NEW YORK (CBS Tampa) – Could we be two decades away putting a human being on Mars?
About 60 scientists at a special workshop say a manned mission to the Red Planet in the 2030s is feasible, if we start taking action now.
The effort would require leadership from NASA and unprecedented cooperation with other countries and private enterprises, Chris Carberry tells Space.com.
“You need a budget that is consistent, that you can predict from year to year and that doesn’t get canceled in the next administration,” says Carberry, who is executive director of Explore Mars Inc., the organization that hosted the workshop with the American Astronautical Society.
A big start would be increasing NASA’s budget.
President Obama’s budget request for the space agency is $17.7 billion, about $59 million less than 2012.
The plan the workshop group developed depends on NASA’s heavy-lifting rocket Space Launch System and it’s deep space crew capsule, the Orion spacecraft.
Both projects are currently in development; the first unmanned test of the Orion takes place later this year.
Explore Mars head Chris Carberry says sending humans to Mars must become a global priority.
He says the worldwide cooperation to build and staff the International Space Station shows the future of space exploration.
“The only reason it [the International Space Station] has survived the years is because it’s an international mission,” Carberry said. “It is held together by international treaties and strong agreements … If we were to follow that model and maybe even move on with the partnership to the next step, that perhaps could be the greatest legacy of ISS because that’s a proven model of sustainability, because you have more holding it together than just that annual cycle.”
In fact, the station could be key to sending people to Mars, it could function as a way station with NASA or Soviet rockets getting the astronauts to the station where they could transfer to a space capsule already in orbit that would take them to the Red Planet.
The observations from the robotic explorers on Mars will provide data on how best to keep the humans alive once they arrive and the lower gravity on the planet will be an asset for the return trip.
Already private companies are planning their own manned missions.
Mars One envisions a one-way colonization trip in 2022.
Other groups are planning unmanned probes to begin missions in the next decade.