NASA Admits It Can’t Afford A Manned Mission To Mars
NASA’s spaceflight boss have admitted the space agency does not have the budget for manned mission to Mars.
During a meeting of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics on Wednesday, NASA’s chief of human spaceflight William H. Gerstenmaier revealed the agency was unable to put a date on missions due to the lack of funding.
The embarrassing admission comes days after Vice President Mike Pence vowed to usher in a ‘new era’ of American leadership in space, with a return to the Moon and explorers on Mars.
“I can’t put a date on humans on Mars, and the reason really is that at the budget levels we described, this roughly 2 percent increase, we don’t have the surface systems available for Mars,” said NASA’s William H. Gerstenmaier, responding to a question about when NASA will send humans to the surface of Mars.
“The entry, descent and landing is a huge challenge for us for Mars,” he said.
“We think an unfuelled mars asset vehicle would weigh around 20 tons, that’s a 20 fold increase on a rover.”
Gerstenmaier also hinted the agency may instead look at returning to the moon instead, and spoke of ‘fiscal realism’.
“If we find out there’s water on the Moon, and we want to do more extensive operations on the Moon to go explore that, we have the ability with Deep Space Gateway to support an extensive Moon surface program,” he said, according to Mars.
“If we want to stay focused more toward Mars we can keep that.”
Vice President Mike Pence was recently named to head a government advisory body called the National Space Council, said the group would hold its first meeting ‘before the summer is out.’
He also recently toured NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to see progress in constructing a NASA spaceship destined for deep space and privately built capsules designed to send astronauts to low-Earth orbit in the coming years.
“Our nation will return to the Moon, and we will put American boots on the face of Mars,” Pence told the cheering crowd of about 800 NASA employees, space experts and private contractors, but gave no specifics.
“We did win the race to the Moon,” he added, recalling the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s which sent men – one of whom, Buzz Aldrin, sat in the audience – to the surface of the Moon.
The admission comes after last month NASA confirmed it will not be sending astronauts to space for Orion’s EM-1 mission, the space agency revealed today, following a months-long feasibility study.
NASA’s top staff was given instructions earlier this year to assess the possibility of sending humans to space with the first flight of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, which was initially slated to launch, uncrewed, in 2018.
While the study found it ‘technically feasible to put crew on EM-1,’ the agency has decided instead to move forward with their baseline plans for the mission, NASA said during a press teleconference.
In addition, NASA confirmed that the EM-1 mission will be pushed back to 2019 following a number of challenges, including funding and scheduling.
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