Marching to Mars: MetalMiner’s Star-Spangled, Space-Based Week In Review

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Happy Fourth of July Weekend!

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The barbecues, fireworks and parades remind we MetalMiners of a certain age of a simpler time. A time when reaching for the stars meant more than just shooting off a few bottle rockets on the Fourth. A time when the US didn’t subcontract space exploration and research out to private companies such as SpaceX and to our totally super BFFs in the Russian Federation – hollaback, Pooty-Poot! – and when the idea of putting a base on the moon wasn’t just something loony that Newt Gingrich said while pandering for votes.

To Infinity and Beyond!

It’s not just us US Americans who are interested in space. MetalMiner Editor-At-Large Stuart Burns reminded us this week that India is building a lucrative business out of launching satellites cheaply and efficiently. In addition to bailing out Sandra Bullock with a backup Soyuz capsule, those crazy Cosmonauts in Russia are keeping busy sending manned flights to the international space station (still there, “Gravity” fans) and pocketing the ticket money to build water and gas lines to the Crimean peninsula.

StuartsF35_500

For the cost of a more 20 F-35 projects, we could put a man on Mars… with Mars bars.

So space is not just good for national morale, it’s good for business. The US dumped manned space flights in 2010 with the scrapping of the Constellation Project, but does anyone really believe that the nation of Armstrong – not, NOT Lance -, Aldrin and Lovell will stay out of the space race forever? The National Research Council has put out a 285-page report urging NASA to “go big or go home” and put a manned space flight on the surface of Mars.

Why Mars?

Aside from putting little green men in their place, going to Mars could validate several Robert A. Heinlein and Ray Bradbury novels. The Obama Administration’s stated goals for human space exploration are to send a human to an asteroid by 2025, and to Mars by the mid-2030s, but the report says we can get to the red planet much sooner if we do a “The Right Stuff” style project, getting the best brains everywhere working on it. Somewhere, Newt Gingrich is smirking out of that giant head of his.

This prospective mission would also put the US government in direct competition against Mars One, a privately funded plan that has convinced otherwise normal people to leave their lives and families to go live on Mars and build a civilization there. I guess none of these people have seen “Red Planet.”

All of this would mean massive business for titanium, structural steel and other aerospace manufacturing interests. The costs for government contractors, alone, would dwarf the F-35 project. Still, it’s encouraging to see that some Americans still dream big and, well, reach for the stars. Have a great weekend and remember that, sure, there would still be an Independence Day without “Independence Day,” but would it be anywhere near as much fun?

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