This headline is just begging to have a list of names appended to it:
Put People on Mars by 2033 – For the Good of the Nation
I agree with the sentiment, but that’s as far as it goes. Not to take away from the achievements of the authors, but this is just pablum:
Third and most importantly, the European Space Agency, Russians, and Chinese continue to accelerate their human spaceflight programs. Americans must not cede the finish line. Our country should not wait until we receive the news that someone else has won the race to Mars for our leaders in Washington to ask, “How’s our space program doing? Why didn’t we get first place?” It will be too late. We must ask those questions now.
Nice try, but the very first sentence of that argument is hopelessly flawed. ESA has no “manned space program” other than the astronauts who’ve hitched rides with us and the Russians. The Russian program occasionally announces grandiose plans for new ventures, but the reality is they’re mired in funding and quality control problems. And at the rate the Chinese are putting up crews, the idea of them landing men on Mars in another 15 years is laughable.
There is no “race” to Mars, much as I want to see us go. Repeating the same tired pitches for Apollo 2.0 is not achieving anything, unless they’re just positioning themselves for political appointments.
As Rand Simberg often points out, it shouldn’t be NASA’s job to send humans to Mars. Their job should be making it possible for the National Geographic Society to send humans to Mars.