Under current law, NASA is tasked with sending human astronauts to Mars by 2033.
Dr. Robert Zubrin, a rocket scientist who assisted NASA in developing plans for a manned mission to Mars, says that isn’t soon enough.
Zubrin believes that under President Donald Trump’s leadership, humans will be on the surface of the red planet by the end of his presidency.
“Given equally strong presidential leadership, we could certainly be on Mars by the end of the current administration’s prospective second term,” Zubrin told The Daily Caller.
“For anyone to say this is not possible is simply to accept the idea that we are no longer the kind of people we used to be. That is not the way to make America great again.”
The president recently requested NASA to send astronauts back to the Moon by 2019, and didn’t schedule a trip to the red planet until 2033.
The trip to Mars is a much greater logistical challenge than the one to the Moon.
The sheer distance between the Earth and Mars is staggering. Under the best of circumstances, NASA estimates that “all in all, your trip to Mars would take about 21 months: 9 months to get there, 3 months there, and 9 months to get back. With our current rocket technology, there is no way around this.”
For comparison, Apollo 11, the mission that performed the first crewed lunar landing in 1969, lasted only 8 days.
However, according to Zubrin, the United States is much closer to having the capabilities to send humans to Mars today than when President John F. Kennedy started the Apollo mission in 1961.
“From a technical point of view, we are much closer today to being able to send humans to Mars than we were to being able to send men to the Moon in 1961, when JFK started the Apollo program, and we were there 8 years later,” he said.
Zubrin is calling for NASA to kick things into overdrive. He’s worried that pushing out a manned mission to Mars until 2033 puts the entire mission at risk. Whoever becomes president after Trump could cancel the trip all together.
Zubrin has good reason to worry. President Barack Obama significantly scaled back the Orion capsule and Space Rocket System to fund Earth science programs. Both the Orion and SLS programs are integral pieces for manned missions to Mars.
In his short time in office, Trump has reversed course on the Obama administration’s policies for the space agency. He recently signed a bill authorizing $19.5 billion in funding for NASA that diverted funding from Earth science programs back into NASA’s space exploration programs.
In a weekly address following the signing of the NASA funding bill, Trump praised the space agency for it’s “mission of exploration and discovery.”
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