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NASA Mars Mission Faces Delays Due to Government Audit

Aug 02, 2016 02:04 AM EDT
State of NASA
HAMPTON, VA - FEBRUARY 9: In this handout provided by NASA, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden talks about the agency's scientific and technological achievements, and cutting-edge future work, including sending American astronauts to Mars in the 2030s, during a State of NASA events on February 9, 2016 at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

(Photo : Photo by NASA/Bill Ingalls via Getty Images)

NASA has a number of missions to Mars already plotted out for 2018 and 2030. However, the mission might be facing delays following a government audit. The reason for the delay is a budget cut due to NASA's "lack of a solid plan" for the mission to Mars.

Two Mars missions are underway: one - being the Orion crew capsule, and two - the Space Launch System, a rocket that launches the capsule to space. The Space Launch is set for 2018, whereas the crew launch is planned for 2023.

Yet, after two independent reviews from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a federal agency that conducts audits, the Mars missions could be facing a delay. NASA is reportedly doing a poor job of estimating their schedule, and going over their budget for the space capsule.

"The long-term plans are still unclear. NASA's in the beginning stages of developing plans to go to Mars, but there's still a lot of debate about if Mars is the right place," stated Cristina Chaplain of the accountability office.

Aside from a "lack of solid plan" that may cause the delay, the Mars mission may also face budget cuts. The GAO states that the capsules could exceed the intended budget. Early in September, NASA stated a budget of $11.3 billion was needed for the Orion capsule in preparation for the 2023 launch date by April. GAO on the other hand stated the cost estimate "lacks support."

"All the programs are working with very low management reserves in terms of dollars and time," added Chaplain. "It makes it very difficult to manage a program under those circumstances. It puts them in a position of deferring work to later stages, where it could be more costly and time consuming to address."

Due to the complications NASA faces for their mission to Mars, some have suggested they change their focus back to the moon.

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