August 5, 2008

Mars ‘Water,’ Frozen or Not, Soaks Taxpayers

by Donald G. Mashburn

Depending on the season, NASA’s robots may be poking around in the frigid wastes of Mars some 35 to 250 million miles from you. At that distance, you can’t feel the pull of gravity from this wasteland of a planet, but come tax time, it will be contributing to the pull on your pocketbook.

While taxpayers’ money is siphoned off to finance their ventures, the folks at federally-funded NASA are excited about rocks they speculate were once wet, and they think – maybe – that some white stuff seen in photos may actually be ice. But no one knows for sure, you see, for billions more will be required to answer the question that keeps you awake at night: Was there ever water – even a tad of moisture – on Mars?

Congress and the president should bring NASA down to earth. Down where some people are out of work and others are hurting just to get to work because of high gasoline prices. Down where folks worry about spiraling medical costs, and the future in general.

Some observers estimate that the true total costs of the Mars water hunt will run well over $800 million. But NASA has a way of counting only the costs of the latest hardware and direct cost for a specific project, without considering the massive amount of taxpayer dollars to feed the ravenous monster the space program has become.

When looking at the entire moon and Mars exploration effort, and according to NASA sources, the total cost eventually reach some $170 billion.

And what can we gain from this obscenely expensive effort to “know” more about the frozen wastelands of Mars and other uninhabitable planets? Nothing that will help the thousands that will die this year from illnesses for which we don’t have a cure.

No matter how much multimillion-dollar hardware we can land, and then abandon, on Mars, we’ll get nothing that will help the millions struggling to pay for gasoline to get to work, to buy food, and to pay for housing.

NASA, as with any tax-funded agency, can think up new projects without limit. And as long as they’re enabled, financed and promoted by politicians, the NASA-ites will have a long list of new projects.

President Bush recently proclaimed a “new course for America’s space program,” and compared the current space quest with the historic Lewis and Clark expedition that opened up the American West.

That sounds more like “legacy lingo” than the straight-shooter talk of someone from Texas. For pouring billions into the black hole of space exploration bears no resemblance to the factors in play for the Lewis and Clark expedition.

The Lewis and Clark expedition was about confirmation of a possible water route to the Pacific, which was reason enough for the expedition. But added reasons were the economic potential of such as passage, if it existed, and the potential value of the unknown region’s natural resources.

Sending, and dumping, our technological “toys” on Mars provides no such incentives. We already know enough – all that we can put to earthly use – about Mars. It’s barren and desolate. And it’s cold!

Its warmest temperature “may” reach 77 degrees Fahrenheit (F), but the temperature can drop to minus 193 degrees F – that’s a “cool” 193 degrees below zero! Its surface gravity is one-third that of Earth’s.

If it’s confirmed that the rovers actually photographed water ice on Mars, the NASA-ites won’t be able to contain themselves. And we’ll hear how “important” even more expensive programs are. And about how we should continue to squander billions speculating about life on some other planet, and propping up the threadbare beliefs of evolutionism.

In these days of high energy prices, and the national economy’s continuing flirtation with recession, most taxpayers probably don’t care whether or not Mars ever had water in any form.

If water ever existed there, how does that affect our daily living, or the national interest? And if water never existed on Mars, how does that change anything of importance here?

Whatever the “facts” may be, NASA has become so attached to the federal mammary gland it will continue to tout the need to further “explore space.”

Back in the real world, meanwhile, the economy is wobbly. Plants are closing and good folks are out of work. And some bad people with their twisted idea of religion are killing innocent people, causing us to spend more and more on homeland security.

Several years ago, in a humorous song, Bobby Bare posed a question about mermaids, asking, “What would you do with one if you caught it?”

NASA’s search for Martian water brings to mind a similar question. But instead of pondering the question sensibly, NASA’s response would likely be: “Look for more!”

PERSPECTIVE

Liberals Use False Anti-Oil Arguments

Recently, in a letter published in the Wall Street Journal, William H. Meadows, the president of The Wilderness Society made a number of false claims opposing drilling for more oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Like many other “no-drill” oil opponents, Meadows starts off with the false claim that “the destruction of this pristine protected wildland would help consumers save only a few pennies per gallon, two decades down the road” [italics mine].

The claim is false on all counts: One, drilling has been proposed on only 2,000 acres out of the 19,000,000 acres in the huge, sprawling ANWR. That’s one-tenth of one percent, or 0.01 percent, leaving the remaining 99.99 percent for the flies and mosquitoes in summer, and a vacant frozen landscape in winter.

The second false claim in the statement is the statement that drilling on a tiny tract of 2,000 acres means “the destruction of this pristine protected wildland.” The absurdity of this claim highlights both the ignorance and the dishonesty that anti-oil interests bring to the issue of developing this nation’s energy resources.

The 2,000 acres proposed for drilling is a small area! The Kansas City International Airport is five times larger! The Denver International Airport 17 times larger!

So the claim that drilling on 2,000 acres would bring “destruction” to 19 million acres of “pristine … wildland”” is stupidly false, and insulting to informed citizens.

Third, Meadows’ claim that ANWR oil would have no effect for “two decades” is nonsense. He has no basis for that erroneous statement. Nor, apparently, does he have any insight on what the oil industry could accomplish if the government would just get out of the way.

Meadows rambles on, parroting the liberal line about how much oil the U.S. uses compared with how little we produce. What these uninformed, unknowledgeable activists conveniently ignore is that ANWR oil could raise our 5 million domestic oil output by a whopping 20 to 40 percent!

Americans should speak out against these professional anti-oil industry frauds. Maybe gasoline at $4 to $5 a gallon will loosen our tongues and stiffen our backbone.

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of contributors are their own, and are not necessarily those of Sage Commentary.