Congress - NASA: give us a clear plan of manned flight to Mars, or we will cancel this project
Yesterday at a special hearing, representatives of the US Congress special committee on space science and technology demanded that NASA have a much clearer work plan for a manned mission to Mars. Let me remind you that the US Congress literally bombarded NASA with money , but now it asks for clarification of many positions of the plan presented earlier.
Moreover, some committee representatives questioned the feasibility of the flight plan to Mars itself. Doubting members of the committee pointed out the high cost of such a project, which exceeds the budget allocated to the agency, as well as the need for technical progress - this plan is not feasible with current technologies. There is even a chance that NASA will once again think about paying more attention to the Moon, and not to Mars.
Now NASA is building the most powerful launch vehicle Space Launch System (SLS), which will carry the Orion capsule, which, presumably, will be the members of the expedition to Mars. But for this expedition, much more is required than a rocket and a capsule. So, habitable modules, landing systems, capsule launch systems for a return flight to Earth are required. So far, none of this is in NASA's plans, and work on creating the entire human life support system on Mars is necessary now.
One of the stages of the Asteroid Redirect Mission as presented by the artist (NASA)
The plan provided by the agency also requires clarification. The first SLS and Orion test is scheduled for 2018. But the plan has only this date, without indicating intermediate points of work. A manned SLS flight with Orion is planned for 2023, although NASA is now trying to change the date to 2021. But there are many "white spots". The launch vehicle itself has a vague future. In addition to using it to carry out the mission of capturing an asteroid, there are no more plans for its operation - it seems that the rest of the time the rocket will be idle. There are no orders for launching SLS from international companies or states either. The creation of a rocket and its operation is very expensive, therefore, in Congress we would like to see a clearer plan for using SLS.
The committee members said that the planned mission to capture the asteroid is too complicated, a demonstration of new technologies can be carried out without it. “This is a mission without a goal, without a launch date, without clear tasks for exploring an asteroid. It's a waste of time, ”says Republican Lamar Smith. The problem is also, say committee members, that there will soon be presidential elections, on which much depends on the implementation of space programs, the allocation of funds, etc. The new president and his team can fundamentally change everything.
According to committee representatives, NASA will need about $ 500 billion to reach Mars. This money is required to create new technologies, to develop the latest engineering solutions that ensure the safe flight of the team. There are many concerns about the exposure that astronauts can get on the way to the Red Planet. NASA does not yet have a solution capable of eliminating this threat.
The committee demanded that the agency develop a much clearer plan that would receive significant attention. A clear mission goal is required, or the project itself can simply be canceled.
Now in the committee, voices of supporters of returning to the moon are starting to sound more and more actively, who believe that Mars is an almost unrealistic (yet) goal. At the same time, on the moon, as advocates of a flight to the Earth’s natural satellite say, one must already begin to learn how to extract water in order to provide future colonists with this resource. “The moon is closer, it’s easier to get to it, it’s interesting, it can be beneficial,” said Paul Spudis, one of the committee’s representatives.
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