NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory released a report involving sending humans into the Martian orbit and eventually onto the surface of the Red Planet, the details of which were discussed in a workshop called "Humans Orbiting Mars" sponsored by the Planetary Society, the biggest space advocacy organization in the world.

According to the discussion, it's possible for NASA to get astronauts to Mars' orbit by 2033 and then onto the planet's surface itself by 2039. The results of the workshop were presented by the Planetary Society to show how feasible it is to bring humans to Mars, covering various concerns like the cost of the manned mission, which will start on Phobos, one of the Red Planet's moons. Participants at the workshop concluded that while a Mars mission is a tall order, it is possible to fit it within NASA's budget for human space exploration.

Bill Nye, Planetary Society CEO, said getting humans to Mars is actually more complex compared to getting them to the moon. He believes, however, that space exploration helps bring out the best in people and this has allowed for a consensus to be reached regarding the right kinds of missions to be done, shedding light on the fact that it's possible to send astronauts to Mars without going over allotted budgets.

"We believe we now have an example of a long-term, cost-constrained, executable humans to Mars program," said Scott Hubbard from Stanford University's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a member of the board of directors of the Planetary Society. He also praised the workshop as being a crucial step in building a community of groups and individuals interested in Mars exploration and science.

Held in Washington, D.C. between March 31 and April 1, the workshop was attended by 70 participants to discuss the benefits, technical feasibility and affordability of the proposed schedule for Mars exploration. It was determined that the "program would fit within a budget that grows with inflation after NASA ends its lead role in the International Space Station."

At the same time, opting to aim for the Martian orbit first will open up the opportunity for establishing a framework that involves international partners as well as the private sector, increasing chances of success in bringing humans to Mars.

A mission to Phobos will take about 30 months, with 18 months of traveling both ways and 12 months of orbit.

Photo: Kevin Dooley | Flickr

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