Monthly Archives: April 2010

Things To Depress You

Hey, I Don’t Invent This Stuff

Wordle: Gulf Coast oil spill could eclipse Exxon Valdez

It was one thing for a wayward tanker to crash right into the Great Barrier Reef this month, there’s also been this disaster in the Gulf of Mexico where an oil rig blew up and now oil is spewing everywhere.

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AFP) – Oil is leaking from the ruptured well of a large rig that exploded, burnt and sank in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this week, the US Coast Guard said Saturday.

The Coast Guard estimated that up to 1,000 of barrels of oil, or 42,000 gallons (158,987 liters) were spewing each day from a riser and a drill pipe, prompting further concerns of damage to Louisiana’s fragile ecosystem, already stressed by hurricanes and coastal erosion.
Officials confirmed the discovery a day after the Coast Guard said that no oil appeared to be leaking from the well head.

Coast Guard Eighth District commander Rear Admiral Mary Landry told reporters the leak likely began on Thursday, when the rig sank two days after an initial explosion tore through the Deepwater Horizon semi-submersible oil drilling platform.

The best case scenario is sealing off the pipe ruptures in a few days; the worst case scenario is a matter of months. The Coast Guard said it would take several days before they determine how to stop the pipe leaks 5,000 feet (1,525 meters) down in the Gulf waters.

Petty Officer Connie Terrell told AFP the oil sheen was now 20 miles (32 kilometers) in diameter about 40 miles (64 km) off the Louisiana coast. Over 33,700 gallons (127,570 liters) of oily water mix have been recovered in the cleanup effort so far, she said.

Now that’s got to be an ecological disaster the size of which has not been seen since the Exxon Valdez. I know our civilisation runs on oil, but surely these kinds of disasters have to force us to think of alternatives means of running out civilisation. It’s depressing to think that 21 years on from the Exxon Valdez outrage we’re still just as hooked on oil and vulnerable to massive ecological disasters.

The Big ETS Delay

Meanwhile back in Australia, the Labor Government is now making noises that it will delay the introduction of the ETS.

A spokesman for Mr Rudd said the government would legislate an emissions trading scheme by 2013 if there had been ”sufficient international action”. The strategy has been the subject of fierce debate within the government. The move will save $2.5 billion over the next four years.

A special prime ministerial task group will report in June on options including an energy efficiency trading scheme and new industrial and building efficiency measures.

Together with new fuel efficiency regulations and existing funding for solar and clean coal projects, the measures will become pre-election announcements to justify the claim the government is still committed to tackling climate change and able to meet the reduction targets it has pledged internationally.

But environment groups said the deferral – aimed at defusing the opposition leader Tony Abbott’s scare campaign about ”a great big new tax on everything” – would drastically increase the cost of meeting Australia’s targets, no matter what other policies the government adopts. They said it would also send a disastrous signal to the flailing international climate negotiations.

In other words, you delay it and pay more, but you’re not crossing the road alone, first. Was tat really what we voted for back in 2007?

Here is another piece on it, with more of an explanation why they will delay the introduction of the ETS.

The Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, told the Herald the government would not try to legislate the ETS even by its new delayed start year of 2013 unless there is ”credible action” by the end of 2012 from countries such as China, India and the US. It would also require a resolution of the Copenhagen deadlock over how national efforts are checked.

”We will only [legislate] if there is sufficient international action,” Senator Wong said, declining to explain exactly what that meant. She admitted the delay would ”make meeting our [emission reduction] targets more expensive” and that without a carbon price Australia would not meet the targets at all.

”You can’t get to your targets without a cost on carbon … we have been very clear that we have to put a price on carbon,” she said.

Which all goes to show they understand what they’re trying to do, they understand how urgent it is to do it, but they’re letting the rest of world’s intractability get in the way of doing the right thing. Consider that Kevin Rudd’s government got elected on this promise back in late 2007.  2013 would be 6 years lapsed from that election. The wait is intolerable, and this is absolutely the kind of failure of leadership for which Kevin Rudd was lambasting the Coalition.

The commentary on this very moral cowardice is here.

Tony ”the settled science of climate change is absolute crap” Abbott and Kevin ”the greatest moral challenge of our age” Rudd know they have to have a carbon price to make a significant difference to Australian greenhouse emissions. But both now say they want to wait and see what the rest of the world does.

