Getting humans to Mars isn’t easy, but it is possible, in theory. And who better to plan a mission to the red planet than the pioneers of space exploration, Nasa.
The agency has finally received congressional support for a trip to Mars. The Nasa Transition Authorisation Act of 2017 bill has passed Congress and only awaits US President Donald Trump’s approval.
The bill ups Nasa’s annual budget from $19.3 bn to $19.5 bn (Isro rates a budget of around $1.5 bn) and tasks Nasa with sending a human to Mars by 2033. Elon Musk of SpaceX fame does, of course, intend to send humans to Mars from around the year 2023.
Business Insider reports that the bill itself was passed with no objections by both houses of Congress. Trump can veto the bill if he chooses to.
The American Astronomical Societyhas explained the distribution of the funding in more detail, and it throws up some interesting highlights. To further a human-crewed Mars mission, Nasa’s plan of sending another massive rover to Mars in 2020 has been approved, as has a possible manned mission to the moon in 2021.
The bill also calls for more research in hypersonic aircraft and supersonic flight. A survey of Jupiter’s moon Europa is also on the cards, as is a program to find killer asteroids.
Lastly, and probably most importantly of all, Congress expects Nasa to deliver a report on how it plans to make Plutonium-238, an essential component for deep-space exploration. Plutonium-238 is a rare nuclear fuel that’s very expensive to manufacture. Global supply is extremely limited and the original cache was a by-product of nuclear weapons development.
The radiation energy from this radioactive isotope is used to provide energy to Nasa’s deep space missions and robots, this includes the Voyager missions. Solar energy is only viable up to a certain distance from the Sun. A radioactive isotope can provide power for decades.
Published Date: Mar 09, 2017 02:35 pm | Updated Date: Mar 09, 2017 02:35 pm