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After the Moon, the people on Mars until 2033 … or 2060

On December 11, 2017, US President Donald Trump signed the directive to instruct NASA to prepare to return astronauts to the Moon, "followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations."

The dates set by the space agency are 2024 for the Moon and Mars in 2033, but according to industry experts and experts, reaching the Red Planet by then is very unlikely, excluding the Herculean efforts in the Apollo program in the 60s, years.

"The moon is the polygon for our eventual mission on Mars," NASA Administrator Jim Brittenstein said at a conference this week.

"The moon is our way to get to Mars in the fastest and safest way, so we go to the moon."

According to Robert Howard, who runs the laboratory developing future space habitats at Johnson's legendary Space Center in Houston, the obstacles are not as technical or scientific as a matter of budget and political will.

"Many people want to have Apollo a moment and have a president stand up like Kennedy and say we have to do it and the whole country is gathering," he said.

"If that happens, I will actually say 2027. But I do not think that will happen, I think in our current approach we will be lucky to do so by 2037."

But Howard said that if it is pessimistic and suggests that there is a political shake, "it may be 2060s."

From the design, production and testing of missiles and spacecraft needed to study the best way to grow lettuce: everything remains to be done.

Just going there will take at least six months, unlike three days to the moon.

The whole mission can take two years because Mars and Earth are close to each other every 26 months, a window to be taken.

Key tasks include finding a way to protect astronauts from prolonged exposure to solar and cosmic radiation, says Julie Robinson, NASA's chief scientist for the International Space Station.

"The second is our food system," she added. Current ideas for the plant system "are not packing, portable or small enough to take on Mars."

And then there is a question of addressing emergency medical cases: astronauts will need to be able to cure in the event of an accident.

"Actually, I think most of the costumes are," said Jennifer Heldman, a NASA planetary scientist.

One of Apollo's biggest concerns for the astronauts was their gloves, which were too inflamed and prevented them from doing skillful work.

NASA is developing a new costume, the first for forty years, called xEMU, but will not be ready for its first release at the International Space Station for several more years.

On Mars dust will be an even bigger problem than on the Moon. Astronauts from Apollo returned with huge amounts of lunar dust in their modules. Keeping it outside of the habitat will be crucial for a mission that involves spending months on the Red Planet.

Techniques for using Mars resources to extract the water, oxygen and fuel needed by people to live there still do not exist – and they have to be tested on the moon by the end of this decade.

Finally, there is the most fundamental question: how does a group of people cope with the psychological stress that they are completely isolated for two years?

It will not be possible to communicate in real time with the control of the Houston mission: radio communications will take between four and 24 minutes between the planets unidirectionally. In the coming years, NASA plans to test the slow communication exercises on the ISS board.

An artificial intelligence must also be developed to assist and guide astronauts.

A researcher employed by NASA to investigate the probability of reaching Mars by 2033 concluded that the goal was "impossible."

"This is not just a budget," said Bhavya Lal of the Institute for Science and Technology Policy. "This is also an organizational bar, how can NASA do at the same time?"

For Lal, the more realistic is 2039.

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