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NASA mission to Mars relies on --an asteroid?
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NASA isn't waiting for private ventures to beat them to Mars. NASA is already hard at work preparing to land humans on another planet before 2030.
A concept for the NASA SLS shows the difference in sheet size between the space shuttle and the SLS.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - NASA engineers are already hard at work building the actual components needed for manned flight to the Moon and beyond. The rockets, manned systems and other infrastructure for the mission are already under construction and the first test flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) is already scheduled.
To get humans to space, and on to the Moon and beyond, NASA engineers are constructing the most powerful rocket ever devised. Two versions of the rocket are planned, with the first, smaller version intended to ferry humans to space and the second, larger version intended to haul major components, such as space-station modules, into orbit.
NASA reports that their plans are on track for a 2030's decade landing on Mars.
In addition to building, testing and operating the rockets needed for the Mars mission, NASA also had ambitious plans to capture an asteroid which will orbit the moon and allow construction of a base. This may be technically feasible, but it seems a bit redundant with simply constructing a launchpad to Mars on the Moon.
The different configurations of the SLS planned by NASA.
Still, building a mini-base on a captured asteroid would require even less fuel than a rocket departing from the Moon. NASA is still seeking funding that make that mission a reality.
Regardless of the actual path NASA takes to Mars, the agency is moving ahead. A trip to Mars will take as much as three years to complete and any crew will have to complete rigorous training and psychological evaluation to make the trip. It is likely that astronauts will have to spend as much as two to three years in a capsule or a small crew module in close quarters with others.
The SLS system is expected to begin flight testing in 2017 and if all goes well, astronauts will begin using the system within the next decade to fly to the International Space Station as well as to the Moon, an asteroid, and beyond.
For now, the primary challenge NASA faces is budgetary as a cost-conscious Congress is wary of approving large expenditures for projects that will yield little short-term benefit. Still, the space programs have brought us many technological advances and it's reasonable to think that a strong push by Congress to promote a manned mission to Mars would also yield substantial benefits to everyday people on Earth.
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