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  (Source: scienceblogs.com)
NASA plans to explore Mars sometime in the 2030's

NASA recently announced that it has committed to a manned mission to Mars at an unspecified point in the future, and that the International Space Station will be a crucial part of reaching that goal.

Charles Bolden, NASA administrator, announced the Mars mission to a group of educators, scientists, astronauts and industry members at the International Space Station and Mars Conference on April 6. The conference is a two-day event that is presented by Explore Mars at George Washington University. Explore Mars promotes the search for technology that aids in the exploration of Mars. 

Bolden discussed the use of the International Space Station as a research and testing facility for future Mars expeditions, noting that such a voyage to our neighbor in the solar system would serve as "inspiration for a whole new generation." 

"I know my granddaughters will be witnessing humans arriving at Mars," said Bolden. "Like the President, I believe such a journey is possible in my lifetime. But what I know today is that we have an amazing engineering resource in space right now - the International Space Station. and we're moving out on the innovation and technological breakthroughs that are required to get us to our neighboring planet."

The International Space Station was built in 1998, and was the result of five space agencies representing 15 countries. This space station took $100 billion to construct and is the largest structure made in space by humans. 

"Over the next 10 years, we'll continue to collaborate with other nations to live and work together in space, and perform cutting edge research and technology demonstrations that are critical to eventual exploration into deep space with humans," said Bolden. "The ISS is the most realistic analog we have to test life support and other technologies, ensuring they function in space, and most importantly, that they are reliable.

"Any mission to Mars is likely to be a global effort. The ISS is a blend of goals among the participating space agencies, and it is truly beautiful in that regard alone."

Bolden mentioned that NASA plans to explore Mars sometime in the 2030's, but plan to travel to an asteroid as soon as 2015. In addition, NASA hopes to keep the International Space Station open until at least 2020. 


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Commitment
By drycrust3 on 4/9/2011 2:16:03 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
NASA recently announced

I see that it is "NASA announced" and not "The President announced". The reason NASA got the funding to go to the moon was because President Kennedy committed America to going there, and especially that they would do it in ten years. This lack of commitment from the US President means the mission will have to be done within the normal budget constraints, and it is likely the total amount of US Government funding to NASA will be cut considerably within the next 30 years.
While sending pilots to the moon was impressive, I've heard it said that the only mission with value was the one where a geologist was sent.
A much more affordable idea would be to send robots that are able to move around more efficiently than the current lot, and have vision that was much more comparable to a human. That way, there is no moral obligation to make the trip a return trip, a one way mission on a cheap "no frills" rocket is acceptable. Also, it won't need to drop in to the ISS, it can shoot straight past.
Then if something goes wrong, such as the landing is a disaster (as happened to the European robot a few years back), NASA will be able to do their public hand wringing, say they are very sorry for wasting so much American taxpayers money, do a quick inquiry, fix the few obvious flaws, and then take another robot off the shelf and pop it on the next rocket going that way.
This way, not just a few geologists, but lots of geologists (as well as the rest of us) can see Mars as it really is.




RE: Commitment
By Guspaz on 4/11/2011 12:13:53 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
This lack of commitment from the US President means the mission will have to be done within the normal budget constraints, and it is likely the total amount of US Government funding to NASA will be cut considerably within the next 30 years.


Even at the height of the Apollo program, the budget hit a high point of $33.5 billion USD in 2007 dollars (in 1965). Apollo 17 was staged at a time when NASA's budget was $15.1 billion USD in 2007 dollars.

NASA's 2010 budget was $17.8 billion USD in 2007 dollars. That's right, their budget is currently higher than it was when they were still landing astronauts on the moon.

Consider that NASA can save an enormous amount of money contracting out launch services to companies like SpaceX (who can put payload into orbit at less than ten percent the cost of NASA themselves), and that $17.8 billion budget can probably be stretched pretty far. Certainly, it's far more than would be needed to land a man on the moon again.


RE: Commitment
By zixin on 4/11/2011 12:41:57 PM , Rating: 2
What you forgot is that back in the 70's the mission to the Moon was the bulk of NASA. Now most of that money goes to the ISS and there are now more robotic exploration than back in the 70's. Also, SpaceX maybe able to put payload into orbit, but they are not rated for human travel. Getting that certification is going to raise the cost by a lot.


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