has already put a man in space via a US consortium of very brave people (see my entry at #9). They used a variation on the piggy back ride, meaning all parts can be retrieved. Re-entry is via a feathering manoeuvre which means heat is not the problem it has been with other ships (i.e. it still gets hot but is much less intense).

    The innovation in this development has been quite staggering and the bravery of the pilots (and their families) absolutely amazing. In terms of endeavour the group has demonstrated that there may be many ways to develop space travel much more cheaply, effectively, and reliably than NASA has shown.

    However the suggestion of aiming for Mars, as has already been stated, is not the "great" project some are making it out to be. Sure the journey is longer and more complicated than flying to the Moon, but the ingredients are the same. By the way, Mars has a very complex orbit compared to the Moon, and is one of the more "eccentric" bodies in our solar system. What will we find there? We already know most of what we need to know, and signs of life or water or something else impressive would take a lot of wandering around - it may be smaller than Earth but it is still a mighty big place.

  • Comment number 98.

    Yes, clearly we should be sending astronauts to Mars. It's not rocket science, is it?

  • Comment number 99.

    A Mars a day helps you work, rest & play.

  • Comment number 100.

    Quite how Obama thinks we can get to Mars when he has stopped the space exploration budget is a mystery to me.

    Big elastic band?

 

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