It’s not surprising at all that it would see it as a potential area to reduce the deficit (see page 74). The entire NASA budget is an option for that, in fact, as is the entire federal budget, really. But it points out how completely out to sea we are on why we’re doing it. Note the underlying assumption.
This option would terminate NASA’s human space exploration and space operations programs, except for those necessary to meet space communications needs (such as communication with the Hubble Space Telescope). The agency’s science and aeronautics programs and robotic space missions would continue. Eliminating those human space programs would save $73 billion between 2015 and 2023, the Congressional Budget Office estimates.
The main argument for this option is that increased capabilities in electronics and information technology have
generally reduced the need for humans to fly space missions. The scientific instruments used to gather knowledge in space rely much less (or not at all) on nearby humans to operate them. NASA and other federal agencies have increasingly adopted that approach in their activities on Earth, using robots to perform missions
without putting humans in harm’s way. For example, NASA has been using remotely piloted vehicles to track
hurricanes over the Atlantic Ocean at much longer distances than those for which tracking aircraft are conventionally piloted.
Eliminating humans from spaceflights would avoid risk to human life and would decrease the cost of space exploration by reducing the weight and complexity of the vehicles needed for the missions. (Unlike instruments, humans need water, air, food, space to move around in, and rest.) In addition, by replacing people with instruments, the missions could be made one way—return would be necessary only when the mission required it, such as to collect samples for further analysis—thus eliminating the cost, weight, and complexity of return and reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
A major argument against this option is that eliminating human spaceflight from the orbits near Earth would end
the technical progress necessary to prepare for human missions to Mars (even though those missions are at least
decades away). Moreover, if, in the future, robotic missions proved too limiting, then human space efforts
would have to be restarted. Another argument against this option is that there may be some scientific advantage
to having humans at the International Space Station to conduct experiments in microgravity that could not be
carried out in other, less costly, ways. (However, the International Space Station is currently scheduled to be
retired in 2020, postponed from an earlier decommissioning in 2015.) [Emphasis added]
There are multiple flawed assumptions in this analysis. First that the only purpose of sending humans into space is about science. Second, that it is about exploration. Third, that Mars is the goal.
If we aren’t going to develop and settle space, there is no point in sending people there, or hazarding their lives. But we never have that discussion.
Seemed to be a link problem. Hope it’s fixed now, sorry.