Our group considered four main sources of funding: United States government, overseas governments, United States domestic private sources, and overseas private sources. After researching each avenue of funding, we reached the following conclusions:
United States government funding is the most likely source for the vast majority of the funding that is necessary for such a large project. The United States currently has the necessary funds available to implement a project of this scale, as the Apollo program demonstrated. Studying the budget for the Apollo program and comparing the percentages that it took of NASA's budget in the 1960's to its current budget gave us an idea of the amount of money that the US government would be willing to spend if it were properly motivated. This would be enough money to fund the mission to Mars (see the budget breakdown for reasoning). The political maneuvering that this would require is a project in itself, which is explored in the public relations section.
Many overseas governments have space programs and an interest in finding out more about Mars. The research has shown, however, that alone, most other governments do not have the funding for such a project and may not be willing to fund a U.S.- initiated project. While international collaboration between governments are politically very attractive, past collaborations, such as the International Space Station, indicate that they are often inefficient and tend not to work as well as single-government ventures. This is unfortunate because such an expensive undertaking would be more palatable to the U.S. Congress if the U.S. were only expected to pay for a portion of it, but realistically a collaboration is not workable.
Private funding is going to play a larger role in space exploration in the future, especially if useful resources are found on other planets such as Mars. However, this is a projection into the future. In today's climate the most funding that was ever raised in the private sector for a research project was one billion dollars (for a satellite communications venture). This amounts to a very small fraction of the funds needed, (please see our budget breakdown), and may not be worth the time put into securing those funds. However, many companies could make considerable gains by the spin-off technologies that could be discovered in a research project like this and could be willing to fund at least a part of the project in order to have a first- hand look at the information gathered. Companies like Sonsub, a foreign- based difficult- terrain navigation and drilling company, could gain important information from the experiments of the surface rover. Although it is possible to obtain some funding from foreign governments and multi- national corporations, such funding would complicate requesting money from Congress. It would require justifying money leaving the U.S. to purchase equipment and instruments manufactured overseas.
In order to gain congressional support, the plan is to show Congressmen the benefits that such a large- scale technical endeavour would produce for their states; a mission to Mars would create new or expand existing manufacturing plants, create thousands of high-paying engineering and technical jobs, and generate favorable publicity for Congressmen within their districts. Every year, the President proposes a new budget for NASA. He comes to this figure by asking his sources what amount Congress would support. The real decision, thus, lies with Congress. In order to encourage Congressmen to support this mission, we will tailor our descriprtion of the mission's benefits to emphasize the parts most important to each individual Member. For example, the Congressmen from California will be told about the benefits and contracts for their aerospace industry. The Congressmen from Utah will be told about the rockets that will be ordered, many of which are manufactured in their state. The Congressmen from Washington will be told about the possible pending Boeing contracts, which will be filled in the state. For Congressmen who do not have significant aerospace industries in their districts, we will emphasize the broad- based economic effects of the project and the expansion of existing industries into new regions. Once Congressmen are convinced that the mission will benefit the economy of their states and benefit their constituents, they will be more willing to suport the mission and appropriate more funding to NASA.
Thus, we concluded that the majority of
funding should come from the U.S. government through NASA. Private companies
could contribute to our mission, but not very substantially. In the future,
the government may use NASA as a vehicle to research economically viable
space ventures. Once these have been found and proven to be commercially
viable as well, the project would be privatized.
Copyright © 2000 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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