Congress and the President Force Mars Rovers to Be Shutdown Temporarily Due to Budget Cuts

It is hard to express the anger that comes with the following story. It appears that after refusing to cut billions in pork and wasteful earmarks, Congress and President Bush have cut the NASA’s budget and forced scientists to curtail their research on Mars. Scientists planned to put one of the twin Mars rovers to sleep and to try to meet the shortfall. Now, after a public outcry, NASA has rescinded the order.

We have for the first time in the history of universe placed two robots on another planet for long-term exploration. We are learning critical things everyday about Mars and its history. Yet, one of the rovers will be “put to sleep” to conserve funds that neither Congress nor the President is willing to supply. It amounts to $4 million. Of course, the amount is trivial in comparison to to the hundreds of billions wastes in Iraq, Afghanistan and countless pork barrel projects. It costs NASA about $20 million annually to keep the rovers running.

Even with the rampant corruption in Congress, one would hope that members or the President would be willing to set aside a modest sum for historic research on a distant program. At some point, citizens are actually going to react to a government devoid of public service. In the meantime, an invaluable scientific machine will sit dormant on Mars as the ultimately symbol of a failed political system.

After a torrent of criticism, NASA has rescinded the letter that revealed the plan. Click here The point,however, remains the same. It took a public outcry to prevent this madness. I commend the scientists for revealing the plan. The question is why none of the members of Congress or the President have taken efforts to guarantee full and even expanded funding for this unique program. Eventually these machines will fail. They are beyond their life expectancy now. We should be rushing to utilize these resources to the maximum degree, but none of our leaders seem to care a bit about such matters.

For the full story, click here

9 thoughts on “Congress and the President Force Mars Rovers to Be Shutdown Temporarily Due to Budget Cuts”

  1. Sarah B,

    So good to see you posting again. Agree completely. Big Science in the USA is gone. Kaput. Finito.

    It chaps my hide that the EU is going to be the center of relativistic physics experiments with their upcoming CERN collider. Meanwhile our own project was deep-sixed for lack of funds. Hard science has always been one of our hole cards in international competition. This completely lame-brained administration, wrecked the budget so badly, they had to cut everything non-essential and that included a whole lot of research that would have kept us competitive for the next 30 years.

    The administation is without a doubt the biggest calamity to hit this country in 80 years

  2. Correction to the above comment:

    That should be “multi-trillion dollar budget”

    Sorry about that. I miss having a “Preview” button — they really help one clean up the text before hitting the “Submit” button.

  3. “Congress and the President Force Mars Rovers to Be Shutdown Temporarily Due to Budget Cuts”

    Yes, well, that is exactly the sort of move that a former World’s Last-Remaining Superpower would make in a case like this.

    When congress votes to kill the Rovers — which, out of a multi-trillion budget, costs the taxpayers a modest $20 million per year to keep running — then you know the Superpower days are over.

    Anyone who believes the shutdown of the Rovers will be “temporary” might also like to buy a bridge to nowhere in Alaska, which I’ll be happy to sell to you at subprime rates.

    R.I.P, U.S.A.


  4. Great. Now thats cleared up, they better pull the switch on that one that has the big dust storm headed toward it.


    NASA: Mars rovers won’t be cut 1 hour, 25 minutes ago

    LOS ANGELES – NASA says it has absolutely no plan to turn off either of the Mars Rovers because of budget cuts.

    The move comes a day after scientists at the agency’s robotics center said they would need to hibernate one of the twin Mars robots and limit the duties of the other because their budget was being cut by $4 million.

    That announcement was based on a letter NASA may have sent to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena last week.

    But NASA is saying in a statement Tuesday that neither of the rovers will be shut down.

  6. Perhaps Bush is clearing the brush, as it were, for his next hobby
    – Space Cowboy…

    Panel Says Bush’s Space Goals Are Feasible

    Published: June 17, 2004

    President Bush’s goal of sending people back to the Moon and then on to Mars without big budget increases can be achieved by reorganizing NASA and building a private space industry to help, a presidential commission said Wednesday.

    -”It’s not going to be easy, but it can be done,” said Edward C. Aldridge, a former secretary of the Air Force who is the panel’s

    chairman. ”There are a lot of details to work out.”

    After four months of study that included public hearings around the country, the nine-member commission formally issued a 60-page report on how to carry out the president’s plan. The report’s broad outlines were disclosed last week.

    On Jan. 14, Mr. Bush said he wanted NASA to focus on putting astronauts back on the Moon by 2020 and using the experience and technology developed in that effort to send people to Mars a decade or so later.


    Space: The Private Frontier

    By Michael Belfiore
    Smithsonian Books; 305pp; $26.95

    Editor’s Review Star Rating ***
    Like many other boys, Peter H. Diamandis dreamed of becoming an astronaut. But after talking to a real one while in graduate school, Diamandis decided against politicking his way through NASA’s bureaucracy on the slim chance that he might be assigned a once-in-a-decade routine flight. Instead, he took inspiration from the $25,000 prize that had spurred Charles Lindbergh to make the first nonstop, solo flight across the Atlantic, in 1927. After winning backing from well-heeled space enthusiasts and Lindbergh family members, Diamandis in May, 1996, announced the X Prize, a competition to send the first humans out of Earth’s atmosphere in a privately built craft. A new space race was born.

    It is this fascinating movement that journalist Michael Belfiore, a frequent contributor to Popular Science, chronicles in Rocketeers: How a Visionary Band of Business Leaders, Engineers, and Pilots Is Boldly Privatizing Space. These entrepreneurs are a colorful crew. There’s John Carmack, creator of the violent Doom series of video games, whose Armadillo Aerospace Co. launches rockets in the Texas desert. And Robert Bigelow, a Las Vegas real estate developer who hopes to create a hotel in space modeled on his own Budget Suites of America. Belfiore’s book provides a worthwhile overview for readers who want to learn more about these characters and the space-tourism market they are promoting.

    The star of the show is Burt Rutan, a cantankerous, mutton-chop-wearing aircraft designer. As a civilian engineer in the 1960s, Rutan had worked for the Air Force designing fighter planes. In the 1970s he founded a company that sold plans for hobbyists to build their own aircraft. In 1986, Rutan’s older brother, Dick, and co-pilot Jeana Yeager—no relation to legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager—set a distance record for their nonstop, nonrefueling, nine-day flight around the world in the Voyager, an airplane Burt had designed.

    In 2004, Rutan’s SpaceShipOne completed the two required 60-mile-high trips with a human pilot, snagging him the $10 million award that had been renamed the Ansari X Prize after a family of well-to-do sponsors. The craft is now on display in the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, not far from Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis. Today, he is designing the high-powered planes for entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, which aims to become the world’s first “spaceline” when it begins sending passengers on 2 1/2 -hour space hops in 2009. Virgin claims that 45,000 brave folks have expressed interest, and 200 have plunked down the $200,000 fee.

    Belfiore also chronicles the battle between New Mexico and California to establish the nation’s first Cape Canaveral for private space travel. New Mexico won, thanks to heaps of state funding. The $200 million Spaceport America is under construction about 200 miles south of Albuquerque, allowing local economic-development officials to use the corporate recruiting slogan “New Mexico. We’ve got space.”

    The love-hate relationship that the rocketeers have with their federal kin is evident. After their craft’s first flight, in June, 2004, Rutan and astronaut Michael Melvill gleefully appeared before TV news cameras waving a sign that read “SpaceShipOne. Government zero.” Even so, in the wake of Rutan’s success, NASA has been channeling more of its $17 billion annual budget to small companies as a way of achieving goals that now include continued development of the shuttle program, the International Space Station, and the exploration of Mars.

    One jarring note: Belfiore has an unfortunate habit of injecting himself into the narrative. For example, he tells how President George W. Bush in January, 2004, called for another lunar-landing program, justifying it as a way of keeping kids interested in science and developing new technologies for commercial use, “none of which struck me as terribly convincing,” the author comments. Bush’s new moon shot may simply be a boondoggle for contractors, but why not let some outside, more authoritative voice say that?

    Moreover, readers would have been better served if Belfiore had spent more time with some of these space entrepreneurs and taken us behind the scenes of their budding businesses. Diamandis is promoting the Rocket Racing League, in which a new breed of space cowboys in rocket-powered aircraft will compete before fans. He’s also chief executive of Zero Gravity Corp., a Fort Lauderdale outfit that gives would-be space tourists an hour of weightlessness aboard a modified Boeing 727 for a mere $3,600 per passenger. Today, weekend space trips no longer seem like science fiction.

  7. kerm, What a cynical view. But you are under-informed.

    You have to know the bigger picture. And that is that over the last 5 years, scientific funding for non-defense related oceanic, atmospheric and space science has been drastically cut. This new news about the rovers, follows up on similar stories about defunding of weather satellites already in orbit (i.e. getting replacements for ones nearing the end of their service lives), ocean buoy systems, solar flux observation systems, and so forth and so on.

    The government is basically broke and badly in debt.

    The two wars are eating up all the funds, and the government is basically broke since the wondrous tax cuts were installed while running ruinously expensive overseas presences.

    Bush is repeating the same mistake LBJ did thirty years ago.

  8. They have the money. This is just a way to get attention.

    Kind of like the Universities laying off staff just prior to a legislative session as they quietly spend millions on architecture plans for the new buildings and facilities they desire.

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