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14 July 2017

Mars mission is too expensive for us

The predicted 2030 journey to Mars may be off the cards, NASA says. Picture: EPA/NASA

TALKS of putting humans on Mars have been happening for years but a recent announcement from a NASA official may have just quashed hopes of touching down on the Red Planet.

During a meeting of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, NASA’s chief of human spaceflight William Gerstenmaier declared that it could not afford to get humans to Mars.

“I can’t put a date on humans on Mars, and the reason really is the other piece is, at the budget levels we described, this roughly 2 per cent increase, we don’t have the surface systems available for Mars,” Gerstenmaier said at the meeting on Wednesday.

In the past, NASA has claimed it was developing the capabilities and technology needed to send humans to Mars during the 2030s to explore the territory.

But after this recent announcement, it seems that no one is going to be growing space potatoes on Mars, like Matt Damon in The Martian, anytime soon.

The agency has been so focused on building the systems to get to Mars, spending a considerable amount of money on the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, that it doesn’t have the funds to build the machinery that will actually allow it to land on the planet and later take off.

This setback doesn’t mean all space exploration is off the table for NASA though, with Mr Gerstenmaier saying another trip to the moon is a possibility.

“If we find out there’s water on the Moon, and we want to do more extensive operations on the Moon to go explore that, we have the ability with Deep Space Gateway to support an extensive Moon surface program,” he said.

Exploration of Mars may still be possible if NASA joins forces with privately owned companies. Picture: AFP/NASA

Exploration of Mars may still be possible if NASA joins forces with privately owned companies. Picture: AFP/NASASource:AFP

But fear not, our dreams of seeing humans journey to the Red Planet are not completely dead.

If NASA decides to partner with privately owned space exploration companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin and Boeing, it could significantly reduce costs and put the mission back on track.

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