To understand just how far this debate has shifted, think back to poor old Brendan Nelson, who lost the Liberal leadership in 2008 for suggesting the wait-and-see approach that now seems to have bipartisan approval.

Kevin Rudd suggested yesterday he was just shifting the timing of the ”implementation” of his carbon pollution reduction scheme – like it was a minor administrative matter.

But then he also said he would be assessing at the end of 2012 what the rest of the world had done, and the political realities in the Senate. What if the rest of the world hasn’t done much? Seems he could drop an emissions trading scheme altogether.

The Coalition’s decision to abandon bipartisan support for an emissions trading scheme last year obviously changed the politics of the issue. Labor could have put the issue to a double dissolution election, or said it would try again after a normal half Senate poll. Instead it has distanced itself as far from the scheme as it can without dropping it altogether.

And therein lies the heart of the shit-fight that is the ETS scheme. For a start, the best thing about the ETS is that it puts a price on carbon. When you look at it closer, it’s a crappy price they put on it, because they don’t want to hurt the current emitting industry too much, but it also stalls the growth of carbon capture/management businesses that are waiting for a price. Then of course the ETS arrangement isn’t even perfect. It gives away too many freebies to polluters, which is why the Greens won’t even countenance negotiating with the ALP.

So really, the Rudd Government is basically strapped to both extremes of the argument having to put something in the space dead-bang in between, while the extremes move further out in their cloud-cuckoo directions… rather than just doing what’s right. It should be willing to go the double-dissolution on this alone, but hasn’t. There’s something that reminds us of the politics around the introduction of the GST back in the day. There was no way known a Labor government could/would introduce it, so it fell to the Coalition. The electorate bitched and whined and moaned all the way but hasn’t really found the GST regime to be so crippling to the economy or daily life. It seems there’s no way that a Coalition government an ever put in an ETS given its ‘Global Warming Sceptic’ constituency, so it’s inevitably going to fall to Labor to pass it. And the electorate will bitch and whine and moan, but chances are that in years to come it will be accepted for what it is.

The thing is, if it’s so necessary – and sane people all agree it is – then why don’t they just do it properly? That’s all I’m asking for.

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Buy This Book!

You’re A Philistine If You Don’t

I went to the Sydney launch for ‘Glissando’ by David Musgrave.

When it comes to looking back over his life, Archie Fliess has got some understanding to do. So begins a sprawling reflection on his life during the early twentieth century, starting the day the fortunes of Archie and brother Reggie change when they are taken to be the rightful owners of the property built by their grandfather in country NSW. Along their journey, they are introduced to an odd collection of family and caretakers who don’t always have the best interests of the boys at heart. Archie becomes embroiled in the mystery surrounding his grandfather’s life, and as the two stories “ Archie’s and his grandfather’s“ unravel, we see familiar themes of disappointment and failed ambition. Glissando is a tale that travels along many threads, told in a playful, philosophical voice reminiscent of Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, with shades of Patrick White’s Voss. It’s an Australian classic, a satirical romp of epic proportions.

Here’s an interview with said Musgrave.

Glissando book cover

The title, Glissando: A Melodrama, immediately informs the reader that music will underscore everything in the novel. It is present both in metaphor and as a constant accompaniment to the characters’ lives. How did the musical effect of ‘glissando’ in particular come to be of such central importance to the novel?

One of the main themes of Glissando is the arts and how they are interrelated and the role art can play in our lives, and  the focus is really on architecture and music, although food, memory and writing also play important roles. The musical aspect came naturally, as I have played and written music since I was a child; the architectural aspect I guess came from a preoccupation with forebears who were colonial architects (and who feature in the book). Because I was interested in the arts in combination, Glissando refers to the musical technique of the glissade, to the house Glissando where the narrator lives and writes (the man who built it conceived of the house as a glissade realised in architectural form) and to the dying fall of the narrator’s life. So, in a way, music itself is a kind of master trope in the book for how art can shape our lives, for good and for ill.

He’s an interesting dude, but he’s even more interesting in print! 🙂 Jokes aside, have a read.

If you’re preference is on-line shopping of books, then you can find it HERE!

So be a good little cultural munchkin and buy it now! Buy it today and you won’t regret the purchase! 🙂

Here’s a review at SPUNC:

Glissando: A Melodrama is the latest novel from Sleepers Publishing to receive rave reviews.

David Musgrave’s first novel, Glissando travels along many threads: It is an Australian story, told in a playful, philosophical voice. It has a burlesque bravado similar to Steve Toltz’ Fraction of the Whole. It is a satirical romp of epic proportions.

