After plans to land American astronauts on the Moon by 2024, four years ahead of its previous schedule, NASA now proposes to put humans on Mars by 2033.
At a congressional hearing on NASA’s budget in the fiscal year 2020 on Tuesday, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine cited the goal of putting astronauts on Mars by 2033, as a reason why NASA needs to accelerate its Moon landing plan, Xinhua news agency reported.
Bridenstine said NASA was preparing a request for additional funding to achieve the 2024 ambitious Moon landing goal.
Last month, US Vice President Mike Pence urged NASA to return American astronauts to the Moon within five years (by 2024) and warned that if NASA cannot do it, it is NASA, not the mission, that must change.
“The Moon is the proving ground,” said Bridenstine. “We can move up the Mars landing by moving up the Moon landing.”
However, NASA’s delayed development of its new heavy-lift rocket the Space Launch System (SLS) may mean additional difficulties for realising these goals on time, the report said.
Also, SLS’s replacement options or buying commercial rockets like Delta IV heavy rockets and Space X’s Falcon Heavy are now technically challenged in terms of thrust capability, launchpad availability and docking ability, Bridenstine said while addressing a town hall on Monday.
Given the distance to Mars, spacecraft has to take at least six months to get there, making the 2033 schedule tighter.
In this year’s budget request, NASA planned to devote more than half of its 21 billion US dollars budget to building the key components of the Exploration campaign that will send astronauts to the Moon and beyond.
But the request was made with the original Moon landing plan by 2028 in mind.
Bridenstine said NASA would have an updated budget request by April 15, the report said.