As Harry Stamper eloquently put it in Armageddon about NASA, “You’re the guys that think sh** up! I’m sure you got a team of men sitting somewhere right now just thinking sh** up and somebody backing them up!”
Turns out NASA needs to think some more sh** up when it comes to sending astronauts to Mars according to a report from the National Research Council. The report says NASA needs a new approach to landing astronauts on Mars. Oh, and a significant boost in funding.
The funding part isn’t happening. Not unless a huge asteroid starts heading our way.
The nearly 300-page report by the National Research Council’s Committee on Human Spaceflight calls a manned mission to Mars, one that lands on the Martian surface, is the most distant and difficult goal for astronauts. But, a goal that is still possible in the near future.
The NRC committee suggests NASA’s current strategy needs to be replaced by one that could possibly include returning to the moon. NASA’s current plan is to send astronauts to a redirected asteroid by 2025 and a crew to orbit Mars by the mid 2030s.
“If a change of mind on the part of enough people — if enough sufficient leadership cannot be summoned — then we don’t find Mars to be a realistic goal at all,” said former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, the committee’s co-chairman and current president of Purdue University, in a public briefing Wednesday in Washington, D.C. “We’re suggesting that the national leadership organize itself around a new approach that will make Mars, and other great achievements of exploration en route there, realistic in a way they are not presently.”
NASA agreed with the committee’s finding that Mars is the ultimate goal.
None of this is going to happen though unless NASA gets the funding they need. Right now, NASA’s budget stands at about 0.5% of the Federal Budget. $17.5 billion give or take a few million. In 1969, when the U.S. landed on the moon, NASA’s budget was 2.3% of the Federal Budget. During the lead-up to the moon landing, NASA’s budget was over 4% of the Federal Budget.
Imagine what NASA could do with four times the budget or more. It can’t be any worse than what some of the Federal Budget goes to.
Check out the committee’s report here.