NASA’s Building A Spaceport To Mars, Despite Obama’s Objections

Andrew Follett 

 The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is about to build the spaceport that will take Americans to Mars, despite President Barack Obama’s best efforts to stymie the plan.

The spaceport is designed to service and launch the Space Launch System rocket (SLS) and the Orion capsule, which carry NASA astronauts to Mars.

“NASA is developing and modernizing the ground systems at Kennedy to safely integrate Orion with SLS, move the vehicle to the pad, and successfully launch it into space,” Bill Hill, the deputy associate administrator of NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Division, wrote in a Tuesday press release. “Modernizing the ground systems for our journey to Mars also ensures long-term sustainability and affordability to meet future needs of the multi-use spaceport.”

The space agency wrapped up a successful review of plans for the facility and ground support system. Engineers have already gone to work re-purposing the old Space Shuttle launch pad to support the new rocket. Despite the progress, the first mission to carry astronauts is not expected to take place until 2023 at the earliest.

“With bipartisan support from Congress, NASA has recently taken positive steps to develop the capabilities that will one day take our astronauts into deep space,” Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House science committee, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s proposed budget ties our astronauts’ feet to the ground and makes a Mars mission all but impossible.”

Obama has repeatedly attempted to cut the budget of both SLS, Orion and the rest of NASA’s space exploration programs, even outright threatening to veto them so that the money could be redirected to study global warming. Additionally, the administration has also been accused of leaking information to the press about the Mars programs.

America was better prepared to visit Mars in 2010, before the program was setback years, than it was to visit the Moon in the 1960s, according to a study authored by Dr. Bret Drake of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

NASA’s 2017 budget of $19 billion will spend more than $2 billion to study global warming in the Earth Science Mission Directorate. The money is specifically allocated to study global warming by improving climate modeling, weather prediction and natural hazard mitigation. In comparison, NASA’s other functions, such as astrophysics and space technology, are only getting a mere $781.5 and $826.7 million, respectively.

Many of the climate models created by the Directorate have been proven to be inaccurate when checked against actual temperature observations. Despite these issues, spending on the Directorate has increased by 63 percent over the last eight years, making it the largest and fastest growing budget of any NASA science program. Over the same time period, the general NASA budget grew only by 10.6 percent — just enough to account for inflation.

“Despite budgetary uncertainty caused by the administration, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), Orion crew vehicle, and Ground Systems Development and Operation programs have all achieved key milestones in the last year,” Smith continued. “NASA continues to plan towards a 2018 inaugural launch of SLS and a first crewed launch aboard Orion in 2021. It is my hope that the next administration will join Congress in providing NASA the resources it needs to keep America a world leader in space.”

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