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Daniels Urges Commitment to Mars Mission

Purdue president: Cost, time frame will require national consensus, discipline to stick to plan

Purdue president Mitch Daniels (WIBC.com file photo: Eric Berman)

Purdue president Mitch Daniels is urging a congressional committee to put America's space program on a flight path to Mars.

Daniels co-chaired a National Research Council study of the value of manned space flight, which concluded it's only worth the risk and expense if NASA reaches for new worlds. The panel recommended an ultimate goal of a Mars landing.

The former governor told the House Science, Space and Technology Committee a Mars mission is at least 30 years and hundreds of billions of dollars away. He says if the U.S. decides to do it, it needs a national consensus to do and the discipline to stick to that commitment. Daniels says changes in presidential administrations and turnover in Congress have prevented NASA from establishing a coherent long-term plan.

Daniels says the cost of a Mars project shouldn't scare off policymakers. He notes that money would be spread over three decades or more, and says the investment would be worth it, both in terms of the likely technological breakthroughs the effort would produce and a less quantifiable human need to pursue knowledge.

The study recommends a series of stepping-stone missions to closer destinations like the moon or one of the Martian moons to develop the technology needed to go to Mars -- and to maintain public interest.

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