MISSION TO MARS?….The Los Angeles Times reports today that NASA wants to go to Mars:

The space agency is expected to request “significant resources and funding” to design a nuclear-powered propulsion system to triple the speed of space travel, theoretically making it possible for humans to reach Mars in a two-month voyage.

This is so frustrating. I’ve been reading science fiction since I was a tot, I was a glassy-eyed fan of Walter Cronkite’s coverage of the Gemini and Apollo launches for years, and the original moon landing excited me tremendously. Hell, it was all new back then, and as a stand-in for nuclear war with the Soviets it worked pretty well.

There are certainly conflicting opinions about whether nuclear powered spacecraft are a good idea on technical grounds, but one thing that seems clear is that the only real purpose of nuclear propulsion is for manned missions. But one of the things we’ve learned since 1969 is that there is very little need to put humans into space. For the most part, manned missions are driven by PR, not by legitimate research requirements.

I hope there’s more here than meets the eye. I have despaired in recent years over NASA’s egregious lack of vision or management competence. This latest news doesn’t make me any more sanguine.

UPDATE: Reader Ian D says that since Mars is the war god, maybe Bush thinks he has weapons of mass destruction and we need to invade. Heh.

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