Joe Conason’s Journal

Expanding space exploration is a fine aspiration for America and humanity -- and also quite promising for Halliburton.

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Halliburton on Mars: Take me to your CEO
When President Bush inspires us onward and upward to Mars this week, his political calculations may be more earthly. Expanding space exploration is a wonderful aspiration for America and humanity — and also quite promising for the Houston economy, the national aerospace industry, and one company in particular that has long pondered exploration of the red planet: Halliburton.

Yes, the firm once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney — fabled beneficiary of no-bid multibillion-dollar military contracts and high-priced provider of Kuwaiti oil — is determined to drill on Mars and the moon. Surely this scheme has nothing to do with the Bush space initiative. But somehow, no matter what worthy motivations lie behind the president’s policies, he and Cheney always appear to be shilling for their corporate clientele.

(Consider former Treasury Secretary Paul O’ Neill’s revelations about early Iraq war planning, which included a March 2001 memo — titled “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts” — that mapped out potential post-Saddam petroleum exploration.)

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Dreams about drilling on Mars date back several years at least. In 1998, a handful of top firms, including Halliburton, Shell and Schlumberger, showed up for a NASA “workshop” at Los Alamos, N.M., to discuss the prospects. Research seems to have intensified since 2001, with Halliburton and other firms engaged in proprietary research on such advanced technologies as laser-powered drills. They appear to have been awaiting this week’s announcement, according to this old clip from Petroleum News, which reported:

“The earliest drilling opportunity would be 2007 … Deeper drilling, into the multi-kilometer range, might occur as part of a 2014 Mars mission which would put astronauts on the planet to assist.”
[10:30 a.m. PST, Jan. 12, 2004]

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