TO MARS? Another...

TO MARS? Another possible casualty of Tom DeLay's fall: The Bush administration's baroque moon-then-Mars space exploration program. The mission to Mars, of course, became a fast joke after George W. Bush first unveiled it weeks prior to the 2004 State of the Union address and then failed to mention it in the actual speech, but contrary to most people's assumptions the program has been proceeding full speed ahead, cannibalizing the rest of NASA's budget in the process. Nobody was a bigger champion for the initiative than DeLay, who fended off threats to NASA's budget against all comers and restructured the entire House Appropriations Committee to protect it. After stepping down as leader, DeLay landed a plum Approps seat with jurisdiction over NASA, and just last week, he published an op-ed in The Hill touting Bush's human space exploration initiative. ("Though some have criticized this robust series of flights as an impossible goal," he wrote, "the 'impossible,' after all, is NASA�s business." For what it's worth, Matt, who normally covers the NASA beat around these parts, says it very well might be actually impossible.)

The Bush Mars plan has a lot of critics, both within NASA's bureaucracy and on the Hill. It just lost one of its most powerful champions, and thus could be imperiled if enough people were first alerted to the fact that the plan still actually exists and isn't merely some stillborn P.R. gambit from two years ago.

UPDATE: Alkali reminds me in comments to point out that The American Prospect probably can deliver to Mars; it's that dynamic and forward-looking. Also worth mentioning: In space, no one can hear you donate.

--Sam Rosenfeld