“America's human spaceflight program is now adrift. On July 8, the space shuttle is scheduled to make its final flight, and the Obama administration has no coherent plan for what to do next. Instead, as matters stand, the United States will waste the next decade spending $100 billion to support an aimless constituency-driven human spaceflight effort that goes nowhere and accomplishes nothing [TF Note: It accomplishes something if it makes human spaceflight significantly cheaper so that more people can do it more regularly – maybe even for commercial purposes. But that doesn’t detract from the rest of this article]. For NASA's human exploration effort to make any progress, it needs a concrete goal, and one that's really worth pursuing. That goal should be sending humans to Mars.
Uniquely among the extraterrestrial bodies of the inner solar system, Mars is endowed with all the resources needed to support not only life but the development of a technological civilization. For our generation and those that will follow, Mars is the New World. We should not shun its challenge.
And we are ready. As I show in detail in my just updated book, "The Case for Mars," we are much better prepared today to send humans to Mars, despite its greater distance, than we were to send men to the moon in 1961, when President John F. Kennedy started the Apollo program. We got to the moon eight years later.
There is nothing required by [his] plan that is beyond our technology.
The issue is not money. The issue is leadership. NASA's average Apollo-era (1961-73) budget, adjusted for inflation, was about $19 billion a year in today's dollars, only 5% more than the agency's current budget.
Yet, the NASA of the '60s accomplished 100 times more because it had a mission with a deadline and was forced to develop an efficient plan to achieve that mission and then had to build a coherent set of hardware elements to achieve that plan. If President Barack Obama were willing to provide that kind of direction, we could have humans on Mars within a decade…”