In the last few years, NASA has been pretty open about their vision to finally land an astronaut on Mars. Through the use of a permanent moon-based space station, the agency believed that they could complete their five-stage plan by the mid-2030’s and that many of us would see our civilization expand beyond earth within our lifetime. Unfortunately, though, it looks as though NASA simply doesn’t have enough money to get us there.
According to NASA’s chief of human spaceflight, Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA simply lacks the funding necessary to land a man on Mars. When asked during a press conference whether NASA will send humans to Mars, Gerstenmair said “I can’t put a date on humans on Mars, and the reason really is the other piece is, at the budget levels we described, this roughly 2 percent increase, we don’t have the surface systems available for Mars, and that entry, descent, and landing is a huge challenge for us for Mars.”
Unfortunately, the design of NASA’s next generation SLS Rocket and Orion spacecraft have (obviously) cost a lot to build. This means that NASA hasn’t had the money needed to dedicate a team to design landing vehicles or rovers for use by Mars-bound astronauts. Though we could still possibly send astronauts into orbit around Mars, the lack of landing vehicles means there’s no reliable way to actually land them on the planet.
NASA, unfortunately, is massively underfunded compared to years past. During the Apollo mission era, NASA received 4 percent of the annual US budget. Today, this funding sits at half a percent, which ultimately means NASA is trying to do much more with far less than ever before. Though the will needed to get to Mars is certainly there, we won’t see a mission any time in the near future.