A new report proposes that NASA could reach Mars in the 2030s and land a team by the end of that decade within its current budget, so long as the space agency makes a few shifts in strategy.
The Planetary Society recently held a workshop to discuss the feasibility of a crewed mission to Mars, and noted that NASA should be able to orbit the Martian moon Phobos in 2033 before staging a full-fledged landing mission on Mars in 2039. According to the report, the organization says, the missions could fit within the existing NASA budget for space exploration if the plan is streamlined.
The Planetary Society’s CEO, Bill Nye, noted that the right mission order to reach Mars is a key part of the equation, and that’s something the 70+ attendees at the workshop aimed to discuss:
“Getting humans to Mars is far more complex than getting to Earth’s Moon. But space exploration brings out the best in us. By reaching consensus on the right set of missions, we can send humans to Mars without breaking the bank.”
The report found an orbital mission would be necessary in 2033 to establish the tech and enable scientific exploration of Mars and its moons while developing “essential experience in human travel from Earth to the Mars system.” The thought process is that an orbital mission will help generate public support for Mars exploration while also establishing a framework to further involve the private sector and international community. That mission would aim to spend a year in orbit.
If that goes smoothly, the report notes a human landing on Mars could logistically occur by 2039. One big shift that would be required, though? NASA would need to end its lead role in the International Space Station to free up the necessary funds, and the agency’s budget would need to keep up with inflation.
It’s encouraging to see that some experts seem to think it’s possible to hit the 2030s target, but only time will tell if NASA (and the U.S. government) will finally take things seriously enough to get us to the Red Planet. What year do you think we’ll actually make it?