Billions on wars & only $29K to make Mars mission possible? - ‘Insane!’

Reuters/Carlos Barria
The US spends billions a week on invading countries and losing wars but all it can offer for breakthrough ideas on protecting astronauts from possible space radiation on their way to Mars is $29,000, political cartoonist Ted Rall told RT.

Since the Mars One project was founded four years ago, more than 200,000 candidates have been evaluated and billions of dollars spent. But today it seems the project is deadlocked as one critical issue was forgotten about - what to do about deadly space radiation. Though NASA has leading scientists and nearly a dozen specialized centers of research in this field it seems unable to conquer the problem on its own and has decided to seek help from the public. It is offering $29,000 to anyone who can figure out how to get astronauts safely to Mars with as little exposure to space radiation as possible.

RT:The NASA Chief recently said this about the planned Mars missions: “This plan is clear. This plan is affordable, and this plan is sustainable" – talking about the plans to send people to Mars. They must be really banking on that $30,000 breakthrough from someone else right?

Ted Rall: Sometimes I really don’t understand how Americans don’t understand the value of a dollar. After the earthquake in Nepal the first thing the US government did was claimed that it was brag about the fact that they were releasing one million dollars in aid to Nepal now, more coming later. One million dollars in the face of a major natural disaster isn’t really much to brag about. And here you have a government that squanders billions of dollars a week on invading countries and losing wars, and things like… It can finance a mission to Mars on the cheap like this and basically have it be crowd sourced.

There was a time when the US was a leader in the international space race, and the reason that we were leaders is that we threw a lot of money at the problem. You can’t really substitute for it. Going to space is expensive and going to Mars is going to be very dangerous and hazardous. I don’t think anyone who is smart enough to solve a problem is going to be able to be purchased with $29,000. It’s insane.

RT:NASA’s budget is over ten billion dollars annually – what are they doing with that money, if they need to look for a miracle cure solution from outside?

TR: I think part of the problem is that NASA no longer really does what the American public wants it to do. The American public wants it to be like Star Trek to go out and explore brave new worlds and go to Mars and beyond, and explore the galaxy. And these guys are spending basically their time sending up industrial and corporate satellites for transnational corporations. So that’s where the money is going, that’s what their mission is, and this space exploration part of the budget has been dramatically reduced. Unfortunately that’s why we haven’t done hell of a lot in space since 1969.

RT:If you’re a scientist who’s on the verge of a space radiation breakthrough wouldn’t you want a bit more of a bang for your buck than a measly 29 grand from NASA?

TR: It’s insane. You have the US government, pundits and people in the media constantly talking about how they want to convince more people - particularly women and minorities - to go into the STEM professions – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. If the maximum reward you are going to get for a major achievement such as this is $29,000 you are not going to get too many people to pay $70,000-80,000 a year to go to four years of engineering school or four more years of grad school or four more years of doctoral studies. You do have to pay people properly; you have to remunerate them properly in order to get them to do good work.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.