NASA Plans Manned Mission to Mars Within 20 Years

First Posted: May 06, 2013 01:00 PM EDT

There's been quite a bit of buzz about sending a person in orbit around Mars. Now, though, NASA has officially discussed the possibility of sending a person to the surface of the Red Planet. The space agency and private sector experts now agree that a person could be sent on a mission to Mars over the next 20 years, despite huge challenges.

The Red Planet has received quite a bit of attention since NASA landed its Curiosity rover on its surface. Already, the rover has taken samples and has sent crucial data to scientists back to scientists on Earth. Private space firms have even discussed the possibility of forming a Mars colony on the planet's surface. Riding on this enthusiasm for Mars, a conference on Monday discussed how and when a person could be sent to the surface of the planet.

There would be many challenges to actually sending a person to Mars, though. First of all, the trip would be long--several years, in fact. Scientists would have to overcome issues that would consist of everything from keeping astronauts safe from radiation during their long trip to storage, which could include cryogenic storage. Of particular note is that fuel storage would be a major hurdle. In addition, there would have to be a communications system as well as more reliable life support systems.

Despite the challenges, though, people are confident about sending an astronaut to Mars. In fact, a recent poll found that 71 percent of Americans expect that humans will land on the planet by 2033. NASA is similarly confident. They believe it's certainly possible to send a person to Mars by the 2030s--as long as they receive sufficient funding. Currently, they're asking for $821 million for the 2014 fiscal year, though that's out of a provisional president-proposed budget of $17.7 million, according to The Guardian.

So will we send someone to Mars? That's a good question. While the technical challenges may be overcome, there are still financial hurdles that need to be taken into account. Yet the possibility is certainly there, and as private companies come into the field it could be that we may just watch the first man take a step onto Mars.

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