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The United States will probably be late for its date with Mars

Published Jul 26th, 2018 3:30PM EDT

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Mankind is determined to walk on the Red Planet sooner rather than later, and when man finally sets foot on Mars it’ll truly be a momentous occasion. All that aside, actually getting there is a challenge of colossal proportions, and many of the more optimistic projections are starting to look downright silly. Despite all the talk over the past decade about a manned Mars mission there’s a really good chance that NASA will fall short of its goal of getting a humans to Mars by the 2030s.

There’s already been a number of bumps in the road to a manned Mars mission, including delays on rocket technology capable of pushing humans to the planet in a short enough amount of time for it to make sense to even try it. Put simply, things aren’t looking good.

At the moment, NASA has two big problems on its hands, along with countless smaller ones. The first big one is getting a spacecraft that will safely get a crew to Mars in one piece — a capsule where the crew will live during the lengthy journey and a rocket that can push it towards the planet at a high speed to shorten the trip. The second is president Donald Trump.

Trump, in his never-ending quest to reverse just about everything his predecessor did, decided to divert NASA resources from its manned Mars project and refocus them on a plan to return man to the Moon, where we’ve already been. President Barack Obama was the one who initially asked NASA to focus on Mars as the next great milestone in space exploration, but Trump wants astronauts to travel a little closer to home.

The result is an agency which is splitting its attention between those two objectives, and that makes a Mars mission in the 2030s an increasingly unrealistic achievement. NASA is already behind schedule in coming up with a roadmap for how it get humans to Mars, and the agency’s budget simply won’t be able to support the Mars 2030 plan as it currently stands.

“The one most important thing is constancy of purpose,” retired NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson told lawmakers at a recent hearing. “We have to have a vision that lasts more than one administration. We have to have a budget line that will support those goals and objectives that we are trying to reach.”