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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora