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A STRAIGHTFORWARD IDEA: The sudden apparent upsurge in interest in manned missions to Mars has me wondering just what the space advocacy community would do if they suddenly had the government’s ear — and purse.

Do we have a unified plan? Or would we fall to squabbling amongst ourselves over what should and shouldn’t be done, where we should start and where we should go, how it should be done and who should do it?

Maybe this is something the various advocacy groups should work out in advance — a common set of principles that all can agree on when pushing for support for manned Mars missions. A party platform, of sorts. By no means will all groups be able to agree on everything, nor would such a platform be all-encompassing and minutely detailed. Instead, it would be a guideline for what the various groups would expect to see in any government-funded missions, and what it would take for these organizations to support such missions.

One important principle of this sort would formalize the opposition to “flags-and-footprints” events, through a “platform” requirement that any new manned missions (be they to the Moon, Mars, or anywhere else) be structured on an “open-ended” basis — such that missions could continue indefinitely, with continuous human presence and an eye on transition to the private sector at the earliest possible date.

I’m sure there is a better way to structure such a requirement to achieve the desired result, just as I am sure that a number of other shared principles could be hammered out among the space advocacy groups which all could comfortably sign up to as a “united front”. That may be hopelessly optimistic — expecting groups with often competing interests to work together — but there it is.

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