Mission to Mars: Benefits Vs. Costs

October 1, 1969

Report Outline
Debate over a Manned Flight to Mars
Slow Growth of Knowledge About Mars
Requirements of Planetary Exploration

Debate over a Manned Flight to Mars

Task Force Proposal and the Cost Estimates

President nixon soon will decide whether the United States should adopt the goal of landing men on Mars before the end of the century. The President has before him a report by a special Space Task Group whose primary recommendation was that this country undertake such a mission. It is now up to Nixon to decide whether to accept one of the task group's suggested Mars landing dates—1983, 1986, or sometime in the 1990s—or to suspend judgment, at least for the time being. Whatever decision the President makes, it is sure to be preceded by vigorous debate among the public and in Congress.

The Space Task Group report, made public Sept. 17, gave the President three “options” on a Mars manned landing. Under the option that would land men on Mars in 1983, the federal space budget would increase to $4.2 billion in fiscal 1971—up by $500 million from the fiscal 1970 budget request—to $4.8 billion in fiscal 1972, $6 billion in fiscal 1973, and almost $7 billion in fiscal 1974. The final decision whether to go ahead with the Mars landing would be made in 1974 if the foregoing timetable were adopted. A favorable decision would mean that the space budget would climb to $7.7 billion in fiscal 1975 and continue to increase over the following five years to a peak of $9.4 billion in fiscal 1980.

The option that Agnew favors—adoption of a 1986 Mars landing goal—would keep NASA spending below $5 billion a year until fiscal 1975, when it would reach $5.5 billion. Congress and the then-President would decide in 1978, under this timetable, whether to proceed with the Mars program. If they did so, the NASA budget would mount to $6.6 billion in fiscal 1979 and to $7.7 billion the following year. Peak annual expenditures of $8 billion a year would be required in the early 1980s. National Aeronautics and Space Administrator Thomas O. Paine said on Sept. 17 that a Mars program “should be no more expensive than the program to go to the moon.” The lunar program has cost about $24 billion to date. Other estimates place the total cost of a Mars program as high as $100 billion.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Feb. 24, 2012  Space Program
Aug. 16, 2011  Weapons in Space
Oct. 16, 2009  Human Spaceflight
May 23, 2003  NASA's Future
Jul. 23, 1999  New Challenges in Space
Apr. 25, 1997  Space Program's Future
Dec. 24, 1993  Space Program's Future
Mar. 29, 1991  Uncertain Future for Man in Space
Jul. 31, 1987  Space Race
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Feb. 18, 1983  American Options in Space
Nov. 10, 1978  Changing U.S. Space Policy
Jul. 04, 1975  Cooperation in Space
Mar. 15, 1972  Space Shuttle Controversy
Oct. 01, 1969  Mission to Mars: Benefits Vs. Costs
Nov. 13, 1968  Goals in Space
Jun. 29, 1966  Future of Space Exploration
May 08, 1963  Moon Race Controversy
Jun. 27, 1962  Peaceful Use of Outer Space
Nov. 01, 1961  Space Exploration
Dec. 09, 1959  National Space Policy
Feb. 19, 1958  Control of Outer Space
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