“Glissando is something unique: a thoroughly contemporary novel that marries the intensity and fervour of Patrick Whiteto the displaced cosmopolitan wit of Murray Bail and Gerald Murnane.
-James Bradley

Here’s a review at Readings.com:

Here’s a review in Rupert’s press:

DON’T, whatever you do, mistake David Musgrave’s first extended prose fiction for a novel.

Recall instead the satires of Pope, Swift, Rabelais and Thomas Pynchon: parodists, whose intentions could not be more serious, storytellers whose characters are not facsimiles of the human so much as super-sized grotesques, scintillating minds on stilts.

But Glissando is also something apart from these. Satire on the European model requires a shared moral framework, an unspoken agreement about what a culture’s philosophical underpinnings may be. In these pages, an eccentric Viennese architect named Wilhelm Fliess arrives in rural NSW during the middle years of the 19th century, hopeful of building a house based on designs far from Europe’s deadening norms. In keeping with his high-minded Mitteleuropean ideals, Wilhelm has legal documents drawn up to ensure that the traditional owners of the land he purchased will not be dispossessed.

And so the review goes. It’s pretty nice. Anyway, go buy it and read it. Heck, just buy it to adorn your shelves with it so you can tell your grandchildren in years to come, “hey look, I own a first edition copy of ‘Glissando’ by David Musgrave”.

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News That’s Fit To Punt 23/04/2010

In Brief…

Olympic 400m champion LaShawn Merritt tested positive for anabolic steroids found in his over the counter penis enlargement product.

Merritt, who is also the world champion at 400 metres, said in a statement via his lawyer that he was “deeply sorry” at failing three doping controls for the banned substance dehydroepiandrosterone.

The 23-year-old American, who faces a two-year ban, said: “To know that I’ve tested positive as a result of a product that I used for personal reasons is extremely difficult to wrap my hands around.

Very unfortunate turn of phrase there…

ETS Fight Is Back On

So says K-Rudd.

KEVIN RUDD says the great moral challenge posed by climate change is undiminished and he will keep trying to implement an emissions trading scheme if Labor is re-elected.

In an interview with the Herald, Mr Rudd rejected growing criticism that he had abandoned the climate change cause because it was no longer a vote winner after the Copenhagen conference and the defeat of his emissions trading scheme.

“It’s very clear cut that whether climate change is topical or not, whether it is popular or not, the reality of it does not disappear,” he said.

“This remains a fundamental economic, environmental and moral challenge. Whether it’s newsworthy or not in a particular season is beside the point. We haven’t changed our view of this.”

The Senate has twice blocked legislation for the emissions trading scheme. The legislation is again before the Parliament but the Senate has delayed debate until at least next month and there is next to no chance there will be a vote before the election expected in the spring.

Mr Rudd said that if he is re-elected, he will try again to have a scheme introduced but it would depend on the make-up of the Senate.

”We’ve got to ensure that we act on climate change and we do so always within the scope of our powers. We maintain our position that this is part of the most efficient and most effective means by which we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the least cost to the economy.”

Well it’s good to hear he still has the appetite for putting a price on carbon. There I was thinking that maybe there were secret briefings that told him an Ice Age was coming anyway and made all global warming redundant or something, but clearly that’s not the case.

It’s nice to know it’s on the agenda-radar again.

The Health Deal We Had To Have

A cool article from Peter Hartcher here.

Once the NSW Premier had landed in Canberra on Sunday, Rudd zeroed in on her as his first target. He assessed Kristina Keneally as the most likely of the three recalcitrants to yield because the NSW Government was in the weakest political position of the three, facing an election it’s likely to lose, and was the one most in need of a deal to deliver more hospital funds.

Under the offer already on the table, NSW stood to gain an extra $964 million in upfront Commonwealth health money over four years.

Before going to the dinner that Rudd was to host for all the premiers and their treasurers that night, the Prime Minister sweetened the offer to NSW by hundreds of millions of dollars and asked Keneally to commit immediately.

Keneally was not as desperate as Rudd had hoped, however. She refused to commit and said she needed time to think about it.

Just before all the premiers and treasurers were due to arrive at The Lodge for dinner, the treasurers’ invitation was cancelled. They were told that they would be dining separately at the Hyatt Hotel, with the federal Treasurer, Wayne Swan, as their host. The state treasurers were unimpressed when they were led into a small, windowless dining room next to the hotel cafe. They were even less impressed when they tried to discuss key issues with Swan and he rebuffed them.

