A manned mission to Mars, specifically the Martian surface, is the most distant and difficult goal for astronauts that is still feasibly attainable within the foreseeable future, according to the nearly 300-page report by the National Research Council's Committee on Human Spaceflight. The report, entitled "Pathways to Exploration: Rationales and Approaches for a U.S. Program of Human Space Exploration," was released Wednesday, June 4.
The NRC committee found that in order to reach the Red Planet, NASA's current budget-driven, capability-based exploration strategy needs to be replaced by one that is guided forward by interim destinations, including possibly the moon. NASA is currently pursuing a path to Mars that omits a return to the lunar surface in favor of sending astronauts to a redirected asteroid by 2025, followed by sending a crew to orbit Mars by the mid-2030s. [The Boldest Mars Missions of All Time]
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