Compared to the SpaceX CCDev2 program, the Space Launch System that Orion is a part of is expected to cost $38 billion. Between $17 to $22 billion is needed just for development. That is 80 times the cost of the development of four manned crew vehicles by the private sector, i.e. 320 times more per vehicle.
Apollo Project of 17 flights to the Moon cost $25.4 billion by 1973. Of course, the present day value of that sum is $135 billion, but Mars will be a much more incredibly formidable task.
Recently, just in Hawaii, for example, the media glowingly reported on two NASA Mars related experiments:
- Scientists termed their flying saucer-parachute Kauai flight a success. Mind you the effort failed, but they put a positive spin on it.
- All six marsonauts survived the longest running space simulation of life on Mars in a dome--eight months--on Mauna Loa.
- Ensure the survival of our species.
- Discover life on Mars (Note: as the Mars Global Surveyor could not detect actual life, the latest priority is to find bio/hydro indicators to provide a clue on whether there ever was life. Neil deGrasse Tyson continues to believe that there is a high chance of life).
- Improve the quality of life on Earth (huh??).
- Grow as a species, that is, inspire future generations.
- Demonstrate political and economic leadership.