This decision comes after a thorough review known as Key Decision Point C (KDP-C), which provides a development cost baseline for the 70-metric ton version of the SLS of $7.021 billion from February 2014 through the first launch and a launch readiness schedule based on an initial SLS flight no later than November 2018.Ah, the poetry of exploring unknown worlds!
Many space enthusiasts think this is a big mistake. Some think it is foolish to invest $7 billion in a new rocket based on 1970s technology, and they want NASA to leap ahead to ion propulsion, space sails, or something else high tech and clever. (Congress actually mandated that NASA re-use parts from the Space Shuttle wherever feasible.) Others think private companies could do the job cheaper; Elon Musk of SpaceX said he could do it for $5 billion. NASA responds that they are under orders from Congress and the President to launch a Mars mission in the 2030s, which means they need to start developing the pieces now, not wait around for new technologies that may or may not be ready in time. And while private companies have been able to do, at a discount, things that NASA has been doing for fifty years, private companies have no track record of going where no one has gone before; to see what can happen when the government asks private companies to build radically new machines, have a look at the F-35 program.
I still have my doubts about this whole Mars mission business, but I would rather we spent our money on new space rockets than more drones or fighter planes.