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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 January, 2004, 19:52 GMT
Are Mars missions worth the money?
Mars

President George W Bush will announce proposals on Wednesday to send Americans to Mars, and back to the moon, senior US officials say.

He is also expected to reveal plans for a permanent lunar space station.

The news follows the success of Nasa's $820million robotic probe, Spirit, which will start to explore the surface of Mars early next week.

COSTS COMPARED
1. Manned Mars mission: $1tr (informal estimate)
2. Apollo Moon landings: $150bn
3. War and reconstruction in Iraq (US only): $160bn
4. Additional total annual foreign aid needed alleviate global poverty: $50bn
5. Mars rovers: $820m
Sources: 1, 2, 5: Nasa, 3: US Government, 4: World Bank
However, two out of every three previous attempts to land a craft on the Red Planet have failed.

The British-built Mars probe Beagle 2 is the most recent project to go missing, but Colin Pillinger, who conceived and masterminded the project, has vowed to try again - possibly as soon as 2007.

Should humans be sent to Mars? Are the missions worth the huge investment? Will signs of life be found?


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

SUGGEST A DEBATE
This topic was suggested by Sarah Wimbley from London in the UK:
Is exploration of Mars important?

Each side has a view and right to decide. Perhaps a compromise is in order. For every dollar spent toward space exploration, so much gets spent toward Earth-bound humanitarian efforts?
Barrington D. Walker, Northridge, USA

While I support scientific research whole-heartedly, I have to wonder about the wisdom of Bush's proposed plan. It seems to me that improving basic human rights, ending poverty, and fixing the American education system should come before a hypothetical mission to Mars. Bush has put our nation in enough debt as it is.
Hannah Draper, West Memphis, AR, USA

I think it is a basic feature of Mankind to be curious and to explore and a trip to Mars would be the ultimate in exploration. I hope that this could be a totally international expedition involving as many nations as possible.
Fred Zick, Milwaukee, WI USA

The cost of this project is enormous, as it is meant to be. The research will benefit the private sector, as will the contracts given to whichever contractors win the bids or have the connections. This is just one more form of corporate welfare.
Kevin, USA (living in the Netherlands)

Although I feel it is important to explore our galaxy. I think it is more of a priority to combat issues here on earth such as hunger, disease, the environment and establishing peace with our fellow human-beings. After-all if we ever encountered life somewhere in space look at the world we have to show them.
Marco, Montreal, Canada

We have no right whatsoever to tell the Americans what to spend their money on, if I told my neighbour what to spend their money on they would rightly tell me where to go.
Paul, Neath, Wales.

National goals unite countries. This country needs a national goal.
Andrew S, Dayton, Ohio USA

The cost of going to Mars is huge. The cost to alleviate world poverty in respect to the cost of a manned mission to Mars is tiny. Why not have both? It's only increasing the budget by another 5%. This way, millions of people live better lives, scientific research gets a boost, and the Brits might concern themselves in their own country's affairs for once.
Bryan Short, Bemidji, MN, USA

It's not just about space exploration, it's about spending on research. Past space exploration gave us everything from freeze-dried food to WD-40 oil. You could even argue it drove a US tech boom. Just image what problems will have to be solved to get to Mars and what benefits this might bring to those of us that never leave the earth.
Jeff Eppinger, Pittsburgh, USA

In the end it benefits everyone
Andy, Alresford, UK
A trillion dollars is a lot of bananas, but let's not forget that that money filters down from NASA to their engineers and suppliers and ends up spent in towns and cities up and down the USA. This is basic Keynes economics. In the end it benefits everyone. I would like to wish the Yanks the best of luck with this mission, and want to know... can I have a job please?
Andy, Alresford, UK

Please enlighten me why are US taxpayers expected to alleviate poverty in other countries? We spend OUR money the way WE want. Tough luck if in the 21 century your country cannot even feed its own people.
Y, Brooklyn, USA

Why are people so blind to America's real intentions? This is about controlling space in a strategic military way. They wouldn't give Nasa money otherwise. Utopian dream of human adventure? Don't make me laugh.
Marcus, Bristol

