NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stated during a recent interview that while NASA is currently focusing on returning to the moon in the next five years, a mission which aims to reach Mars may be initiated by 2033.
During the press conference, Bridenstine offered a large amount of information connected to the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and the Artemis program. The agency plans to shift its focus on the crewed mission for the future, and the Artemis initiative will spearhead this new direction.
At this point, NASA employees are brainstorming ideas and developing a comprehensive strategic plan which should allow customizing the technology which will be tested during the upcoming moon mission as the enhanced versions could be used to visit Mars.
Mars has been on the mind of exploration promoters for decades, with the idea of sending a crewed mission being the most popular one. 2033 is considered by many as an excellent deadline target because a favorable trajectory will be available during the year.
A report elaborated by the Science and Technology Policy Institute argues that sending a crewed mission to Mars in 2033 is an unrealistic goal if the current architecture will be used, adding that even with an unlimited budget an orbital mission would be hard to plan. The report was presented to Congress earlier in 2019.
However, Bridenstine seems to reject select arguments which are featured in the report, arguing that some of the aspects tackled by the paper can be changed to better suit a specific target. There are also alternatives that could be explored as NASA is looking into strategies which can be used to advance the path towards the moon at an accelerated pace.
It is important to keep in mind the fact that the current priority is to return to the moon. After this goal is achieved, NASA can focus more resources and harness the power of new technology as it will set its sights on the Red Planet.