Why not? Lack of funding and focus.
It’s going to be expensive, but we have the money. Even if it costs ten times as much to put a man on Mars as it did to put a man on the moon, that’s only 4 Trillion. The annual GDP of the US is close to 16 Trillion. If the goal was to reach Mars in 10 years, that’s 160 Trillion, and only 2.5% of GDP would be required annually. The US definitely can afford this. Right now, the US is pouring its money into its military at a rate that is unfathomable given that it has not been attacked in a declared act of war on its own soil since Pearl Harbour. The US is spending close to 18% of its budget on military efforts, compared to China which is spending less than 2% of its budget on military efforts and which still has the second largest military expenditure in the world. the doctor will concede that the US has other problems to fix, and the military budget should probably be reduced by more than 2.5% so that those problems can be fixed as well, but there’s no reason that 2.5% couldn’t be redirected to this effort, especially considering it could still be considered military expenditure and employ just as many (if not more) people. This could still be a win for the US that likes it’s military, and appears to like deploying its military given the number of wars its been involved in since WWII. Furthermore, when you consider the dangerous nature of going first, the US probably wouldn’t want to send anyone but its best and brightest. And if we’re not alone, and we advance our technology to the point where inter-stellar travel becomes possible, we might attract the attention of an aggressive alien race and need the ability to defend ourselves. (Which would give the US an excuse to try and democratize space!) It would be a win for the US any way you want to look at it.
But the US isn’t the only country to blame. China, the world’s oldest culture, wants to regain its glory as the dominant empire (even though it’s been centuries since it could make that claim). As the world’s second largest economy, with a GDP exceeding 8 Trillion, and the fifth country to launch a satellite back in 1970, it should be making more efforts to establish itself as a dominant player in space, and focussing more on Mars. A target of 2040 – 2060 for a crewed mission to Mars is just too far off. If China dedicated itself to this goal, it could spark a new space race (as the US would want to be in the lead), which is just what we need to advance not only our space exploration ability, but mankind as a whole.
In addition, if one considers these big, mostly non-political, problems facing the US right now:
- High Unemployment, partially due to a
- Continual Decline in Manufacturing Jobs and Expertise, another impending
- Housing Crisis,
- Privacy Issues, the never-ending
- Drug War and,
- Unfunded Liabilities, partially due to the
- Collapsing Dollar.
And if one considers these big, mostly non-political, problems facing China right now:
- the need to maintain an appearance of success and save face,
- 1.3 Billion citizens to keep happy and 930 Million to keep employed,
- population growth that can’t be adequately managed by the one-child policy,
- factories that need to run and products that need to be consumed, and
- corruption and the age-old tradition of bribery.
And if one goes on to examine the root causes of these problems, one will find that many of them could likely be significantly addressed, if not solved, by a space race to Mars. How so? Come back next Sunday for Part III!