GREEN CHEESE….Bruce Moomaw draws my attention to a speech given a few months ago by George Bush’s science guy, John Marburger. He’s explaining why Bush is so hot and heavy on manned lunar exploration:
The greatest value of the Moon lies neither in science nor in exploration, but in its material….The production of oxygen in particular, the major component (by mass) of chemical rocket fuel, is potentially an important Lunar industry.
….Where does Mars fit into this picture? At the present time, much commentary to the contrary, we do not know how to send humans to Mars and return them safely within a reasonable cost envelope….There is no question, however, that the expense of such a mission would be vastly reduced if the bulk of its fuel and massive components could be obtained from materials, and manufactured, outside Earth orbit. The Moon is a logical place to do this. As to the motivation for a human expedition to Mars, there is an obvious prestige value for a nation that leads the first human to Mars mission. A more pragmatic objective is to establish on Mars the same kind of industrial infrastructure that I described for the Moon. What makes the Moon operation economically viable are the Earth-oriented markets. That is not likely to be the case for a similar operation on Mars unless economically attractive materials are found on Mars itself or among the asteroids. Consequently, a Mars operation complex enough to warrant human oversight will have to be fully subsidized by governments during a long period of robotic exploration beyond Mars orbit.
Let me see if I have this straight. Marburger’s best excuse for creating a massive lunar manufacturing base is to produce oxygen for rocket fuel. Despite the peculiar talk later on about “Earth-oriented markets,” it’s plainly absurd to produce oxygen on the moon for use on earth, so Marburger is proposing instead that it be produced to lower the cost of fuel for a mission to Mars. And what’s the point of this Mars mission? Nothing he can think of, since there’s clearly no economic benefit and “robotic exploration beyond Mars” doesn’t require a manned Mars base.
Question: what happens to people who are hired into the Bush administration? Do they just shrug their shoulders and agree to spout crazy stuff because that’s the price of working in the White House? Does Cheney have some kind of diabolical mind ray that actually makes them believe this stuff? Or what?