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The U.S. is Getting Serious About a Manned Mission to Mars by 2033

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A newly proposed bill, called the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2020, contains aggressive goals for the future of American space exploration. The 102-page document details proposals such as the first crewed Artemis lunar landing to take place in 2028 and a manned mission to Mars by 2033. 

This bill outlines the recommended timeline for future space missions in America. It sees the Artemis lunar program as a stepping stone to accomplish the larger goal of sending people to Mars.  It states that America’s “human space exploration goal should be to send humans to the surface of Mars.” 

By first focusing on a successful launch of the Artemis program, it will allow for the U.S. to demonstrate the “capabilities and operations needed to support a human mission to Mars.” The proposed “Moon to Mars program” aims to send humans to Mars in a sustainable fashion as soon as possible. 

The bill also calls for the establishment of a Moon to Mars program office and a Mars Enabling Technology Initiative in order to develop the necessary technologies to successfully pull off such a mission. Potential technologies this office would focus on developing include propulsion engines, Mars landing systems, Mars transport vehicles, life support systems, Martian habitats, space suits suitable for exports, and more. 

In a NASA statement issued Monday, January 27, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine expressed some concern over the time constraints this bill proposes. “I am concerned that the bill imposes some significant constraints on our approach to lunar exploration,” said Bridenstine. “As you know, NASA has successfully fostered the development of a rapidly expanding commercial economy for access to space. We would like to continue building on this success as we develop the most efficient mission architectures and partnership approaches to accomplish our shared goals.”

Despite this, the bill seems to have garnered support from organizations such as the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration and the Aerospace Industries Association. As the bill enters a markup session in the House to explore potential modifications, it seems certain the U.S. has great aspirations for the future of space exploration. 

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