We Will Be Finally Having the Long-Awaited Mars Mission


We Will Be Finally Having the Long-Awaited Mars Mission

Credits: NASA
Credits: NASA

The long-awaited Mars mission has finally been approved by the US Senate. On this topic at least, both the Republicans and the Democrats have come together in safeguarding the country’s future space program. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed a bipartisan bill giving NASA $19.5 billion to continue working on a mission to Mars. In wake of the upcoming presidential election, it seems that the Senate wanted this to be secured whatever the future president’s plans are. Alongside the Mars mission, these funds will also supplly astronauts to launch towards the International Space Station (ISS) from American soil via private shuttles no later than 2018.

“We have seen in the past the importance of stability and predictability in NASA and space exploration – that whenever one has a change in administration, we have seen the chaos that can be caused by the cancellation of major programs,” Republican Senator Ted Cruz, lead sponsor of the bill, commented. “The impact in terms of jobs lost, the impact in terms of money wasted has been significant.”

The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2016 is comprised of an overall authorization level of $19.508 billion for fiscal year 2017. It however needs to be passed by the Senate as a whole. The budget is a bit more than what was released by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Obama administration also proposed $19 billion for funding NASA. Aside from exploration, the bill requires NASA to send crewed missions to Mars in the next 25 years.

The allocation of the funds will be as follows:

  • $4.5 billion on exploration
  • $5 billion for space operations
  • $5.4 billion for science

The rest will be allocated to different other projects, like NASA’s plans to send men to different asteroids to colect rock samples by 2021. The space agency is however required to send in regular reports to Congress, thus justifying its various expenses.

“Fifty-five years after President Kennedy challenged the nation to put a man on the moon, the Senate is challenging NASA to put humans on Mars. The priorities that we’ve laid out for NASA in this bill mark the beginning of a new era of American spaceflight,” said an optimistic Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, senior Democrat on the Commerce panel.

This new bill, agreed upon by both sides, and hopefully passed by the Senate, stands to show just how important space exploration is for all of us as a species. In terms of raw materials, just in the asteroid belt alone there are more resources than many Earths put together; the main reason for all the planet’s conflicts in the first place. We now have to wait

The bipartisan support behind the new bill shows that space exploration is an issue that all parties can agree is vital to our growth as a nation and a species. Now we just have to wait to see if it passes the Senate.