Forget about how much it will cost and think about this. It will take approximately three years for a craft carrying humans to get to and from Mars - an awful lot can happen in 36 months...
Lee, Hebburn, England

The amount of money the USA is considering spending on space is obscene, but anyone who thinks that they will spend this amount on health research /poverty or anything else to help people on this planet is living in cloud cuckoo land. What did we get from sending a man to the moon? Lots of iffy pictures and non-stick frying pans!
Megan, England UK

The trillion dollar cost of this idea is clearly going to make it impossible, regardless of what anyone thinks. The only hope for it to succeed is to find ways to economically exploit the Moon's resources in order to pay for the mission to Mars.
Peter, Birmingham UK

Mars is uninhabitable and the costs and risks of reaching there are impossibly high
Stephen Hayes, Southampton, UK
Mars is uninhabitable and the costs and risks of reaching there are impossibly high. Nevertheless we daft humans will continue to fantasise, and vainly attempt to use space travel to find 'signs of life' on other planets. We should instead humble ourselves before our Creator and show proper respect and gratitude for the planet we have been given to live on and share with one another.
Stephen Hayes, Southampton, UK

Good luck to the Yanks! I hope the whole world can participate in this great endeavour. Go for it!
Mike O., Manchester

Mankind has always looked towards the heavens and maybe that is where we originated. We may just be going home!
Martin Williams, St Albans UK

Forget politics. Forget short term issues. Space exploration is a long term goal and essential to humankind. Since we are still at the early stages, we need to invest time and effort now into developing the necessary technology. This can only benefit mankind in the long run.
Anya, London, UK

It would be a very sad day indeed for progress if all instigators of scientific research had to look backwards in order to justify their proposed way forward. So much of what we have around us has arisen from scientific discoveries made quite unexpectedly. Simple inquisitiveness provides ample justification.
John Turner, Plymouth, UK

Not only would this adventure benefit the whole of human kind anyway, it would also have other benefits such as long-term employment for possibly thousands of people and lots of support industries would pop around the project, creating further jobs. Also discoveries made along the way may help to resolve problems we currently face on Earth, so I say 'Go for it!'.
Graham Cummings, Barnsley, Yorkshire

We are continually being told that there is not enough funding for the NHS, and that cash for education is cut every year - and then we watch the news and see that millions is being spent on a mission to Mars (which failed). If there is one word of advise I would give to the PM is 'prioritise'.
Matthew Bisoffi, Northampton England

I feel this money would be better spent on improving this planet
David Speight, Leeds
So we make a mess of this planet and look for another to mess up. I feel this money would be better spent on improving this planet. But let the Americans worry about their own money and country.
David Speight, Leeds

There are plenty of issues on this planet that would benefit more with the money (e.g. medical research, foreign aid etc.). Maybe Mr. Bush wants to escape from the problems here. Lets send him to Mars if that's what he wants!
Claire Foster, Cardiff, Wales

Man on Mars is an inspiring prospect and a great goal to aim for the future, but what about life on Earth? We need to work on preserving endangered species and on improving human means of survival in third world countries.
Katherine Watson, Stockport, UK

A lot of people complain that the 50 million spent on the beagle probe would have been better spent on aid etc. Well how many of those people have spent money on trivial things this year? What about cinema visits and holidays? How much do we spend on those? So before the hypocrites start moaning about the cost of answering fundamental questions about life in our universe (does alien life exist? If so, bye-bye religion, and hence millions of lives saved!), stop buying things you don't need and give to charity instead.
Craig, Southampton, UK

Use the money to cure cancer. Now that really would be 'One great leap for mankind'....
Danny, UK

Value of sending man to mars can't be counted in dollars. But it is too expensive now. First let us develop faster, safer and of course cheaper way of transport and other technologies. Till then we should continue with our robotic probes.
Fakrudeen Ali Ahmed, Hyderabad India

Man's technical progress and inquisitive nature forces him to explore, but it will be man's greed for profit which will fund any exploitation of other planet resources. Therefore the inevitable will happen when it's deemed cost effective.
Mitch, Darwen, UK

Don't we want to learn more about our oceans before going out to other planets?
Julian Pratt, Reading, UK

