The Government is Keeping Us off of Mars

 This is the only rocket NASA can afford.

This is the only rocket NASA can afford.

Do you know who Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornieko are?

Do you know who Alan Shepard and Yuri Gagarin are? (I really hope you do.)

What about Neil Armstrong, does his name ring a bell?

How about Mark Watney, I am going to assume you have heard of him?

According to my basic internet / personal polling research most people know that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, Yuri Gagarin was the first person in space, Alan Shepard was the first American in space, and Mark Watney is a fictional character who is stranded on Mars. Most people have no idea who Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornieko are, and that is a huge shame. 

Astronaut Kelly and Cosmonaut Kornieko are just past the half way point of a year long mission on board the International Space Station. One of the goals of this mission is to determine what prolonged time in space does to the human body. Kelly and Kornieko volunteered to be human guinea pigs in our quest to travel farther into space, first stop Mars. Read all about their amazing mission here.

Andy Weir's sci-fi novel The Martian (and the recent Ridley Scott Film based on the book) tell the story of Mark Watney and how he survives on Mars when he is accidentally left behind (read this book, it is outstanding). The story is filled with real scientific scenarios based on the ideas we have about the hospitality of Mars.  The realism of the book help make it, and the movie, a huge hit. It is not out of the realm of possibility to think that we could make a manned mission to Mars in the near future. There are still some very large issues to figure out, like how are we going to stop our Mars explorers from being cooked alive by radiation. We are working to figure out these problems, and the first human steps on a different planet are forthcoming. Humanity is on the verge if interplanetary travel.

The biggest leap of faith in Weir's book is the idea that NASA is well funded enough to support the cost of manned Mars missions. Americans always seem excited about the possibility of space travel, yet our government never has the will to commit money to the endeavor. The budget to run all of NASA in 2015 was approximately $885 million. The US congress has spent $5 million (and counting) on their admitted politically motivated Benghazi committee.  The US house has spent northwards of $75 million trying to repeal Obamacare. The pointless never ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost at least $4 trillion, and that does not account for the medical care returning veterans will require. There have been billions of unaccounted for money the US has distributed all over Iraq and Afghanistan. A manned mission to Mars is estimated to cost around $100 billion. The point is that our government balks at the price tag for manned space exploration, yet they have no problem wasting money on politically motivated pet issues and other forms of fraud. The latest tea party hero, Jim Jordan of Ohio, costs the taxpayers around $120 million every year so his district can continue to manufacture tanks that the Army does not want. The fiscal conservatives halt NASA and our future, yet waste untold amounts of money on things that do not advance humanity.

Our government's lack of investment in space exploration contributes to the public's dismissive attitude about current space explorers. What Gagarin and Shepard did was dangerous and unknown. What Armstrong did was dangerous and inspiring. What Kelly, Kornieko, and all current space travelers do is dangerous and vital to our future. Mark Watney is more well known because The Martian is a great book, and the hero represents our hopes for what a future of interplanetary travel will look like. Weir's hero is dependent on what NASA has done, and will do. Our future on Mars has its genesis in what Kelly and Kornieko are doing on the International Space Station. We will get excited about Mars when we have heroes to root for. Our current astronauts are these heroes. They should be celebrated at least as much as a fictional character.

A manned mission to Mars is inspiring and necessary. People are flocking to read, and see, The Martian because it inspires hope and pride in humanity. The scientific discoveries made through the space programming are staggering. When President Kennedy told us we had ten years to land on the moon, the technology did not exist. Nine years later we landed on the moon and started a new computer revolution. We do not have the technology to walk on Mars, yet. When a strong leader emerges in our government, and we are challenged as a nation to rise up, we will see humans walk on Mars within our lifetimes. What great technical revolution will follow? Astronaut Mike Kelly and Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornieko are getting us ready to travel beyond the moon. Their work is paving the way for a future Mark Watney. We deserve to experience the awe and pride of interplanetary travel. We deserve a government that believes in the future.

Thanks to and for their help in my research. Seriously go read The Martian.

RD Kulik

RD is the Head editor for SeedSing and the other host of the X Millennial Man podcast. He is wondering if Valentine Micheal Smith is waiting for us on Mars. Join the conversation by writing for SeedSing.


Let Ty tell you about a perfect spot in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

 Top of the bluff. Photo by Ty with an Iphone 5

Top of the bluff. Photo by Ty with an Iphone 5

I have spent the last five days in what I believe may be a piece of heaven on Earth.

