Soon, President Barack Obama’s second and last term will come to an end, and all kind of priorities will adjust, including the U.S.’ space plans. Among other ideas, the possibility of returning to the moon has already gained increasing popularity.
For a long time, the Obama administration has favored a space policy focused on an asteroid mission by 2025; but, during the appropriations process, the interest shifted on a mission to Mars by the 2030s.
According to the House instructions for NASA, the space agency was to cease the asteroid mission and “develop plans to return to the Moon to test capabilities that will be needed for Mars, including habitation modules, lunar prospecting, and landing and ascent vehicles.”
The House support for a moon-before-Mars plan has been dwindling. Rep. Mike Honda (D) of California, one of the biggest proponents of the new scheme explained that “there is no better proving ground than the Moon for NASA to test the technologies and techniques needed to successfully meet the goal of sending humans to Mars by the mid-2030s.”
NASA’s priorities would change dramatically if a moon landing gets prioritized over the former asteroid program. The space agency’s support for the asteroid mission was justified by the experience it would offer us in human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit.
After we would test there the technologies needed for a Mars mission, NASA was planning to take the famed human mission to the Red Planet. This, in turn, would help humanity take some steps towards answering the one question: Is there life beyond Earth?
NASA believes Mars is an ideal destination for robotic and human exploration. Its formation is comparable to Earth, so it could help us learn more about our own planet’s history and evolution.
It was a good plan, but it came under increased scrutiny in recent years, because its scope had lessened drastically. The new plan was to collect a small boulder off an asteroid’s surface and relocate it near the moon.
This year, NASA asked the House for $66.7 million to work on the mission, but the request was denied. The space agency was urged to turn its attention toward lunar exploration.
Experts believe that the moon – which is just three days away – could be the ideal place to test the hardware needed for a trip to Mars.
Image Source: Livemint