A manned mission to Mars has long been the domain of science fiction, but NASA now intend to make it a reality. Vice President Mike Pence in March 2019 declared: “American Astronauts will walk on the Moon again before the end of 2024, by any means necessary.” This reportedly prompted the US space agency to accelerate its plans to return to the Moon’s surface by 2024.

NASA head Jim Bridenstine confirmed the agency will use the Artemis lunar program in combination with the Lunar Orbital Platform (LSL) Gateway as stepping stones to make great scientific strides “to take the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.”

Dr James Pawelczyk, a NASA astronaut who flew to Spacelab in early 1998, believes cuts to the space agency’s budget could be a cause for concern.

At the height of the Apollo space program in 1966, NASA’s budget was 4.4 percent of the federal budget.

Dr Pawelczyk told Express.co.uk: “Right now, NASA receives the equivalent of just under one half of one percent of the US federal government’s budget.

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“And to give a better context for what the means, our social entitlement programs together in the US are 100 times larger than the NASA budget.

“Our childhood nutrition programs alone in the US receive three times more money than NASA.

“I would say we have a lot of things to take care of in the US, but I actually worry we have not done a good enough job at taking care of space exploration.”

The SLS and Orion are described by NASA as being “critical” to the NASA’s exploration plans at the Moon and beyond.

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A NASA statement said: “SLS is an advanced launch vehicle that provides the foundation for human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit.

“With its unprecedented power and capabilities, SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and large cargo to the Moon on a single mission.”

Orion, meanwhile, will serve as the exploration vehicle capable of carrying the crew to space, provide emergency abort capability and sustain astronauts during their missions.

Orion missions will launch from NASA’s modernised spaceport at Kennedy Space Center on the SLS.

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On the first integrated mission, Artemis 1, an un-crewed Orion will venture thousands of miles beyond the Moon over the course of about three weeks.

Dr Pawelczyk believes Orion is represents “an amazing symbol” of NASA collaborating with other private companies and other agencies.

He told Express.co.uk: “Our ability to go to the Moon and on to Mars is absolutely dependent on partnership and this is completely different from how we have done spaceflight before.

“Few people realise the Orion spacecraft, its service module was designed by the European Space Agency (ESA).

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“This is the first time in the history of US spaceflight where European partnership has been put in the critical path for development for a space launch system.

“Without that service module, this mission doesn’t happen.

“It is a critical partnership and I think it is an amazing symbol.”

source: express.co.uk

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