News / Science & Technology

Human Space Program Review Recommends US Focus on Mars

FILE - The Hubble Space Telescope took this close-up of Mars when it was just 88 million kilometers away. This image was assembled from a series of exposures taken over 36 hours. (NASA)
FILE - The Hubble Space Telescope took this close-up of Mars when it was just 88 million kilometers away. This image was assembled from a series of exposures taken over 36 hours. (NASA)
Reuters
The United States should abandon its “flexible approach” to human missions beyond Earth, set Mars as its ultimate goal and open the door to China among other potential partners, a review of the human space flight program said on Wednesday.
 
The National Research Council report, commissioned by the U.S. space agency NASA, recommends a stepping-stone approach toward Mars that builds technological know-how through a series of well-defined preliminary missions.
 
All options begin with the International Space Station, a $100 billion research complex flying 250 miles (400 km) above Earth, the 286-page report released in Washington D.C., said.
 
One path includes NASA's current plan to robotically capture an asteroid, redirect it into a high orbit around the moon and send astronauts there to explore. The report suggests that path continue with missions to the moons of Mars, then on to Martian orbit and finally to the surface of the planet.
 
But two other paths would be less technologically daunting,  NRC panel co-chairman Jonathan Lunine of Cornell University told reporters during a webcast press conference.
 
NASA could follow the International Space Station program, which currently costs the United States about $3 billion a year, with a series of lunar sorties, an outpost on the moon and then to Mars, the report said.
 
The last path has the most stops en route to Mars, but poses the least technological risk since milestones have to be met along the way. That option would follow the space station with human missions to an orbit beyond the moon, then to an asteroid in its native orbit, then to the lunar surface, the moons of Mars, Martian orbit and then to Mars itself.
 
NASA said it supports the panel's findings.
 
“There is a consensus that our horizon goal should be a human mission to Mars,” the agency said in a statement. “The pathways thrust of the report complements NASA's ongoing approach.”
 
All options will depend heavily on international, private sector and other partnerships, according to the report titled “Pathways to Exploration - Rationales and Approaches for a U.S. Program of Human Space Exploration.”
 
“We're really talking about international collaboration of a different scale than what has been conducted in the past,” Lunine said.
 
In particular, the United States' current relationship with China, which is not a member of the 15-nation space station partnership, needs to be reassessed, the report said.
 
“Given the rapid development of China's capabilities in space, it is in the best interests of the United States to be open to its inclusion in future international partnerships.”
 
The panel gave no specific estimate of what a Mars mission would cost. But based on past space initiatives, the public would support the endeavor.
 
“There is a temptation to rush to the question of dollars,” panel co-chairman and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said. “Dollars is the secondary question.”
 
The pathways approach to Mars is “a very different way of doing business,” Lunine said.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid