Mars Exploration Not for Profit?

The U.S. Tax Court has ruled that Donald Carl Barker, a former NASA systems manager, isn’t allowed to deduct expenses for his space exploration activity because he didn’t engage in it for profit.

The Tax Court thought the activity was commendable (“We do not fault petitioner’s strong passion for Mars exploration and its related technology. We believe he pursues a noble cause that one day could provide benefits to all humanity.”) The problem, in the Court’s view, was that Barker didn’t show he was still regularly and actively involved in his business activity in the year of the deductions, 2006. So they ruled against him.

Barker was developing a “Mars audio system” for use with the Martian surface suit. Derived from the Mars Polar Lander flight hardware, his audio system incorporated low power, low cost, off-the-shelf components including an intelligent sound processing chip, hearing-aid style electric microphones, and miniaturized speakers.

His system was field tested in 2002 at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, a reference that caught my eye because File 770 covered David Levine’s stint at the MDRS in 2009. (See ”Meanwhile, Back on Mars…”)

The full opinion was posted March 20 at the Tax Court website — Donald Carl Barker v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2012-77 [PDF file]