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Nasa's Mars mission headed for failure warns NRC

06 June 2014

Recent months have seen Nasa step up the excitement over manned Mars missions outlining its path to the red planet, and also showcasing a number of technologies that would help people get there.

Nasa's Mars mission headed for failure warns NRCHowever a 286-page National Research Council (NRC) report commissioned by the agency, has warned that its efforts would fail if it did not change its methods.

The damning assessment claims that without sufficient funding, a clear goal, or help from nations such as China, Nasa would not be able to take the next giant leap for mankind.

The National Research Council in a scathing review of Nasa policy, warned that the agency would never be able to land on Mars, if the budget was not hiked to keep up with inflation. The report added further that Nasa also needed a clear path to Mars and new partners like China.

According to the report, Pathways to Exploration - Rationales and Approaches for a US Program of Human Space Exploration, the US needed to abandon its 'flexible approach' to human missions beyond earth, set Mars as its ultimate goal and open the door to partnerships with other partners including China.

The NRC committee further found that to reach the Red Planet, NASA's current budget-driven, capability-based exploration strategy needed to be replaced by one that was guided forward by interim destinations, including possibly the moon.

The space agency was currently pursuing a path to Mars that omitted a return to the lunar surface in favour of sending astronauts to a redirected asteroid by 2025, followed by sending a crew to orbit Mars by the mid-2030s.

"If a change of mind on the part of enough people - if enough sufficient leadership cannot be summoned - then we don't find Mars to be a realistic goal at all," said former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, the committee's co-chairman and current president of Purdue University, in a public briefing Wednesday in Washington, DC.

"We're suggesting that the national leadership organise itself around a new approach that will make Mars, and other great achievements of exploration en route there, realistic in a way they are not presently."

Responding to the report, NASA officials agreed with the committee's identification of Mars as the ultimate goal.

"NASA has made significant progress on many key elements that will be needed to reach Mars, and we continue on this path in collaboration with industry and other nations," space agency officials said in a statement. "We intend to thoroughly review the report and all of its recommendations."

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