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Mars in the News

Is it just me, or does there suddenly seem to be a lot of references to Mars as “the” goal for the future of the government space program lately? Reading NASA Watch, one is certainly left with that impression.

There’s Sen. Wyden’s remarks, which include the line

“NASA should set the goal of putting a person on Mars and work with Congress to set a date to do it.”

Then there’s Sean O’Keefe’s testimony before Sen. Wyden’s committee, in which he lists Mars as a goal for the agency.

Then (less suprising but worthy of note) there’s Keith Cowing’s own editorial on Mars-as-goal.

Then there’s McCoy’s remarks before the Commission on the Future of the Aerospace Industry, in which he likewise promotes Mars as the next step, after ISS, and indeed including it in the plans for manned Mars exploration.

Then there’s Rep. Lampson’s Space Exploration Act legislation, which lists Mars exploration as one if its end goals.

While there is too much emphasis in these news items on Apollo-style “flags and footprints” mad-dash missions, there is the indication that some push is being given to including the infrastructure to support sustained exploration. But that’s a small nitpick — the truth is that it’s astonishing and encouraging to suddenly see so much attention being paid to manned exploration of Mars. And it’s especially encouraging that the attention is not coming from the top down, like Apollo — this indicates that there is more public/grassroots support for it, and therefore less chance, should a Mars project arise, that it would be a one-shot or six-pack event.

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