Funding towards human exploration of Mars
On March 7th, the House of Representatives approved the budget of $19.5 billion dollars for NASA for the 2017 fiscal year. The catch: the funding has to go in part toward the human exploration of Mars. While the budget does not, of course, guarantee a man on Mars anytime soon, it is an important and enormous step toward finding out more about our mysterious neighbor planet.
The vote to give this funding to NASA followed the same budget unanimously approved by congress on February 17th. It has been over six years since congress voted to support NASA with this level of funding. With recent discussions about restricting budget in regard to scientific pursuits, this announcement is an enormous surprise and cause for celebration for the scientific community.
The realistic plan to get a human on Mars’ surface is projected to not happen until the 2030’s at the earliest, but this funding can provide NASA with crucial research funding. It might not be too long before we can make The Martian a reality.
The budget will help fund exploration of Jupiter’s moon Europa
Europa is an important area of focus for knowing more about our solar system and origins. Photographs of Europa and analyses of the moon show it to be rocky, icy, and mineral-rich. The presence of ice implies that Europa is the greatest candidate in our solar system for supporting life. This also means that the moon could also be habitable by humans. The bill specifies that further robotic exploration of Europa should be supported by the proposed budget.
NASA wasted no time in showing their excitement via Twitter, announcing an upcoming mission to Europa:
— NASA (@NASA) March 10, 2017
Still another hurdle to jump
While the news of the budget is exciting, the bill still needs to be signed into law by President Trump. Trump has spoken out against NASA funding earth science. The budget does not mention earth science funding, perhaps in an effort to get it approved by the president. Most previous budget plans included earth science funding. Hopefully this congress-approved budget will cross the president’s desk without difficulty. Then we can get on with our dreams of colonizing Mars.
Here is a video detailing the budget. It highlights what 19.5 billion dollars could mean for the human race: