According to a March 27 story on KPCC, a Southern California public radio station, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-CA suggested that NASA might want to forget the idea of sending humans to Mars, relying on robots and rovers instead.
“Huntington Beach Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher told Bolden that human travel to Mars would be expensive and take away resources from other projects ;that might be more important to humankind than ... a symbolic mission of putting a human being on Mars.’ Rohrabacher pointed out ‘that we have robots and rovers and all sorts of other things that are on Mars already.’”
Rohrabacher made his remarks during a congressional hearing on NASA’s budget,
The robots vs. humans space exploration debate is an old as the space age. Advocates ranging from scientists such as the late Dr. James Van Allen to politicians of a more liberal bent than Rohrabacher like former Vice President Walter Mondale and the late Senator William Proxmire have called for the ending of NASA human space flight in favor of robotic missions. Others have argued that a mix of humans and robots is the optimal way to explore space. A 2004 study by the British Royal Astronomical Society concluded that human space explorers are vital for the proper exploration of space.
Rohrabacher, ironically, is not necessarily against humans in space. He is a warm supporter of President Obama’s commercial crew initiative that spends heavy government subsidies to develop commercially operated spacecraft to take astronauts to the International; Space Station. The program has come into closer focus due to the dependence of the United States on Russia to take astronauts into space in the wake of the seizure of the Crimea from the Ukraine.