Please will people stop banging on about "the money" "the USA". This is not about money or any one country, this is about the future of the human species. Stagnate and we die. Let's get some of our eggs out of this one small basket!!! The future is bleak if all we do is look inwards and lose the desire to look beyond our little blue sphere. Generations of humans have looked up and wondered about the universe, unfortunately now we can go there too many people want to deny the rest of us the chance to get some answers. What gives you the right?
Nigel, London, England

There is such a thing as timing. If the US wasn't pouring billions into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and hadn't just given massive tax breaks to the rich, I would say this would be an interesting project. But when working people are without health care and many workers are becoming homeless in the US due to the above, no. Bush is pushing for re-election so all this is happening at once - the economy won't sustain it here. Those in the UK can think it grand, we have to pay for it.
Ava F, USA

Humanity will become bored without this adventure
Allan Martin, Ojai, U.S.A
Jules Verne, H.G.Wells and others would tell us never to quit. The venture is similar to searching for the Grail. Humanity will become bored without this adventure. Star Trek and Dr. Who and varied science fiction creations are the enticement to reach out to the unknown as earlier seagoing explorers ventured into the unknown.
Allan Martin, Ojai, U.S.A.

Although I have a passion for space research (since I was about 6 years old), and would love to see NASA properly funded again after years of neglect, I suspect the motives are less about man's exploration of the solar system, and more about re-election (galvanising people with a vision for election year, only to de-prioritise it again after the election when those nasty terrorists get back onto the agenda).
Richard Blake-Reed, Bath, UK

Humans have always been explorers, and I hope they will always be. I am very much in favour of human space exploration. The things we could find on other worlds might lead to numerous advances in our way of life, including possible cures to diseases.
Mark, Mesa USA

Someone asked why go to Mars? It may answer one of the great questions about the universe. Are we alone?
Simon Campbell-Smith, Farnham UK

How can we know if it's worth the money or not unless we go there?
Mike, Aberdeen, UK

A manned mission to Mars would be extraordinarily difficult, highly dangerous, and hugely expensive and, at the end of the day, of only very limited scientific value
Dr Tim Axon, London

A manned mission to Mars would be extraordinarily difficult, highly dangerous, and hugely expensive and, at the end of the day, of only very limited scientific value. It would be better to put the money into projects of real scientific value. More and increasingly sophisticated unmanned missions to explore the entire solar system (Mars included), new particle accelerators to probe the heart of matter, enlarged research programmes developing new medical cures and researching into global warming and other environmental issues - all these things could be undertaf for only a fraction of the cost of a manned mission, and are unlikely to be done if all our resources are ploughed into what is largely a pointless exercise.
Dr Tim Axon, London, England

The need to explore and learn is far more noble a goal than waging war. The amount of money and time invested in finding new and imaginative ways of killing each other would be put to far better use if it were spent on furthering human knowledge, but it needs to be balanced against the need to alleviate third world debt.
Paul, Colchester

The question of exploring Mars is answerable in one word: Columbus. Obviously Queen Isabella thought the high price of a mission to the new world was worth it. A rather good return on her investment I would say...
John, Cranston, USA

Back to the moon is a good idea. Hope Bush has his flight suit available. It would be another great publicity stunt.
Charles Gilbert, USA

Can you imagine what wonderful cures we could gain by spending that money on medical research
M Kennedy, USA
How can ANYONE justify spending that kind of money on space exploration when we see what little return on investment we get already? Besides we've already been to mars and the moon costing billions and what did that get us? Ask the average person on the street how they benefited from the US space lab or Mir or the international space station. That honeymoon is over. Can you imagine what wonderful cures we could gain by spending that money on medical research instead of rock research.
M Kennedy, USA

Let's use the proposed $1.4trillion to fix this planet. Imagine the schools, hospitals, the food, computers we could give to the third world.
Tyler, Cornwall, England

Whilst there are homeless and starving people on this planet and a "commitment" to rebuild invaded countries, how can President Bush morally justify a pointless exercise like travel to Mars? Presumably he is going to use the revenue from the future sale of Iraq's oil to fund it!
Michael Wright, Birmingham West Mids

