I found this article this morning, ironically whilst drinking my coffee from a NASA cup. The estimate for the debut of the new heavy-lifting rocket, by which NASA hopes to reach Mars, is being pushed back from 2017 to 2018, in order for the space agency to be "70% sure" of its success.
At the end of the article, one of the agency's associate administrators says "Our nation has embarked on a very ambitious space exploration program..." Really? Recycling leftover components from thirty-year-old programs is "ambitious?"
I know that if space flight were easy, everyone would be doing it, and yeah, it's expensive as hell, without much tangible payoff as far as the man in the street is concerned, but somehow nothing about this rocket design strikes me as particularly "ambitious." This looks more like the consolation prize for having a nice personality. When the present administration flushed the billions of dollars already spent on the previous "Constellation" project, this dumbed-down yet potentially more expensive version made from spare parts and a couple of old Estes kits seems like a subterfuge for keeping our hand in the pot just so the Chinese and Indians won't grab it all for themselves.
While excercising caution is admirable, especially when "the new assessment showed the odds of that were “significantly less” than the 70 percent confidence level NASA requires of new programs..." it's just one more example of how wussified the United States has become. We put men on the moon using less computing power than is in the average SmartPhone today. We have hordes of highly educated, unemployed engineers and computer geeks cluttering up the Internet. Why is it so difficult to come up with a really cutting-edge, original plan for putting human beings on Mars?