A 286-page government report 18 months in the making could burst the bubble of aspiring space explorers with a disheartening conclusion: We're not going to Mars.
At least not in the foreseeable future with NASA's current strategy, according to the voluminous National Research Council report.
As long as the budget for human spaceflight missions remains flat, the report says, NASA will be unable to conduct human space exploration programs beyond the area of the moon's orbit.
President George W. Bush famously outlined a longterm goal for the U.S. space program in 2004 that included a manned mission to Mars. NASA officials later suggested that such a mission could be undertaken by 2037, at a cost of $11 billion.
But even another manned mission to the moon could be an open question now. The Obama administration has indicated that exploration of the moon should be the purview of other countries and is not in the interest of the United States' human space program, according to the report.
The report suggests that the United States rethink that attitude, saying the moon is an important place to develop capabilities required to go to Mars.
"Absent a very fundamental change in the nation's way of doing business, it is not realistic to believe that we can achieve the consensus goal of reaching Mars," Mitch Daniels, the former Indiana governor and co-chair of the committee, told The Washington Post.
NASA officials say their strategy does, indeed, target Mars, The Post reported.
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