May 28, 2002
ICE ON MARS GOOD, big NASA management problems bad. This article is mostly on-target, though one passage is a bit unfair: “When the shuttle was being designed in the 1970s, NASA unwisely chose to build a vehicle with high operating costs because it would reduce the expense of initial development.” This was NASA’s “choice” only in the sense that “your money or your life” is a choice — OMB and Congressional budget folks made clear that there wasn’t more money for initial development. It was a bad idea, and NASA maybe should have squawked more, but NASA had no leverage — and the people who did have the leverage didn’t care about the problems they were saddling the nation with down the line.
UPDATE: This Slashdot thread has some interesting observations on human missions to Mars, along with links to a couple of new pieces about the difficulties of such a mission, one from the BBC (which also opines that the U.S. should pay, but that a representative from the poorest nation on Earth should stop onto Mars first) and one from USA Today on NASA’s infrastructural problems.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s an article suggesting that there’s really a lot of ice on Mars, enough to flood much of the planet if it melted. (Which, by the way, would be a good thing). And here’s another. A reader observes that the biggest Mars flood so far is the rate at which this information is leaking out of NASA prior to the scheduled announcement.