December 6, 1999

CONTACT: Bruce Gagnon
TELEPHONE (352) 337-9274

The loss in recent days of NASA’s $165 million Mars Polar Lander should make taxpayers begin to ask serious questions about the U.S. space program.

The Lander fiasco comes on the heels of the September 23 loss of the $125 million Mars Climate Orbiter -- because of one NASA team doing calculations in feet, the other in meters -- and billions of dollars lost from recent rocket launch failures at Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base.

“Money seems no object to NASA and the aerospace industry,” said Bruce Gagnon, Coordinator of the Florida-based Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. “They keep sending one failed mission up after the other. The time is long overdue for a vigorous public debate about the whole space program.”

Costs are mounting as the space snafus continue. The International Space Station, once set to cost taxpayers $10 billion, is now up to $100 billion and still rising. Aerospace industry publication Space News, in an editorial that promoted NASA’s overall Mars program, -- “Mars Missions are Affordable” (7-19-99) -- stated that, “Early estimates for Mars missions …ran up to $400 billion.” Could not these dollars be better spent on health care, education, child care programs and the environment back on Earth?

Meanwhile NASA claims it is looking for life on Mars but, in fact, like Christopher Columbus, it is looking for riches -- in the heavens. The Mars missions involve doing planetary mapping, soil identification, soil sampling and extraction, and sample returns to Earth to prepare for eventual manned -- for profit -- mining colonies on the Red planet.

NASA intends to power the mining colonies with nuclear power plants and use as a vehicle to get to Mars a nuclear rocket now being developed at the University of Florida and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. These schemes represent an enormous danger to life on Earth if there was to be an accident on launch.

Since the public is being asked to pay for these activities and to suffer the risks when nuclear materials are used, they should be allowed to be part of serious political deliberations about the direction of the costly and wasteful space program.

The Global Network is now working to create an international constituency to be a part of this historic and needed debate.

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