Man on Mars is an achieveable ambition, says NASA

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Putting man on Mars during the 2030s is an ambitious but achievable goal, says NASA. A manned mission to Mars not only aligns with the Obama administration's goals for the space program, it falls within funding constraints, the agency says.

In a Dec. 4 statement, NASA laid out its manned-mission schedule, committing to what it calls "a bold exploration program that meets our nation's scientific and human exploration objectives."

The foundational steps in the NASA portfolio include the new rover, two NASA spacecraft, assistance with a European spacecraft already orbiting Mars, a 2013 orbiter to study the Martian atmosphere and a series of other geological and seismic investigations.

NASA says its future vehicles will be based on the Mars Science Laboratory architecture that developed the Curiosity rover and delivered it safely to the Martian surface.

"This will ensure mission costs and risks are as low as possible, while still delivering a highly capable rover with a proven landing system," the agency said.

NASA notes the missions fit within the five-year budget plan in the president's fiscal 2013 budget request and his goal of a manned spacecraft, but says these are contingent on future appropriations.

In a Dec. 4 report (.PDF), the Space Foundation set out a series of recommendations for NASA to successfully meet upcoming missions like its Mars exploration and to bolster the civil space program by addressing budgetary concerns.

The report's key recommendation is that NASA return to its roots as a pioneering and exploration organization instead of taking an "all things space" approach. The report suggests Congress amend the Space Act and shift non-exploration tasks to other agencies and military divisions.

The foundation also suggests NASA work to build more stability in its organization by developing objective-based 10-year plans and broader 30-year strategic plans. These would help in the development of a revolving fund for NASA projects, which would be supplemented through annual appropriations, and help NASA find alternative funding and sourcing options that involve the privatization and commercialization of activities.

For more:
- read the announcement
- download the Space Foundation report (.pdf)

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