NASA wants you to know it is on a Journey to Mars. For the last few years, the space agency has done everything it can to work those three words into press releases, public statements and YouTube videos. Nearly all of NASA’s current activities, it says, will culminate in landing humans on the Red Planet in the 2030s.
But recently, NASA has admitted this journey is going nowhere fast. Last month, its chief of human space flight, William Gerstenmaier, acknowledged that the space agency doesn’t have the cash to put people on Mars, even with small increases in its budget to keep up with inflation.
“I can’t put a date on humans on Mars,” Gerstenmaier told a meeting of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics. “At the budget levels we described – this roughly 2 per cent increase – we don’t have the surface systems available for Mars.”
This admission ruffled few feathers in the world of space policy, where the fact that NASA’s Mars plans are vague and unlikely to come off is an open secret. After all, the current Journey to Mars campaign is just the latest in a string of unrealised exploration plans (see timeline).
So is it time for NASA to give up on Mars? Perhaps someone else could do it first?NASA has clearly lost their way. To read more, click here.