Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Monday, August 8, 2011

Obama announces "historic" manned mission halfway to Mars.

US president Barack Obama has announced a "bold and historic" American-led mission that will see humans traveling halfway to the planet Mars a decade from now. The NASA mission, set to begin in 2022, will involve astronauts traveling approximately 100 million miles towards the Red Planet before turning around and heading back home.

President Obama hailed the trip as a significant compromise, noting "There were those who argued we should travel all the way to the Red Planet, while others argued that we should not go at all. I rejected these extremes and believe that this compromise will significantly bend the curve towards an ultimate full Mars trip some time in the future."

President Obama announced the "compromise" trip during a national address from the Oval Office.

The spacecraft that is set to carry six astronauts on the one year round trip is currently being designed at NASA. It will be half fueled by a revolutionary ion propulsion system and half fueled by coal. The compromise came after several Republican Senate leaders threatened to filibuster the trip if fossil fuels were not part of the mix.

As for funding, Obama had insisted that the roughly $30 billion trip be paid for by increasing taxes on the wealthy, who currently enjoy some of the lowest rates in decades. However, after much wrangling in Congress, a "compromise" was hammered out with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell in which half of the costs will come from cuts to welfare programs and half from tax cuts.

Critics have dismissed the "compromise" mission - the first major trip of its kind since the final manned moon mission in 1972 - arguing that President Obama should have fought for a full Mars trip. "What's the point of this?" asked Dan Slammons, a former NASA engineer. "Either you're going to Mars or you're not. To have the astronauts travel half way and then return is just humiliating and, frankly, makes America look ridiculous in the eyes of the world."

Responding to these criticisms in a recent interview on the US network ABC, President Obama stated "This is the deal we got. It is historic because it means that for the first time, humans are going to be heading for Mars. That is something we can all be proud of."

Men on Mars? Not this time.