The state treasurers also asked Swan about the forthcoming Henry review of the tax system. ”No one will be worse off,” Swan told them, and otherwise wouldn’t tell them a thing, not even the date of its release. ”It’ll come when it comes,” he said.

To round out the experience the states again went at each other about the health deal, with John Lenders and NSW’s Eric Roozendaal defending their decision to reject the Rudd plan.

The state ministers concluded that Swan had been sent to ”mind” them so that Rudd could corral the premiers and try to win them over. It didn’t work.

That evening the state delegations heard unofficially that Rudd intended to hold them for a day longer than they had planned, into Tuesday.

The blow by blow of how these people staggered to the finish line is very interesting. Kristina Kenneally is still a stinking mess of a premier and really, this does not raise her from the low estimation in which I hold her; but all the same she did all right to bluff to K-Rudd that “we-was-not-so-desperate-yeah?”

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Melbourne Losers (On A Technicality)

Parramatta Won In 2009!

Melbourne Storm have been stripped of their premierships and points for this season, for breaches of the salary cap. I know some people who would be happy to find out that Parramatta won in 2009 and Manly won in 2007.

NRL chief David Gallop has just announced the extraordinary penalty, after it was uncovered that the club paid $1.7 million to its players outside the cap in the past five years.

The Storm have been stripped of their premierships in 2007 and 2009, three minor premierships and their eight competition points this season. They will not be able to accrue any more points this season, have been fined $500,000 and must pay back $1.1 million in prize money.

“The elaborate lengths that they went to to hide the payments was quite extraordinary,” Gallop said. “These payments have allowed them to recruit and retain some of the best players in the game. There’s no alternative for the NRL in terms of penalty.”

Gallop said that the club had run a long-term system of “two sets of books”.

“This morning the Storm representatives have come in and confessed to a well-organised system of paying players outside the cap. On what we know this amounted to $1.7 million in the last five years, including approximately $700,000 in 2010.

“The breakthrough in the investigation was the discovery by the salary cap auditor [Ian Schubert] and his team of a file in a separate room at the Storm to the room that contained the file with the players’ contracts.”

In statement released by the NRL, it was revealed that “the Storm maintained a dual contract system and the club has today confirmed that side letters promising extra payments were stored in a secret file at the home of the Chief Executive. The accounts were structured in such a way that it would appear the commitments were not apparent to either the Melbourne Storm Board or its owners.”

Hmmm, what joy. I’m so glad I don’t follow the NRL any more. Would totally suck to be a fan right now. When you start invalidating whole seasons of outcomes, there’s no integrity left in the record books for the code. I don’t see how you could remain a fan of a code that basically takes away 2 trophies from a team that won and hurting that fan constituency and then awarding it to another bunch of fans who, years later realise their team won even when they lost the grand final and were somehow denied a big celebration. What are the latter supposed to do now? Hold parades in May?

Which all goes to show how artificial it is to have an NRL team in Melbourne, and how salary caps are in the end, no solution to the competitive imbalances inherent in the league.

It’s always been very suspect how some of the expansion teams that represent whole cities have dominated the grand finals at some points of NRL and ARL’s history. Brisbane, Canberra, Newcastle and Melbourne have each had extended periods of dominance over a rabble of Sydney clubs but you wonder if this happened legitimately; or indeed if these periods of expansion team dominance has actually taken the sport to the national level as hoped. I’m wondering if there really are that many bandwagoneering fans who leapt on to being Melbourne Storm fans when they won the grand final in its second year of existence. I mean, do they think are people that stupid and shallow?

Can a sport even sustain itself in the long term if its cache of fans are a bunch of bandwagoning Shallow-Hals? What kind of hell kind of plan produces such outcomes? I know winning is the only thing, but surely it’s not the only, only, only thing on the minds of the viewers. Surely the spectacle and *ahem* beauty* – sheesh I hate to use that word for the game of rugby league – itself of the game should also count for something. Surely the spirit and style in which the game is played and so on must mean something to the die hard fan.

However let’s say you can run your comp with Shallow Hal fans as your core constituency. How do the newly minted shallow-Hal fans of Melbourne Storm stick with their club when it ups and loses two Grand Finals in the boardroom, years after the event? Why would they stick around? I really don’t know where rugby league can go after this. It’s like they sledgehammered the last nail into the coffin and the coffin shattered, exposing the corpse.

