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NASA to Receive $19.5 Billion to Explore Deep Space, Get Humans to Mars by 2033

Mar 14, 2017 10:12 AM EDT
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This is what it's like to spend eight months on Mars

NASA is slated to receive $19.5 billion in federal funding this year as the new NASA Authorization Act of 2017 breezed through the House of Representatives earlier this week. 

The NASA Authorization Act of 2017, sponsored by Senator Ted Cruz, encourages NASA to return to its former glory, just like what it was during the Apollo Program. Under the new bill, NASA will be given $19.5 billion for different missions and programs this 2017, including the Space Station, deep space exploration and asteroid redirect missions. More importantly, the bill mandates NASA to develop a step-by-step guide on how humans can travel to Mars by 2033.

"The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 reaffirms our support for the bold visions and commitments that will shape America's future in space," Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said in a statement as reported by Space News. "This bill reiterates the importance of maintaining NASA's continuity of purpose to ensure America remains a leader in space exploration."

NASA's step-by-step Mars plan, dubbed as "initial human exploration roadmap" by the Congress, is already underway. The roadmap consists of three thresholds, each with increasing challenges as humans inch closer to the red planet.

The first threshold is called Earth Reliant, now until mid-2020s. During this phase, NASA will focus on research conducted at the International Space Station. Using the orbiting laboratory as world-class test-bed of new technologies and communication systems needed in space, scientists at NASA could better understand the effects of space travel to human health.

The next threshold in the roadmap is called Proving Ground, from 2018 to 2030. In this stage, the scientists will conduct series of missions in the region near the moon called "cislunar space". As oppose to the ISS, which is only a few days away From the Earth's surface, the cislunar space is days away. This make the cislunar space an appropriate stepping stone for Mars mission that could last for months.

The final threshold is called Earth Independent, 2030s and beyond. During this phase, NASA plans to use what they learned during the two previous thresholds in order to send humans to low-Mars orbit.

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