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NASA's Plans For Mars Get Boost With 2016 Budget Proposal

4 February 2015, 12:50 am EST By Sumit Passary Tech Times
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NASA budget proposal for fiscal year 2016 will give a boost to near-term Mars exploration. The latest budget proposal of $18.5 billion is $500 million more than the 2015 budget.  ( JD Hancock | Flickr )

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has proposed a $500 million increase in its budget, which will boost Mars funding as well as other deep space missions.

Charles Bolden, the current chief of NASA, has proposed $18.5 billion budget to the White House for the fiscal year 2016. The latest proposal is $500 million more in comparison with the 2015 budget. The latest budget proposal includes NASA funding for development of a mission to Europa, Jupiter's moon and the agency's asteroid redirect mission (ARM).

Mars exploration has gained a lot of momentum in the last few decades. NASA has already sent rovers that are exploring the Martian surface and spacecraft that are hovering in the orbit of the Red Planet in a bid to collect vital information about the planet.

Scientists have believed that life beyond Earth existed or may even exist now. Scientists have also tried to understand the possibility of any life form on the Red Planet. Some scientists suggest that Mars may have had life form and had not always been a cold and dry desert as it is today.

NASA's spacecraft, Mariner 4, was the first to speculate that the Martian surface may also contain liquid.

Till now only unmanned spacecrafts have been sent to Mars. However, NASA also hopes that by 2030, manned missions will be deployed to the Red Planet, which will be a huge step in the history of space exploration.

"I couldn't be more excited about our future. We're making steady progress and continuing to reach for new heights," says Bolden.

NASA already has the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) spacecraft under development, which will be launched on NASA's Space Launch System (SLS). The Orion MPCV is intended to carry up to four crew members to destinations beyond the low Earth orbit such as Mars.

Orion is estimated to get a funding of $1.1 billion in 2016, while SLS is supposed to get $1.35 billion in funding. However, these funds for Orion and SLS are lower in comparison to the funding the missions received in fiscal year 2015.

The Commercial Crew Program (CCP) will also see increased budget of $1.2 billion, up from $805 million in 2015. The CCP is designed to help private companies such as SpaceX and Boeing to develop spacecraft that can transport astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). Under the program, both SpaceX and Boeing have estimated to send astronauts from the U.S. soil in 2017. 

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