Humanity on Mars? Technically possible, but no voyage on horizon
by Ivan Couronne
Robotic landers and rovers have been touching down on Mars since the 1970s, but when will humanity finally set foot on the Red Planet?
Experts believe the technical challenges are nearly resolved, but political considerations make the future of any crewed mission uncertain.
NASA’s human lunar exploration program, Artemis, envisions sending people back to the Moon by 2024 and using the experience gained there to prepare for Mars.
Plans have been proposed for a crewed exploratory mission of our neighboring planet since before NASA was created in 1958, but have never taken off.
In the spring of 1990, then president George Bush Sr announced the most audacious promise to date — a man on Mars before July 20, 2019, the fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing.
The commitment clearly never came to pass, and similar goals articulated by presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump have not led to concrete programs.
“I have seen maybe 10,000 graphs, charts, proposing various ideas about how to get to Mars, for humans,” G. Scott Hubbard, an adjunct professor at Stanford and former senior NASA official, told AFP.
“But putting the money behind it to make it a reality has not occurred.”
The mission itself would last two or three years.
Today, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin are building heavy rockets capable of sending tens of tons toward Mars. (AFP)