Our bodies are not made to live in an environment such as that on Mars. So why waste money trying to go there. I guess the rich must have their toys. A 800 million dollar remote controlled car.
Cronos, Illinois, USA

Why do we spend stupid amounts of money on war when our universities, health service and infrastructure need serious investment?
Alex Hodge, Edinburgh
I think many westerners including myself are complacent when it comes to spending money. I think this extends to the government. Why are we spending trillions of pounds on going to Mars when there are huge problems in the world with poverty in Britain and abroad? Why do we spend stupid amounts of money on war when our universities, health service and infrastructure need serious investment? Please tell me how we can stop this cycle of production and waste at the expense of humanity.
Alex Hodge, Edinburgh

How about spending the money on a few things that need sorting on Earth? Building hospitals; helping victims of famine; fighting AIDS in Africa... also.... It's a real shame that the mega brains at NASA and ESA don't put some of that IQ they have to real use.
Maciej Kudanowski, Solihull, UK.

A lunar space station is feasible. The notion of someone going to mars is a bit far fetched. I think that we are living on earth, and should perhaps direct our attention to issues on this planet.
Margaret, Portland, USA

We have to go to Mars. We have to overcome our petty differences and unite as a species. It is the only way forward for humanity. Our government often spends vast quantities of money on improving public services, what improvement have we seen? Here at last is a goal that is achievable. Lets spend the cash, develop the technology, and see the results.
H Leiper, Inverness, UK

President George Bush is proposing to send Americans to Mars, and back to the moon?! Are they all going? Is President Bush going to lead the expedition? I'll vote for that!
Debbie Liron , Raleigh USA

I believe that it is ignorant to squander money on fruitless endeavours such as this when we have thousands of children starving and dying from avoidable illness. Americans definitely have their priorities screwed up when they can condone one $820 million dollar project that will never benefit anyone and to make it worse these explorations are probably the number one reason our air is unsafe to breath and nobody could convince me that our problem with global warming isn't a direct result of this as well.
blond, Missouri

If anybody knows how to advance the frontier of exploration, it's the Americans
Jamie Dunne, Edinburgh, UK
I thought that this day would never come - finally we are talking about taking the next step in our exploration of space. I have always felt that the great redeeming quality of the Americans is their ability to believe that nothing is impossible, their lack of cynicism, the romanticism of their dreams. We spend millions on "helping" the third world, but none of it will do any good until we get rid of every last dictator in the world. Until anybody is willing to do that, let's invest in our dreams and take the next step. If anybody knows how to advance the frontier of exploration, it's the Americans.
Jamie Dunne, Edinburgh, UK

I see a lot of comments about one day needing to move off of earth for our survival. I would rather fix earth, than move to MARS and live in a bubble because we wrecked earth. Besides, our Sun will blow up before we get out of our solar system. And even if we could get out of our solar system, the Galaxy is heading for a collision with another one anyway. We cannot escape cosmic ruin and survive for eternity. Let's live well here for as long as we can.
James

The NYC doesn't have money to spend on public libraries yet we need to show to the world how rich we are, Bush can exercise his own money.
Guest, Bronx, USA

I think it's important for NASA to have an actual mission, a goal. And it's important to remember that the sooner we do this, the better. If we plan this for 20 or 50 years in the future, chances are it won't happen. But I'm not sure if teaming up with foreign space agencies is the best way to go about it. I highly doubt that would make it any easier. Maybe bringing in foreign astronauts would work though.
Shawn, Marysville, USA

In twenty or thirty years, by the time they could actually get around to travelling to Mars, oil will be in such a decline that it will be hard enough travelling across London. We should stop dreaming and get down to reality.
Paul Thompson, Reading, UK

Space exploration will bring all countries together
Steve Best, Lake Wales
A mission to mars is long over due. Space exploration will bring all countries together. As people start to live on other planets, we will start to forget our differences and join together in a common goal of exploration.
Steve Best, Lake Wales

Most of the criticism you see here is mostly because it's an American effort. I'm sure if it was the British announcing these plans you would be singing a different tune. Enough with the sour grapes already.
Pete, Michigan, USA

