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[i]As for the administration's proposed mission to robotically capture a small asteroid and tow it back to the moon's vicinity for eventual manned visits, Palazzo [Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., chairman of the Subcommittee on Space,] said NASA had failed to provide a credible justification for the program or enough details to warrant funding.
"Because the mission appears to be a costly and complex distraction, this bill prohibits NASA from doing any work on the project, and we will work with appropriators to ensure the agency complies with this directive," he said.
...two witnesses at Wednesday's hearing -- Steven Squyres, principal investigator with NASA's Mars Exploration Rover program, and Thomas Young, a widely respected space industry veteran -- expressed skepticism [about the asteroid retrieval mission], at least in the context of long-range plans to visit Mars.
"I personally don't see a strong connection between the proposed asteroid retrieval mission and sending humans to Mars," Squyres said. "But I believe NASA should at least be given the opportunity to try to make that case. I haven't heard it yet."
Said Young: "My belief is, any technology that comes out of it, there are better ways to do it. ... In my judgment, this is not a highest-priority endeavor."
Both men said they believed a long-range roadmap focused on eventual manned flights to Mars was the best course for NASA, but they strongly urged Congress and the White House to resist the temptation to set milestones and technical objectives, leaving that to NASA's scientists and engineers.
And they both said Congress should not set goals that cannot be met in a realistic budget environment.
Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla., asked both men how long it might take to mount a manned mission to Mars with NASA's current budget.
"With the current budget, bear with me, I would probably say never," Young said.
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