The Loch Ness Monster, Sasquatch, and the $1 trillion Mars mission

The Loch Ness Monster, Sasquatch, and the $1 trillion Mars mission
By Chris Carberry

I have a confession to make: This article is actually only about the myth that sending humans to Mars will cost $ 1 trillion; but ironically, that myth almost as much of a myth as the other two. Not that the federal government isn’t perfectly capable of spending unimaginable sums of money on practically any project, but looking at current scenarios being considered for human missions to Mars, claims that such missions will cost a trillion dollars or more just don’t add up (it would require the type of ‘fuzzy math’ referred to by politicians). Will NASA need some budget increases to accomplish these missions? Probably, but these would almost certainly be modest increases to a budget that is already less than one half of one percent (0.004) of the federal budget.

Budgetary Context Makes all the Difference in the World

To be clear, if you add up expenditures of any federal program for a long enough period of time, you will reach $1 trillion, but the total of NASA’s budget since its founding in 1958 still doesn’t add up to anywhere near this amount of money – even with adjusted dollars – so it will be a long time before Mars missions would reach $1 trillion. Example: At the current rate of spending – assuming Mars missions consumed an average of fifty percent of the NASA budget – it would take approximately 100 years to reach a total of $1 trillion.

Unfortunately, this false narrative has been extremely damaging, and it is well-known that most Americans believe NASA receives far more money that it actually does. This false perception has done more damage than any technical challenges to Mars exploration because it’s not only the general —> Read More