I say go for it! I'm not sure how important it is to put someone on Mars, but the discoveries in technology we make during the quest will justify every penny. Those of you not happy with America spending money on this as opposed to your own failing country, I say start taking responsibility for yourselves. This is the American tax payer, taking on the bill. So, I hardly see how anyone else should have a say. That being said, I think making this a joint effort among space agencies around the world would be a positive thing.
Clint, NYC, USA

All the money is spent here on Earth, so it is never a waste. I think Human-kind has to decide whether we wish to stagnate, or to become a technologically advanced civilisation, which will ultimately help everyone.
David Fullarton, United Kingdom

At one time people were sure that the world was flat. The "new world" didn't exist until Columbus went out there and found it. The little MARS rover is the size of a golf buggy on an entire planet - just because we see one picture of rock sent back doesn't mean there's nothing out there to be found.
DR, Scotland

Without Spirit or the Opportunity to explore, there would not be fun, excitement and advancement for the earthy world
Shangyou, Nanchang, China
Without Spirit or the Opportunity to explore, there would not be fun, excitement and advancement for the earthy world. If $$ is not used for such great causes, the money will be wasted by the governments in other ways anyway.
Shangyou, Nanchang, China

So George W Bush will spend billions on sending men and women to Mars, yet stalls on finding measures to help with global warming? Reality check, please.
Jason, Sussex, UK

I would say that these missions are worth the money, because Mars, uniquely in the solar system, is so much like our own planet. We can learn a lot about Earth, and life on Earth, from missions to Mars. Over the coming years, we will learn much more about coping with space travel and exploiting extraterrestrial environments. We need to look at return on investment over very long timescales. The payoff for us now is simply the thrill of achievement and the greater knowledge acquired. The payoff for future generations may be incalculable - who knows? We may some day need Mars to sustain human life.
Colm Ryan, Cork, Ireland

Good luck to anyone willing to undergo an airbag assisted crash land on Mars. And how are you going to get off? Have you seen what it takes to escape Earth's gravity? You need Cape Canaveral on Mars! Tell me what a human can do on Mars that a robot or remote sensing cannot? This is George W pandering to American pride and hoping to echo Kennedy's speech about the Moon. The whole thing is nonsense.
Tony Unthank, London

We can actually afford both the space programme and to feed the world
name here
I find it indicative of the cynicism and sophistry of the modern world that we complain a great deal about wasted money. Governments waste far less money than individuals. They just do it in more noticeable ways. The truth is that pursuing utilitarian ends do not really seem to solve the problems of world poverty. What will is faith, hope and charity - virtues which may well be boosted by the adventure of putting Man into the various reaches of space. This sort of adventure is exactly what we need and it is likely to serve the ends of the utilitarian far more than allocating the money to the UN such and such fund.

There is plenty of money to go around: believe it or not, we can actually afford both the space programme and to feed the world. What we need is a little inspiration and optimism among the people who have the cash.
Marc Neri, Fort Worth, USA

I would like to volunteer myself for this mission. This has been my every dream since childhood. I feel it could be possible for the American Govt to allow some other citizens to go.
Renuka Jain, Gwalior, India

Scientific advancement and exploration reflects the best of humanity
Shawn, Washington, DC, USA
Scientific advancement and exploration reflects the best of humanity. To suggest we should stop moving forward because there are problems in the US and around the world is totally absurd. It's too bad so many people are being drowned by cynicism and negativity. Instead of hoping for an amazing new human adventure, people are bitter because those humans might be Americans. We're going forward; stay back if you wish.
Shawn, Washington, DC, USA

The exploration of space is a wonderful, romantic dream, and I readily admit enjoying it. But the exploration of space is also closely linked to the military and is not an entirely peaceful endeavour. In contrast, the elimination of poverty, sickness and environmental destruction is also a wonderful dream. How many potential Einsteins and Pasteur's - people who could make a massive contribution to human betterment - are dying minute by minute in the Third World through lack of basic needs?
Philip Adams, London, UK

