Congress has recently called on NASA to develop a deep space habitat for the manned mission to Mars by 2018.
It looks like we might be going to Mars sooner than we thought. According to a report from the Huffington Post, the U.S. Congress announced that it intended to increase NASA’s budget by $1.3 billion next year. Their first project with the new funding? To build a deep space habitat for the planned manned mission to Mars by 2018.
Congress asked NASA to spend $55 million of their total $19.3 billion budget to start developing a habitat for astronauts living in deep space as they make the first pushes to explore Mars. The funding was appropriated in the recently passed omnibus spending bill, and will come from the Advanced Exploration Systems program, filed under the Exploration Research and Development budget line item, which received $350 million.
NASA will have the next two years to develop a workable prototype of their habitation module. Assuming NASA researchers get to work soon, we could even expect to see an update in the next few months.
As it stands now, NASA is hoping to put a person on Mars by the 2030s. By 2020, it hopes to begin cislunar testing of a deep space habitat prototype, orbiting above the Earth but below the moon.
NASA has begun partnerships with Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing and Orbital ATK to begin research on potential designs for the deep space habitat. The bump in the space agency’s budget indicates that Congress would like to speed up the process, and could lead NASA to begin work on the project sooner than expected.
Even though they may not be ready for Mars just yet, NASA has been working on deep space habitats for quite a while. Information on their work so far can be found here.