NASA has been preparing for a manned mission to planet Mars but the prospect of landing humans on the Red Planet faces financial hurdles. The space agency has just revealed it does not have money for a manned mission to Mars.
Manned Mission To Mars Too Expensive For NASA
In March, the U.S. Congress passed a bill that urges the U.S. space agency to send humans to planet Mars by 2033. The more optimistic President Donald Trump even moved the deadline to 2024.
NASA's chief of human spaceflight, William Gerstenmaier, however, revealed that budget constraints dampen the goal of sending crewed flights to Mars in the near future.
During an American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics meeting on Wednesday, July 12, Gerstenmaier announced that the U.S. space agency's current budget cannot afford the costs needed to send humans to planet Mars.
"I can't put a date on humans on Mars. At the budget levels we've described — it's roughly a 2 percent increase — we don't have the surface systems available for Mars," Gerstenmaier revealed during the meeting.
NASA may have successfully landed unmanned space probes on Mars in the past but sending humans to this alien world involves other challenges. Gerstenmaier said that a manned Mars mission would weigh about 20 times more than the rovers that were earlier sent to the Red Planet, and this 20-fold increase in capability means higher costs.
How Much Does It Cost To Send Humans To Mars?
Cost estimates for a manned mission to Mars vary depending on the sources.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory head Brent Sherwood said in 2012 that the project is estimated to cost up to $100 billion over a period of 30 or 40 years. Earlier this year, Pascal Lee, of Mars Institute, a non-governmental organization whose goal is to advance the scientific study and exploration of Mars, estimated that the mission could cost up to $1 trillion over a course of 25 years.
Mars One, which aims to establish a permanent settlement on planet Mars, puts the cost of sending four people there at $6 billion.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who has been vocal about his vision of transporting humans to the Red Planet by as early as the 2020s, estimated the cost at $10 billion per person. Nonetheless, the billionaire said that his goal is to bring down the cost to about $200,000.
"You cannot create a self-sustaining civilization if the ticket price is $10 billion per person," Musk said.
For the 2017 fiscal year, NASA has been allocated a budget of $19.5 billion.