Shifting NASA priorities toward risky, expensive missions to the moon and Mars will mean neglecting the most promising space science efforts, states the American Physical Society (APS) Special Committee on NASA Funding for Astrophysics, in a report released today. The committee points out that the total cost of NASA’s ill-defined Moon-Mars initiative is unknown as yet, but is likely to be a substantial drain on NASA resources. As currently envisioned, the initiative will rely on human astronauts who will establish a base on the moon and subsequently travel to Mars. The program is in contrast to recent, highly successful NASA missions, including the Hubble Space telescope, the Mars Rover, and Explorer missions, which have revolutionized our understanding of the universe while relying on comparatively cheap, unmanned and robotic instruments. It is likely that such programs will have to be scaled back or eliminated in the wake of much more expensive and dangerous manned space exploration, according to the committee.
November 23rd, 2004