As with the Apollo programme in the 60s and 70s, any effort to put man on Mars will necessitate vast investment in technology that can only benefit mankind. So what if NASA spent $40 Billion on Apollo? None of us would be e-mailing these messages to the BBC, or enjoy many of the other freedoms we enjoy today, if the Americans had decided to invest the money in domestic issues.
Rob, Cheltenham

I'd like to know where our government is going to find the money
Stephen J. Spencer, New York
I'd like to know where our government is going to find the money. I mean, it's not like we're running a surplus at this stage. Afghanistan, Iraq, the Department of Homeland Security, Increased Defence Spending, Tax Cuts and now Mars and the Moon... Mr. Bush is presiding over the biggest increase in Federal government spending in history.
Stephen J. Spencer, New York, USA

Couldn't the European Space Agency offer to join in with NASA on the Mars effort and make it an international enterprise - and maybe happen quicker? And how about letting people who feel passionately about it being humankind's destiny (like me) put their money where their mouths are and invest in the project?
John Collins, Welwyn Garden City, UK

Countries spend money on the poor, not enough, but it is spent. If a country stands still it will wither and die. If it withers and dies it cannot support itself or help anyone. There's money/resources in space, just like there are in mining the North Sea, Iraq and The Atom etc. But in order to get to it we must invest, hence space exploration. Its that simple.
Dre, UK

We need to start colonising another planet now or face extinction!
Barry Mung, New Forest
Mars missions are a complete waste of money! Why spent billions of dollars simply to determine if there was once life on the planet? The money would be far better spent 'Terraforming' the planet for future inhabitation by humans. NASA could send 'Seed bombs' to the red planet full of Genetically Modified seeds that will grown in hostile environments. By establishing plant life the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere would quickly increase making it far more hospitable to animals and eventually humans. Time is quickly running out for us 'earthlings' as we are using our planets resources at an alarming rate. We need to start colonising another planet now or face extinction!
Barry Mung, New Forest

I think that overspend on these inventions is wasteful. I hope that the American President pays attention to the poor nations instead of overspending on such missions. As we observe that such countries like Afghanistan which suffers from destitution and African countries suffering from the aggressive disease of HIV or AIDS, it is the responsibility of the rich countries to come to their aid. George Bush declared that America attacked Afghanistan because it was their duty to bring security for the people of the world. Now the question is why they ignore all these problems and want to spend a great deal of money for a mission to Mars. It can be never acceptable for me.
Aref Jahid, Kabul Afghanistan

So, the United States is willing to spend the money to send a man to Mars and build a colony on the moon, but God forbid they build better housing for the millions of people living in the inner cities of the country. Wouldn't that money be better spent helping those who really need the help? After that, they can worry about the cosmetic advances of being the first country to put a man (or dare I say woman) on Mars.
Katharine Evans, Rome, Italy

The political costs of failure in manned space exploration are huge. A rule of thumb from the two Space Shuttle disasters, and from the Apollo launch pad fire in 1967, seems to be that a disaster that costs lives results in a halt to further missions for almost two years. Unmanned mission failures aren't comfortable for NASA, but nor are they such a great setback.
Martin, London, U.K.

The funding of expensive space missions will only result in the eventual destruction of the moon
Damien, Sheffield
Surely we should focus on allocating funds to technologies that would minimise (ideally reverse) the detrimental impact of mankind on our current environment. The funding of expensive space missions will only result in the eventual destruction of the moon, mars etc for our own benefit, and conducted as usual, with little or no consideration for the associated environment. Why can't we just put our hands up and say we're getting it wrong and all focus on correcting the mistakes we have already made.
Damien, Sheffield

If the money were not spent on space exploration, who seriously thinks that it would be diverted to improving the lives of the poor on Earth? Any money not spent on war and its weapons is money well spent.
Andrew Cover, UK

Politicians are often accused of short-termism - of failing to see the big picture. Indeed, the decision to "go to Mars" is based on a sense of patriotic pride and short-term nation-uniting. However, such missions serve a potentially vital long term purpose. Humans need the ability to leave the planet - in case something happens to the Earth. We are the first species with the ability to avoid (and indeed create) devastating natural disasters. We shouldn't allow this opportunity to slip us by.
David Phillips, Pontypridd UK

