Daniel S. Greenberg's Dec. 10 op-ed column, "On the Right Track to Mars," said, "There's no need for more NASA funding. In space research, cheaper is better and faster."

Mr. Greenberg is incorrect. Never has there been more need for increased NASA funding. His column was written in response to the recent failure in the Mars missions, missions that failed because too little funding was provided, forcing what would prove to be fatal cutbacks.

The "cheaper, faster" strategy did pay off once, with the Mars Pathfinder mission, but such cost-cutting has proven, with these two recent failures, to be a flawed strategy.

Mr. Greenberg also said that "of 32 Mars projects . . . only 11 have succeeded. . . . The merit of many bargain-priced satellites vs. a few budget-busting models is that they increase the odds of producing a return on the investment."

Again he is wrong. Because every Mars mission is different, such odds cannot be calculated. Cheaper missions--such as the Mars Polar Lander or the Pathfinder--cannot be compared with larger ones such as the Mars Global Surveyor, which succeeded and is still functioning perfectly but costs significantly more.

We will never land humans on Mars if the penny pinchers hold back the possibilities that NASA affords our nation and our species.


Falls Church