NASA to send astronauts back to Moon, then Mars

Agencia EFE Miami, FL, USA Mar 12, 2019, 11.28 AM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

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This next mission to the Moon aims to be, for the first time, 'sustainable,' which means that the human presence on its surface will be lasting. 

The administrator of NASA, Jim Bridenstine, said Monday that the return to the moon is part of a "sustainable" project that will turn this satellite into a "test" base for an ambitious project: to organise the first manned mission to Mars and discover possible life on other planets.

With words of enthusiasm, Bridenstine revealed at a conference at the Kennedy Space Center the plans of the US space agency, which was made possible thanks to the fiscal year 2020 budget proposal of the White House, which has bipartisan support in Congress.

This next mission to the Moon aims to be, for the first time, "sustainable," which means that the human presence on its surface will be lasting. "This time, when we go to the Moon, we will stay. We will use what we learn as we move forward to the Moon to take the next giant leap - sending astronauts to Mars, " Bridenstine said in a statement.

"Beginning with a series of small commercial delivery missions to the Moon as early as this year, we will use new landers, robots and eventually humans by 2028 to conduct science across the entire lunar surface," he added.

NASA has embarked on the construction of the Gateway space base, which will orbit with "highly efficient" solar energy around the Moon and will have contributions from other space agencies and private companies.

The head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) pointed out that "this budget will build on our successes in low-Earth orbit to create a sustainable exploration campaign that combines NASA's expertise with that of our commercial and international partners."

Bridenstine made reference to the successful test trip to the International Space Station (ISS) carried out by the US company SpaceX, whose unmanned capsule Crew Dragon returned to Earth on March 8.

This confirmed SpaceX's ability to send modules with astronauts into space and the possibility of making NASA its customer.

This success makes SpaceX approach the milestone of launching the first commercial flights into space with humans on board, following the launch last March of this unmanned capsule to the ISS.

But the "sustainable mission" to the Moon with "commercial and international partners" is much more than that. "We will continue planning and developing the first round-trip mission to the Red Planet with Mars Sample Return" Bridenstine said.

The return to the Moon and the exploration of Mars have been two of the objectives set by US president, Donald Trump, whose plans include the installation of the Gateway orbital platform whose initial construction price will be $500 million and which will be ready by the year 2024.

The administrator of NASA then referred to the exciting commitment to reach Mars, a planet, he said, that was once covered with water, suggesting that it was habitable, with complex organic compounds detected on its surface.

He said that the possibility of finding life on other planets has increased when it comes to microbial life and the budget for 2020 will allow the search for life on other planets.

NASA, which began operations on October 1, 1958, already announced last year its intention to return to the Moon and then go to Mars with manned missions in the coming years.