The space missions are not worth the amount they cost
Andy, Czech Republic
The space missions are not worth the amount they cost. Private rocket scientists could put man on the moon for a 1/10th of the cost NASA could. The question must be asked, why? All big institutions waste millions on needless and pointless things. What needs to happen is a halt to excessive spending. Space agencies (fully supported by the government and it's motives) have no limit.
Nadim J, Essex, UK

How can people challenge the cost of exploration? We could pay for many explorations and the advancement of the human race if we were to divert all the billions spent on wars and weapons to better causes including tackling problems on this planet as well as exploring new worlds. Exploration has always been human nature and always will be.
Andy, Czech Republic

It does appear to be the next step in exploration. My concern though is how they plan to get anyone back off the Red Planet. My understanding is that getting people off the moon is a lot easier due to the Zero Gravity. Mars I thought is more like Earth and my understanding there is that a shuttle needs to burn huge amounts of fuel to get off Earth. Now, as life on Mars is still unknown, I don't think anyone, once there is going to find a supplier of rocket fuel, launch pads and everything else needed.

Good luck to all those involved if it does go ahead. I think it might be a marathon task involving generations that follow us all needing to pick up where we get up to.
Neill, Isle of Man

To Neill (Isle of Man). The moon does have gravity, it's a magnetic field it lacks. In fact, any object with mass exerts a gravitational pull (including you and I). If you "weigh" 80Kg on earth, you'd "weigh" 13.2Kg on the Moon and 30.1 on Mars.
Geoff, London

Mankind has reached a point of stagnation on Earth
Joe, Loughborough, UK
Rather than thinking of sending people to other planets as individual nations, we should be thinking of sending them as a species. I welcome with open arms the possibility of a permanent manned station on the Moon and manned expeditions to other planets. Mankind has reached a point of stagnation on Earth, our home world's natural resources are in terminal decline and our evolution has stalled. Only by escaping the chains both of gravity and our own small-mindedness can we as a species begin once again to advance. I would much rather the US and others would put money towards this, a legacy worth leaving, rather than turning yet another country into a plain of glass. From space there are no distinctions between countries. Wouldn't the world be a better place if that were true on the surface too?
Joe, Loughborough, UK

Were the first human trips across the vast oceanic unknown, or risky explorations to the planet's poles, darkest depths or highest peaks absolutely necessary? Humanity evolved to its present state due to our hunger to explore fuelled by an innate inquisitiveness, to boldly confront and conquer the vast unknown. Our destiny is out there, ever luring us onward towards a future course of unimaginable opportunity. With opportunity comes certain risk. However, sooner or later we must heed the call of space, or cease being that which we have evolved to become - intelligent explorers!
Jeff Thieret, Harmony, PA

Earth does not have the natural resources for a sustainable end to poverty. Either we accept that, reduce our level of living or get really controversial. Sending a human to Mars will require a mission that is self sustainable for 12 to 24 months unless more rapid transport is developed (which would be useful to all). This sustainability may give the pointer to a more sustainable life on Earth. As for robotic or human missions it won't be long until they are one and the same thing.
Gavin, Lincoln, UK

As far as the UK spending money on space, I don't see a problem if most of the money spent is on products made in the UK and UK man power. The challenges also require solutions which further UK knowledge. Government spending just circulates tax money back into the economy one way or another.
David R, Plymouth UK

Space exploration has the power to bring people together world wide
Frank, Belgium
They are definitely more important than spending billions of dollars on weapon development and abuse. I even think that space exploration has the power to bring people together world wide and work on something which is inspiring to everyone and doesn't exclude anyone. I always hear my parents accounts of the first lunar landing and how the whole world was watching the same images and, in doing so, for a moment forgetting about all their issues and problems. Europe, Japan, Russia, China, US and even India and Pakistan should join forces and knowledge to make this work. Probably there are a bunch of other countries which are also very keen in investing.
Frank, Belgium

Reading what some people have commented, its a wonder we ever stopped living in caves. Humanity reached for the Moon in the 60's and 70's - then we stopped. Pulled back. Stayed right here. Why? Too many people in government listened to those who'd rather end up spending the money on dairy subsidies, those who have no idea how we developed the technology to be capable of supporting a population in the billions today
Neil Griffiths, Manchester UK