Congratulations Parramatta and Manly! You should be so lucky.

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Tony Abbott’s Dumb Idea

Bludgeon The Dole Bludger, He Says

I don’t know how Tony Abbott comes up with this stuff.

Mr Abbott raised the controversial idea during a two-hour meeting with senior resources industry leaders in Perth on Monday night, The Australian newspaper reported today.

He said cutting dole payments to people aged under 30 would take pressure off the welfare system and reduce the need to bring in large numbers of skilled migrants to staff mining projects in Western Australia and Queensland.

Does this even make sense? The unemployment rate in Australia is 5.3%, and this is in spite of the so-called GFC and its aftermath rocking the world economy. At 4.5% it pretty much reaches full capacity employment at which point inflation kicks in hard.

So we are to understand that the 0.8% gap between where we stand today and the 4.5% full capacity is going to be the zone of anxiety he’s going to take to the electorate as a problem issue? We’re talking somewhere in the order of 80,000 people at most. Of whom, if they are under 30, he wants to cut their welfare payments and send them off to work in mines in WA. The mind boggle at how he comes up with this stuff.

He really should meet some of the people who are under 30 and are the long term unemployed. I meet them from time to time as they come through looking for work if only to get away from the prying fingers of Centrelink. They’re a really miserable, sad, intellectually deficient bunch. I doubt they’d get work being toughs for a gangster somewhere.  They’re just dysfunctional human beings.

These folks are not going to be successful working in a mine in WA, no matter how desperate those employers might be for workers. It’s just simply stupid and irresponsible to think that you can just grab some of those kinds of guys, give them shovels and stick them on a mining job. It would be an OH&S hazard for a start. If Tony Abbott’s so damned worried about them, he should be talking about creating real opportunities for them to get real jobs that these kinds of people can hold down.

At a certain point Tony Abbott should acquaint himself with the bell curve and face the reality that some people at 3 Standard Deviations to the left of the median bands are just no employable regardless of age, and that there’s a point to keeping these people fed and housed even if it seems like a waste of money. It sure as hell beats having them turning into petty criminals that end up in jail (at the public’s expense anyway) or as suicides on Crystal Street or some other sad statistical outcome.

But of course he’s the Liberal Party leader and a Jesuit-wannabe; short on compassion and common sense while long on not sparing the rod and meting out humiliation.

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Kafka Would Be Proud

When Will This Stop?

One of the most shameful, disgraceful things the Australian government started doing under John Howard and still indulges in under Kevin Rudd is this business of deporting people on permanent visas on character grounds. A few years go, they deported a Serb Robert Jovicic and a Turk Fatih Tuncock, and many others. Today, it is reported that yet another such deportee Andrew Moore died last October, 2 days after being deported, due to an overdose.

A DEPRESSED father with known drug and alcohol problems died from a heroin overdose two days after Australia deported him to Britain and left him at Heathrow Airport with a cash allowance of about $700 in his pocket, a British coronial inquiry has found.

Scottish-born Andrew Moore, 43, had lived in Australia for 32 years, but had never become a citizen, when the government removed him last October for failing the Migration Act’s character test after he served a sentence for manslaughter.

Mr Moore’s family in Australia, including a teenage son, and supporters had pleaded for him to be allowed to stay due to severe physical and mental illness. The family says the government failed him, and legal and migration experts say it could have prevented his death, but the Immigration Minister and his department deny any responsibility.

Mr Moore’s government-appointed doctor, Ed Morgan, provided him with an open letter to British doctors warning that he was at risk of relapsing into alcohol, heroin and benzodiazepine abuse.

”He has expressed fears that in a new country with limited support he will again be likely to relapse,” Dr Morgan wrote. ”Having known Andrew for many years I … feel drug and alcohol support is paramount to his ongoing care.”

In a statement, Mr Moore’s family expressed their ”disappointment at the failure of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to put in place sufficient support networks for Andrew on his deportation to the United Kingdom. This is particularly given that Andrew had lived most of his life in Australia and was being deported to a country that he had no existing connection to.”

The government does not owe a duty of care to non-citizens, but the family’s lawyer, Natasha Andrew, said: ”It begs the question, where the department has been put on notice of a detainee’s significant physical and psychological illnesses, as was the case with Andrew Moore, whether deporting an individual in these circumstances amounts effectively to an additional layer of punishment beyond any ever sanctioned by our judicial process.”

