Daniels helps lead committee arguing for manned mission to Mars

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – A committee co-chaired by Purdue President Mitch Daniels says a manned mission to Mars should be the long-term goal for NASA.

The committee, made up of 17 scientists and non-scientists, was put together to answer a Congressional mandate on human space exploration.

“Our assignment started with a question, ‘Should we be doing this at all? Is there a justification, a rationale for the risks and the expense of a human space program?’” said Daniels.

The committee determined, to the relief of Daniels, that the effort is worthwhile. But making the journey of at least 34 million miles, won’t be easy.

“Mars is not just a longer moon mission,” said Daniels. “There are incredibly difficult challenges that no one has an answer to yet.”

The report says increasing NASA’s budget by five percent per year would be enough. Daniels, known for managing expenses and cutting budgets, says a mission to Mars is worth it, even if it costs hundreds of billions of dollars or more.

“The problem for NASA is the same problem that we’re facing as a country. The so-called entitlement programs are devouring all the money,” said Daniels.

The report found that the biggest problem to reach Mars is picking a path and sticking with it through different presidents, congresses and budgets. The plan would have to stand for, at best, 25 years.

The report offers three pathways for the nation’s leaders to choose, with different steps and short-term goals to reach along the way. Daniels says NASA’s current path, which is constantly changing, won’t cut it.

“Coming to a conclusion that I hoped to be able to justify. Yes, space, the kind that Boilermakers have been leaders in since the beginning is an important human endeavor,” said Daniels. “The U.S. should lead it and can lead it, if we can change business as usual.”

Mitch Daniels was in Washington, D.C. Wednesday morning to help present the report to the National Academies. He says NASA’s budget currently makes up about 0.002 percent of the budget.

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