NASA’s Mars mission needs defined, achievable plan: Congressional committee says
NASA’s Mars mission is in a critical need of a much more defined plan and clear, achievable milestones to become feasible, a Congressional committee said.
At a special hearing on Wednesday, members of the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology said the space agency’s Journey to Mars initiative currently lacked a clear, defined plan and achievable milestones.
The committee members also raised doubts over the feasibility of NASA’s long-term Mars mission, citing the massive amount of money required for the trip to the Red Planet. They also pointed to a significant leap in technological development.
Citing all those enormous challenges, some of those who attended the special meeting suggested that the space agency should either reconsider its approach or switch its attention to a Moon mission as an alternative.
Some also criticized the agency’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which aims to catch a piece of an asteroid and bring it into lunar orbit, where humans on the Space Launch System (SLS) can visit it.
Brian Babin, a Republican representative from Texas, said, “This (ARM) is a misguided mission without a mission, without a launch date, and without ties to exploration goals. It’s just a time-wasting distraction.”
The SLS is the most powerful rocket NASA has ever built. This rocket and Orion crew capsule will be used to transport humans to Mars. The space agency aims to put humans on the Red Planet by 2030.
Spacenews reported that, at a Feb. 3 hearing of the House Science space subcommittee, members and witnesses argued that NASA needs to provide more details about its long-term goal of sending humans to Mars to keep that program on track when the next president takes office.
“There appears to be a consensus that the horizon goal of America’s human exploration program is to land on the surface of Mars. But how will we get there?” asked the subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas). “How do we ensure that the next administration does not wipe the slate clean, erasing all the hard work of the last five years?”
US News report said, Alexander was particularly concerned that NASA is distracted with too many projects. The agency aims to move an asteroid from beyond Mars and bring it closer to Earth where astronauts can visit it – a plan Alexander called “uninspiring” and “without any connection to a larger exploration roadmap.”
“Without a roadmap to guide the agency, NASA will continue to be subject to indirection and proposed budget cuts by the White House,” Alexander said, alluding to the next administration. “For its part, Congress will continue to ensure that space exploration will receive the funding needed to stay on schedule and on budget.”
According to the Inverse, some witnesses testified that NASA will either need to rethink its longterm plans for Mars, or drop the endeavor and refocus on sending people to the moon. It’s not often that Congress demonstrates critical aptitude in science and tech, but in this case, they raise some pretty fair concerns.
“We do not have a planned strategy or architecture with sufficient detail,” said Tom Young, former director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, regarding the Journey to Mars initiative.
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