Daniels And Committee: NASA Needs More Mars Money

Jun 5, 2014

A "self-portrait" of NASA's Opportunity rover from the surface of Mars.
Credit NASA / http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/?ImageID=6177

The United States needs to spend more – a lot more – on space flight if astronauts are ever going to land on Mars.

That’s the finding of a report issued by a committee co-chaired by Purdue President Mitch Daniels. Daniels says while the reasons to go to space have changed in the past 60 years, the need to go remains.

“The original reason as we saw it, fit in the ‘practical’ basket – national security and demonstrating America’s technological leadership post-Sputnik," he says. "That’s not there anymore.”

Daniels, once a director of the Office of Management and Budget in the George W. Bush White House, also says leaders in Washington need to stop using NASA as a political football.

“I think we all developed a lot of empathy for the pressures and the difficulties they’ve had to work under," he says. "People changing directions – you know, new presidents, every president changing the direction, Congress limiting what they can do and requiring them to do other things. And we say very plainly in the report that’s got to stop.”

The report, issued by the National Research Council at the behest of Congress, says the U.S. should chart a course of scientific exploration and experimentation with Mars as the ultimate goal.

And though they offer several possible paths to get there, the report’s authors take great care not to suggest which path would be best.