“Our nation will return to the moon and we will put American boots on the face of Mars,” US vice president Mike Pence, newly ensconced as the head of the National Space Council, said last week in a speech at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
The only problem? The US government’s plan to do this relies on an building an expensive rocket and spacecraft that is scheduled to only fly once a year. That’s been a drain on resources that has delayed design and construction of other needed ingredients, like the habitat to carry astronauts between celestial bodies or the technology to land a vehicle laden with humans and supplies on another planet.
“I can’t put a date on humans on Mars, and the reason really is … we don’t have the surface systems available for Mars,” NASA human exploration chief William Gerstenmaier said on an engineering society panel this week. “And that entry, descent, and landing is a huge challenge for us for Mars.”
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