There’s no doubt that NASA’s timeline and plan to reach Mars is relatively aggressive, and now the space agency is admitting it might’ve been a bit too aggressive — at least with the current funding levels.
The space agency’s Mars mission calls for astronauts to actually set foot on the Red Planet by the end of the 2030s, despite the fact that funding for this huge initiative has never really matched the ambition. Now NASA's chief of human spaceflight, William H. Gerstenmaier, has admitted, via Ars Technica, that he can’t really say when the U.S. space agency will actually reach Mars. The reason? You guessed it. The funding is just not there.
Gerstenmaier noted the rocket technology to reach Mars (along with everything from the ship that will carry humans there to the life support systems that will keep them alive) just isn’t ready, and likely won’t by the time the self-imposed deadline rolls around. With a Mars mission looking further and further away, Gerstenmaier said refocusing on the moon could be the most viable option in the immediate future, since the technology does exist for an "extensive” moon program, which could pave the way for a Mars trip.
Here’s an excerpt from his comments:
“I can't put a date on humans on Mars, and the reason really is the other piece is, at the budget levels we described, this roughly 2 percent increase, we don’t have the surface systems available for Mars. And that entry, descent and landing is a huge challenge for us for Mars.
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. "If we want to stay focused more toward Mars we can keep that.”
Having a NASA official come out and say this isn’t much of a surprise, but still, it’s frustrating that Mars is still so far away. Who knows, at this rate Elon Musk’s SpaceX really could beat everyone there by a decade or more. By the time NASA finally rolls up, Musk could have a Tesla factor pumping along on the Martian surface.
(Via Ars Technica)