Space Review: Fighting For Mars

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From the Space Review: Earlier this month, Disney released the movie John Carter. Based on the famous Edgar Rice Burroughs tales, it’s the story of a Civil War veteran mysteriously transported to Mars (er, Barsoom) and thrust into a conflict among warring factions there. It’s also turned out to be a bomb for Disney: with an estimated cost of $250 million, the film has grossed less than $65 million in the US since its release (by comparison, The Hunger Games, released just on Friday, has already grossed $155 million) and Disney is expecting to take a $200-million loss on the film. The public, it seems, is more interested in a story set on a dystopian future Earth than an old fantasy about Mars.

So why did planetary get cut so much? “I wish I had a good succinct answer,” said NASA’s Grunsfeld.

Planetary scientists, meanwhile, hope the public’s interest in the real Mars—and the rest of the solar system—is a little stronger. For months, there were rumors that NASA’s planetary program would face cuts in the fiscal year 2013 budget proposal, as evidenced by the agency’s inability to formally commit to participating in the joint ExoMars program (see “An uncertain future for solar system exploration”, The Space Review, November 14, 2011). Those fears were realized when the White House released its budget proposal last month: NASA formally terminated its participation in ExoMars, while the agency proposed cutting its planetary science budget by 20 percent. Planetary scientists and their advocates are now trying to understand why they were cut while trying to mobilize efforts to win back that funding in Congress: stakes arguably higher than the box office performance of a single film.

Read the full article at Space Review.

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