When NASA will send humans to the moon and Mars, and how much it will cost

An independent analysis of the space program NASA indicates that the American space Agency will not be able to send humans to Mars by 2033. The most optimistic estimates, it may not happen until the end of 2030-ies, reports SpaceNews, with reference to the relevant document. Despite the fact that the report was prepared before the official statements of the US Administration in late March of this year that the country needs to put a man on the moon by 2024, the document offers a fresh look at the cost of a new lunar program, the United States, as well as the prospect of further then the human exploration of the red planet.

For training third-party opinion on its program of NASA at the request of the us Congress, announced in 2017, appealed to the Institute of science and technology policy (Science and Technology Policy Institute STPI). The document was drawn up based on an assessment of the technological capabilities of the Agency and the cost of a long-term program whose goal is to send American astronauts to Mars in 2033.

The object of the analysis was a new report from the aerospace Agency under the heading “Research company” that describes the prospects for the development and operation of a new launch vehicle Space Launch System (SLS), a new manned spacecraft “Orion” (will be paired with SLS), but also assesses the development programme for the construction of a lunar Gateway station in 2020-ies. In addition, it also discusses the development of a manned spaceship Deep Space Transport (DST), specially designed to fly in deep space, including to Mars. Under the new program, NASA is also developing several lunar landing modules and lunar Rovers. In addition, the Agency also needs to develop a new system of life support of astronauts for life in circumlunar space and the lunar environment, as well as similar systems for future manned missions to Mars.

According to experts STPI, all this work will require a very long time that the Agency was able to catch the initially announced terms of the first manned Mars mission in 2033.

“We conclude that even in the absence of budget constraints, to prepare a space mission to Mars by 2033, as stated in current national plans as well as plans for the Agency NASA, is impossible. Our analysis shows that the conduct of a space mission to Mars will be possible not earlier than 2037, on the basis of readiness by this time, technologies that are now gone, given the lack of delays in the preparation of the program, and given the lack of problems with financing and compliance with the framework of the allocated budget for this programme”, — the document says.

In the report special attention is given to technological risks, calling into question the ability of the Agency to be ready for a manned Mars mission by 2033. In particular, it refers to the complexities of the development of a reusable spacecraft Deep Space Transport, the necessary technology propulsion systems and life support systems, creating and testing which will require a very large amount of time. To get a mission planned for the year 2033, the Agency must develop and test all critical technologies are already by 2022, which is unlikely, the report says. If the development of the program will be conducted without regard to these critical technologies, with the development of Deep Space Transport problems may occur already during the design phase, which in turn will lead to delays in program implementation.

In addition, the report shows that financial appraisal of the development of Deep Space Transport is expected to begin in 2020, which is also unlikely, because DST does not exist even in technical documentation. The report explains that the attempt to speed up progress chart that will be difficult to reconcile with existing standards for the preparation of space missions for NASA, “will lead to high technological and financial risks” for the future programme.

Thus, according to the report, “manned mission to Mars in 2033 from a technological point of view and given a schedule its preparation simply impossible.” The next launch window will be opened in 2035, but the report indicates that by this time NASA will not be able to prepare everything necessary for this mission, so the earliest date is called a launch window that opens in 2037.

Experts STPI also considered the estimated cost of the first Mars mission, scheduled for 2037. Thus, the total cost of the development and training of all critical program elements, including launch vehicle, the SLS, the ship “Orion”, the creation of a lunar orbital station Gateway spacecraft DST and other required infrastructure will cost the country to 2037 approximately 120,6 billion dollars. It is noted, only one development of SLS and Orion, as well as the infrastructure for their future exploitation had been spent 33,7 billion dollars.

The document States that the cost of developing the spacecraft DST will be about 29.2 billion dollars. However, it is worth considering that these numbers are very approximate because the complete design documentation of the device still has not been seen. Therefore, STPI conducted calculations based on development cost of the spacecraft “Orion”. Interestingly, the total cost of the space station Gateway is estimated by experts of “only” $ 6 billion. STPI analysts attribute this to the fact that the development and shipment of the modules of the new lunar station will be undertaken by partners of the NASA project will be international. Therefore, their cost to the General budget of the American Agency was not included.

The cost of the moon landings

Mission to Mars is only part of the new program of manned space exploration NASA, which, according to analysts, it will cost US to 2037 about 217,4 billion dollars. The money are going to spend not only on the missions to Mars, but also on projects in earth orbit, as well as the development of elements of the Mars infrastructure that will be required in future missions the American Agency.

Here are included in the budget and a series of missions to land on the lunar surface. The report predicts that the first landing on the moon will be in 2028 – this is the date counted by NASA itself to the statements by the new US Administration, which has set the Agency the task to return American astronauts to the moon as early as in 2024. Further, the Agency expected to carry out one manned mission to the moon until 2032.

The document assesses the three-step system that NASA is going to use for manned missions to the moon. Its device, the Agency provided last year. Then it was on a system with a reusable first stage, spacecraft and expendable stages for landing on the moon. With this in mind, the document indicates that landers and the refueling system cost the Agency $ 8 billion. These costs will allow for a series of several unmanned test missions and five manned landings on the moon. An additional $ 12 billion will have to spend on the launches of the SLS, spacecraft, Orion and other missions for the delivery of landing modules, fuel and other goods to the satellite. Indicates that the announced figures do not include the cost of developing SLS, “Orion” and the station Gateway.

In addition to this, the professionals STPI report that according to their estimates, the cost of the first moon landing will cost NASA approximately 2.44 billion dollars. The money will go to the launch and development of the necessary it equipment. A few more billion will need to spend on creating landing modules.

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