NASA on the Block

By Robert Zubrin, Washington Times, August 24, 2011

America’s human spaceflight program is adrift. The space shuttle has made its final flight, and the Obama administration has no coherent plan what to do next. Instead, it has proposed that the United States waste the next decade spending $100 billion to support a goalless human spaceflight effort that goes nowhere and accomplishes nothing. In the face of a mounting imperative to find ways to cut the federal deficit, this has set up the nation’s space program for the ax.

In order for NASA’s human-exploration effort to be defensible, it needs a concrete goal and one that is truly worth pursuing. That goal should be sending humans to Mars.

As a result of a string of successful probes sent to the Red Planet over the past 15 years, we know for certain that Mars was once a warm and wet planet and continued to have an active hydrosphere for a period on the order of a billion years – a span five times as long as the time it took for life to appear on Earth after there was liquid water here. Findings released by NASA last week indicate that underground water seeps are reaching the surface of the Red Planet periodically. Thus, if the theory is correct that life is a natural phenomenon emerging from chemistry wherever there is liquid water, various minerals and a sufficient period of time, life must have appeared on Mars and may still be there.

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Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Astronautics and of the Mars Society (www.marssociety.org). An updated edition of his book “The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must,” has just been published by the Free Press.

Case for Mars Cover