Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society, has been an advocate of serious Mars exploration for years. He’s fought and fought (and fought) for the United States to actually explore their horizons, despite constant opposition in the form of general apathy.
You can even hear him sing about it (well, you know):
Unfortunately, the Obama administration hasn’t shown much interest in venturing beyond Near-Earth Orbit, much less planetary exploration. The general public, too, is (perhaps justifiably) more concerned with other things.
What’s truly incredible, however, is how minuscule the NASA budget is to begin with.
When compared to the overall budget, in recent years it’s hovered around 0.5%, less than one penny for every federal dollar. That compares to the amount Americans spend annually on pet food.
Bad Astronomer Phil Plait puts it even better:
“…if you have a hard drive full of 4 Gb movie files, you don’t make room by deleting 100kB text files! You go after the big targets, which is far more efficient.”
Despite all that, this year the Mars exploration budget was cut by 38.5%, basically crushing — with some kind of large, blunt instrument — any kind of hope for Mars projects beyond the already scheduled Maven orbiter and the currently en route Curiosity science lab.
Some argue there are better things to spend that money on, anyway. And I’d agree, if that wasn’t an entirely hypocritical statement.
There’s plenty else we spend money on that we probably shouldn’t. Like DC Universe Online or that vegetable chopper that fell to pieces when you took it out of the box.
Anyway, I mention all of this because Robert Zubrin recently published an article in The Washington Times that underlines his frustration with the current budget. He also explains why a sliced NASA budget will affect Mars projects in Europe. It’s worth a read.
“In 2008, NASA’s spending was $17.4 billion; this year’s budget is $17.7 billion…Toda,y [sic] the shuttles are gone, the moon program is gone, and this decade’s Mars and Jupiter probes are gone – all without saving a nickel. In terms of damage done per dollar cut, it may be a world’s record.”
Perhaps Obama’s lack of interest in Mars has less to do with the economy and more to do with the fact that he’s already been there. Maybe he just doesn’t see what the big deal is.