Space Race 2.0: China set to beat NASA to Mars by 20 years – US mission 'infeasible'

But in his book, Mission to Mars: A New Era of Rover and Spacecraft Discovery on the Red Planet, geologist Larry Crumpler has argued that this target is unlikely to ever materialise.

This is based on a 2019 report by the Institute for Defence Analyses, which stated a “2033 departure date for a Mars orbital mission is infeasible under all budget scenarios and technology development and testing schedules”.

The same report noted a 2035 date might be possible if NASA’s annual budget is hiked, but even then complications and delays were likely.

Dr Crumpler, who has worked with NASA on the agency’s planetary exploration missions, wrote: “Moreover, the development would likely impact planned lunar missions and would require less stringent ‘human health’ considerations, in other words, would be more dangerous.