A hard sell
So the Bush administration is planning on going back to the moon, and then to Mars. When this was floated as a trial balloon last month, I wrote the following: Given the fact that the current administration is racking up domestic spending obligations faster than Britney Spears racks up magazine covers, there is the minor ...
Given the fact that the current administration is racking up domestic spending obligations faster than Britney Spears racks up magazine covers, there is the minor question of cost…. The economic [rationale] rests on the innovations that would result from such a program. However, there are other, more cost-effective ways to do this instead going to Mars — hell, just doubling government funds for basic research would probably achieve greater gains at lower costs…. I’d like to see a mission to Mars. I’d just like to see a lot of other things happen first.
Reading the Washington Post’s description of the decision-making process, I’m even less sanguine:
The sources said Bush aides also view the initiative as a huge jobs program, and one that will stimulate business in the many parts of the country where space and military contractors are located. “This is a boon for business and a boon for Texas,” one official said, referring to the state where Bush was governor and the location of the Johnson Space Center, which is the home of mission control and the nerve center for human space flight. The decision was controversial within the White House, with some aides arguing that it would make more sense to focus immediately on Mars, since humans have already landed on the moon and a Mars mission would build cleanly on the success of Spirit, the U.S. rover that landed safely on Mars last weekend. Bush himself settled the divisions, according to the sources, working from options that had been narrowed down by his senior adviser, Karl Rove. One presidential adviser, who asked not to be identified, said, after discussing the initiative with administration officials, that the idea is “crazy” and mocked it as the “mission to Pluto.” “It costs a lot of money and we don’t have money,” the official said. “This is destructive of any sort of budget restraint.” The official added that the initiative makes any rhetoric by Bush about fiscal restraint “look like a feint.”
The fact that Rove — and not Andy Card — presented the policy options makes my blood run cold. [You saying that good policies are irreconcilable with good politics?–ed. No — I’m saying that this is not a fiscally sane policy and appears to be ginned up entirely for political purposes] UPDATE: Rand Simberg has more (link via Instapundit). ANOTHER UPDATE: Gregg Easterbrook makes an amusing point about cost:
Spirit, the rover that just landed there, weighs half a ton. Spirit cost $410 million to build and place on Mars–and it’s about the size of a refrigerator, and does not come back. Mars-mission proponents want to send something to the Red Planet the size of an office building, and bring it back.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School at Tufts University and the author of The Ideas Industry. Twitter: @dandrezner
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