Dr. Joseph P. Farrell
June 2, 2016
It has been a strange two weeks for space news, and the steady trickle keeps coming! There’s been an interesting development, for example, in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to this article shared by Ms. K.F.:
Since a space policy speech in 2010 by President Obama, the space agency has been following a loosely defined plan to first send astronauts to visit a fragment of an asteroid near the Moon and then conduct other operations in the vicinity of the Moon before striking off for Mars some time in the 2030s. However a number of independent reports, such as the National Research Council’s Pathways to Exploration, have questioned the viability and sustainability of a direct-to-Mars plan. That panel called for NASA and the White House to reconsider the Moon as an interim destination.
In the new House budget, which provides funding for fiscal year 2017, the committee recognizes there are some useful components of the asteroid mission. These include propulsion research and asteroid deflection, but committee members found that “neither a robotic nor a crewed mission to an asteroid appreciably contribute to the overarching mission to Mars.” The costs of such a mission are also unknown, the committee wrote.
“Toward that end, no funds are included in this bill for NASA to continue planning efforts to conduct either robotic or crewed missions to an asteroid,” the bill states. “Instead, NASA is encouraged to develop plans to return to the Moon to test capabilities that will be needed for Mars, including habitation modules, lunar prospecting, and landing and ascent vehicles.”