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NASA's 'Human Mission To Mars' Could Be The Costliest Space Mission Ever

First Posted: Apr 18, 2017 05:20 AM EDT
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The U.S. President wants to put humans on Mars "at worst" by his second term.
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NASA is now preparing and planning for the "Journey to Mars," in which it will send humans to Mars by the 2030s. It will absolutely cost a lot, and the space agency estimated it to be $450 billion over the next three decades. This could be the costliest space mission ever.

The updated cost of $450 billion accounts for a one-month Mars surface stay in 2037, crewed landing on the Mars' moon, Phobos, in 2033 and one-year surface stays in 2041 and 2046. The cost will also include a new International Space Station (ISS) or a docking station. This is because NASA will end support for the ISS in 2024, according to The Space Reporter.

"Such estimates would help inform other decision makers and stakeholders in the Congress, Administration and research and business communities of the magnitude of the sustained investment required to make human exploration of Mars a reality by the late 2030s or early 2040s," a new report by NASA's inspector general stated. It also noted that this estimate is just for an "austere," bare-bones program that has no allowance for future missions.

The report also tackles concerns about NASA's deep-space plans. These include not meeting its targets for launching the first two missions of the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System rocket in 2018 and 2021 due to technical problems. Meanwhile, there are no sufficient details about the exploration missions in the mid-2020s.

Meanwhile, NASA is pursuing some options to make the journey to Mars less costly. The American space agency has been exploring on reusing systems and subsystems. It is also developing new acquisition strategies and utilizing technology innovations to lessen the high cost of operating in space. Likewise, the foreign space agencies and private sectors could help NASA by sharing costs. This could alleviate the overall costs.

Currently, NASA is in collaboration with industry to direct many studies involving systems needed for the Journey to Mars and provides technical and mission support to SpaceX. Furthermore, the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 stated developing permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit with academic, industry and international partners. 

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