Good to see that this election year has started in grand style! There's no way congress will approve the vast amount of money needed to do this, but that's a problem for another term. I do hope it happens though - it's a glorious adventure.
Rory, Edinburgh, UK

Colin Pillinger's team should be applauded for their efforts in sending Beagle 2 to Mars
Rhys Williams, Walkden, England
Colin Pillinger's team should be applauded for their efforts in sending Beagle 2 to Mars and then the next thing that should happen is that our Government should have the courage to follow this up by funding Beagle 3 and allowing our scientists to contribute to the efforts in sending man to Mars and back to the Moon.
Rhys Williams, Walkden, England

How can you quantify the worth of exploration ? Did our ancestors contemplate the cost of exploring and discovering other parts of our own globe ? It's in human nature to explore and push the boundaries of their surroundings and environment.
Ross, Essex

I think that getting a man on Mars in 10 years may be a little optimistic, but if we don't start working towards that goal now, it may take more like 50 years to reach our neighbour. People complain about sorting Earth out first but were the pyramids a waste of funds? No, like Mars they are human achievements that we should all strive to. I do agree that it shouldn't just be NASA's job in getting us there and all space agencies should join together, surely that would make it easier.
Elliott, Lydney UK

I think it is an excellent idea to send Americans to Mars. The more the better. Will they need visas?
Andrew, UK

Evolution has shown that we are successful as a race because we can adapt and are inquisitive. Missions to Mars may well be a waste of money but they are scientifically purposeful and drive the imagination of the younger generations. The IIS should not be abandoned to cover the shuttle problems however, why not move it into orbit over Mars??
Mark, Edinburgh, Scotland

It's just a dry rock!
Tony McCann, Scotland
Waste of money, time, effort and quite possibly astronauts lives. Space travel should be for telecommunications only. It's just a dry rock! Never mind all the other planets in the solar system, what about the one we are living on!?!? Who cares if there is ice on mars? What about the ice that is disappearing on this planet? Who cares about the life that may have existed on mars, what about the life that is currently in distress on this planet? The $820 mill from the mission could solve a lot of problems on this planet.
Tony McCann, Motherwell, Scotland

Perhaps President Bush is looking for weapons of 'mars' destruction!
FJM Madden, Derry, Northern Ireland

The short sightedness of many of the contributors here astounds me! The reason that we live on a planet where millions starve and die every day, is overpopulation. The human race must reach out beyond our own planet, for many reasons, but chiefly, we're 7 billion eggs in one basket - and considering the weapons of mass destruction at our fingertips, surely we should have some long-term goals to colonise beyond Planet Earth?
Derek Jones, Bristol, UK

I think it is great to hear Professor Pillinger is going to try again. The Beagle 2 mission really symbolised everything great about Britain - how people from all backgrounds helped to get it done. It also got a lot of people interested in science. Designing Beagle has lead to some great advancements in technology, which will help for future missions. Space exploration is a much better way to spend money than wasting it on wars and spin, so hopefully the government will be less stingy next time. Good luck Beagle 3!
Jill Richardson, Ashington, Northumberland, UK

I think it is great that we are finally going to get a station on the moon
James, Lancing
I think it is great that we are finally going to a) get a station on the moon and b) send a manned mission to mars. The moon base will greatly reduce the cost of missions because it is possible to create hydrogen fuel/propellant from existing ice on the moon. A (wo)man on mars can perform a more detailed study of the red-planet and also dig deeper that any exist probe has gone. Also if they could take some jump leads and a can of WD40 Beagle will get in the record books for the longest AA callout.
James, Lancing

I consider ALL space exploration a total and utter waste of money. Since the late 1950s vast resources have been spent in space, to what benefit to humankind? If the same amount of money had been devoted to relief of poverty, world hunger and medical research on earth, it would have been better spent. Can anyone tell me the use of sending probes to Mars or any other planet? So far all the money spent has given us the non-stick frying pan and even that's not brilliant!
Pauline Fothergill, Halifax, UK



We discussed space exploration and the mission to Mars in our phone-in programme Talking Point.





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