The London policeman who investigated the death, Detective Constable Matthew Porter, concluded that Mr Moore had used the cash allowance to buy heroin, the inquest at London’s Southwark Coroner’s Court heard.

All of this is stuff that’s been talked about before. Clearly policy doesn’t seem to have changed, and the Department of Immigration is continuing with what is essentially social sadism whereby the Australian Government gets to mete out a second punishment worse than the incarceration handed out by the judge for the crime.

This bit is clearly the kind of bureaucratic sadism that Kafka would be proud of:

The Australian government booked accommodation and a drug and alcohol appointment for Mr Moore, but the inquest was unable to confirm whether he used either service before dying in the hallway of a South London apartment block two days after being escorted to Britain by a doctor, two federal police officers and an immigration official.

The coroner noted removal happened despite representations from Mr Moore’s parents.

In other words, “say goodbye to Oz mate, and here’s your one last bit of money and an appointment so you can sod off and die.” How can the government of Australia not bear moral responsibility for Mr. Moore’s death? How can there be government bureaucrats in the Department of Immigration going home to sleep safely in their beds tonight when they’ve done this to another human being without trial, without review, without any recourse? How do these people sleep at nights?

Well, here’s how:

A department spokesman said: ”The coroner’s findings do not alter the department’s earlier position that Mr Moore had no lawful right to remain in Australia. He was assessed by a medical professional as fit to fly, he had an appropriate treatment plan in place and the department had made contact with relevant UK authorities about his ongoing care”.

Cloaked in the impassive statement that seeks to distance itself from the grisly, flesh-bound reality of Mr. Moore’s death – Just following orders, we see. Clearly the Nuremburg defense is alive and well in Australian bureaucracy. I’m sure this immoral, banal-evil, bureaucratic claptrap works very well for Kevin Rudd equally well as it did for John Howard. If anybody thought there was a difference in the two when it comes to social attitudes, they can toss that notion away.

Amazingly, these people will keep cushy their jobs, even when this shit hits the fan eventually. It’s truly diabolical.

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Mars Direct Is Back

Spacefreak Moment For Mr. Obama

Back in the day when this blog’s predecessor was the ‘Spacefreaks Weblog‘, and shared writers – yes it wasn’t just me writing stuff – the big topic in 2004 was whether the space program should be looking to Mars or not and whether the Shuttle program should be continued in light of the Columbia disaster. There are a lot of pros and cons to both these ideas but the most important thing to come out of those discussions was how direct flight to Mars was probably going to yield far more knowledge than space stations and shuttle programs whose operations were always limited in scope.

So it’s good to find today that President Obama has scrapped the Lunar missions for a Mars mission.

US President Barack Obama says he is aiming to send US astronauts into Mars orbit in the mid-2030s as he seeks to quell protests over his earlier space policies.

“By 2025 we expect new spacecraft designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first ever crew missions beyond the moon into deep space,” Obama told an audience at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

“So, we’ll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history. By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to earth, and a landing on Mars will follow.”

Obama, who was accompanied on his trip by astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the moon, vowed he was “100 per cent committed” to NASA’s mission as he sought to set a new course for future US space travel.

The US president was making a whirlwind trip to the heart of the US space industry after he was hit with stinging criticism for dropping the costly Constellation project which had aimed to put Americans back on the moon.

“We should attempt a return to the surface of the moon first, as previously planned. But I just have to say, pretty bluntly here, we’ve been there before. Buzz has been there,” Obama said.

“There’s a lot more of space to explore and a lot more to learn when we do,” the president said, as he unveiled a plan to increase NASA’s budget by $US6 billion ($6.4 billion) over the next five years.

His plan includes ramping up “robotic exploration of the solar system, including a probe of the sun’s atmosphere, new scouting missions to Mars and other destinations, and an advanced telescope to follow Hubble”, he said.

“As president, I believe that space exploration is not a luxury, it’s not an afterthought in America’s quest for a brighter future. It is an essential part of that quest,” he said at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

“I am 100 per cent committed to the mission of NASA and its future.”

Which is great. Back when George W Bush put forward his space project, the feeling was overwhelmingly, “why are we going back to the moon? Why are we wasting our money re-doing that trip?” At least this plan makes sense.

That being said I do sort of wonder what he means by “…new spacecraft designed…” The beauty of the Mars Direct plan is that it doesn’t really need too much new in the way of new spacecraft.

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