Could We Make It To Mars Without NASA?
But then they ask if the project is worth the money, with the transportation policy director at the libertarian “Reason Foundation” think tank, Robert W. Poole, arguing instead that NASA “isn’t particularly interested in cost savings, and its decision making is overly driven by politics.”
NASA would have been better off replacing the costly and dated Space Launch System used in the Artemis program. But it didn’t. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that it was largely constructed and engineered in Alabama, the home state of Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby, who has a history of strong-arming NASA to preserve jobs for his constituents.
Long-time Slashdot reader SonicSpike shared the article, which ultimately asks whether it’d be faster and cheaper to just rely on private companies:
In 2009, the private sector saw one of its biggest champions ascend to become the number two person at NASA. Lori Garver pushed to scrap the Constellation program as a way to entice the private sector to fill in the gaps. She also spearheaded the Commercial Crew Program, which continues to employ commercial contractors to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. Today, companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX are launching rockets at a faster pace and for a fraction of what NASA spends. In 2022, the company successfully launched 61 rockets, each with a price tag between $100 million and 150 million.
Private companies already design and lease NASA much of its hardware. Poole says there’s no reason NASA can’t take it a step further and just use the SpaceX starship to cover the entire journey from Earth to the moon and eventually to Mars. “If the current NASA plan goes ahead to have the SpaceX Starship actually deliver the astronauts from the lunar outpost orbit to the surface of the moon and bring them back, that would be an even more dramatic refutation of the idea that only NASA should be doing space transportation,” he says.
Poole says that instead of flying its own missions, NASA should play a more limited and supportive role. “The future NASA role that makes the most sense is research and development to advance science,” he says.
But for a contrary opinion, Slashdot reader youn counters that “You can bash NASA all you want but a big reason the private sector is where it is at is because it funded research 12 years ago.” They share a CNET article noting the $6 billion NASA budgeted over five years “to kick-start development of a new commercial manned spaceflight capability.”
And Slashdot reader sg_oneill argues that “Its gonna be a century before we’re really colonizing the moon and/or Mars… because we have a lot of science to do first. How do you do a civilization with zero energy inputs from the rest of humanity? How do we deal with radiation? How do bodies work in low G? (Mars is about 1/3 the gravbity of earth). This needs science, and to get science we need NASA, even if private enterprise is building the rockets.”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.