NASA: Agency Ordered to Build Deep-Space Habitat by 2018
While NASA hopes to land humans on Mars in the near future, a number of obstacles remain in the way, including how astronauts will survive the journey and how livable quarters on the planet will be constructed.
Such problems have come one step closer to being solved, however, with a recent spending allocation from Congress.
In the recent omnibus spending bill, Congress has ordered NASA to use at least $55 million to develop a deep space habitation module, with a prototype ready by 2018. The module would provide a habitable vehicle for astronauts to live in during their trip to Mars.
"NASA shall develop a prototype deep space habitation module within the advanced exploration systems program no later than 2018 and provide a report within 180 days after enactment, and annually thereafter, regarding the status and obligation of funding for the program," the report states.
Further, NASA will be required to provide updates on the status of the project.
Currently, astronauts are slated to journey to Mars on the Orion spacecraft, which has a diameter about the length of a pickup truck. The trip should take at least six months. The livable module would provide a habitat for the astronauts to link up with on their journey.
If the livable module is created on time, NASA will be able to test it around the moon in the 2020s before a trip to Mars in the 2030s. Whether or not NASA will have the project ready by 2018, however, remains up for debate. One remaining challenge is protecting traveling astronauts from space radiation. NASA has allocated funds to Bigelow Aerospace, Martin, Orbital ATK, Boeing, Lockheed and others to come up with potential designs for the habitat.
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