I don't believe in any kind of faith, so by calling this place heaven, I mean to say, this place is perfect. I used to travel to this town a lot as a child, pre teen and teenager. I've even gone as an adult. I guess it took me being a father myself to truly appreciate the quiet solitude that is Bessemer, Michigan.

Like I said, I've vacationed there a lot. My folks grew up there.(technically my dad grew up in Bessemer. My mom grew up in a town called Ramsey that's three miles away, essentially the same place). It was always fun to go as a kid because I got to see my cousins that lived in Wisconsin and Minnesota and Michigan. Both my parents folks lived there too, so I got to see my grandparents as well. We usually went during Spring Break. It was the only time that me and my three brothers had a full week off.

So, I bet you're thinking, Spring Break, that's great, good weather, not too hot, not too cold. That's not the case in Bessemer. Bessemer is in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, so it's winter about eight to nine months of the year. So, in mid March, when we'd normally visit, there'd still be three to five feet of snow on the ground. My grandparents would be relieved by this. This meant winter was coming to  an end, maybe by May, the snow would be gone. I loved the fact that they still had all this snow on the ground. I thought, awesome I can go sledding in the middle of March! No way that was happening in St. Louis, my hometown.

As I got older, and cousins grew up and moved and grandparents were passing away, our annual trips dwindled. At first it was every year, then every other year, until it was good if we got up there once every four to five years. It also seemed like we only were going up for funerals. A place I once loved was becoming a place I associated with death. I was in my early twenties when my last grandparent passed away and that trip to Bessemer was pretty upsetting for me. I was very close to my grandpa. My dad and I talked to him on the phone every Sunday after my grandma passed away. My dad and I made trips up there to visit him also. Grandpa Louis was very important to me and I loved him almost as much as my parents. We were extremely close. So, after he passed away, I genuinely thought his funeral would be my last trip to the UP. What was the point if grandpa wasn't going to be there? I constantly asked myself that question.

A few years after his death, my mom and dad planned a trip to Bessemer. I was hesitant at first, but they explained to me, that if I thought it was going to be hard, think of how they felt. That's where they grew up and their parents were gone. I knew exactly what they meant and I was on board for the trip. The only difference, besides my extended family not being there was, my parents planned the trip for the summer. We did go there in summer,  but sparingly. As I said earlier, we usually went on Spring Break. We didn't have a place to stay, so my parents rented a luxury cabin. Tons of beds and bathrooms and pool tables. It was great. But what made it even better was the fact that I was able to remember good times I had there as a kid. Instead of dwelling on what I didn't have, I made the concerted effort to make new, grown up memories. Sure, sledding was fun, but now I could go hiking with my brothers and climb the bluffs with them. Swimming in Lake Superior is exhilarating. You can go to Little Girls Point and skip rocks while lounging on their rock beach. If you'd prefer a sand beach, head to Black River Harbor. These were all things I couldn't do with a ton of snow on the ground. This was a whole new world to me. I'm glad I have brothers who like doing these things too. I wouldn't do this stuff on my own.

On this most recent trip, I climbed the bluffs for the first time in a long time. I couldn't do it before because I was overweight and out of shape. In the past two years I've shed about a hundred pounds and decided I would challenge myself, and with a little encouragement from my brother, I did it and got some great pictures of the town. It was phenomenal. I also went tubing for the first time in my life. I laid on an inner tube on my stomach and a boat pulled me from side to side and I did jumps in the water. It was great. My wife and three year old son were with my family and I and it was great to share this beautiful place that I love with them. We'd drive by streets and I'd tell them memories I had. I also was able to show them where my grandparents lived. My parents drove us around and told us stories that I'd never even heard. My wife has been there before, but it was my sons first trip. He loved it, his favorite thing to do was skip rocks on Lake Superior. I also got to see a lot of my cousins this time around. We are all adults with kids now, but we were able to make time to see each other. It was great. The weather was as good as it gets. This was another thing that made this trip so perfect. This was the first week of August and the temperature never got any higher than 76 degrees. Did I mention the fact that there's no humidity. It was a great relief from St. Louis summers.

Another reason I'm so happy that we travel to the UP in the summers now. I know they do most of their business during the winter with all the ski hills. But, I'm here to tell you that summer time is the time to make a trip to the UP. It's so great. The sky at night time is so clear you can see the stars perfectly. I'm so grateful that my parents talked me into going back to the UP and the fact that we go in the summer now. Bessemer, Michigan in the summer is the best place in the world to visit. Do yourselves a favor and book a week long stay up there. You will love it.

I know I certainly just did.


Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing and the co-host of the X Millennial Man Podcast. He was paid no money to write this rave review of Bessemer Michigan, he would like some money. Follow him on twitter @tykulik.